I used to think of brands only in terms of companies and businesses. But with our worlds being more and more socially and digitally connected this has now fundamentally changed, to quote Barry Feldman: “You, my friend, are a brand”. Whether we aim to be or not, we’re all brands. And social media is one of the fundamental ways we manage these personal brands.
It’s a dangerous fallacy to think, “Oh, I can keep my personal and my business life separate on social media. Facebook and Instagram are for my non-work life and LinkedIn for work, right?” Wrong. Do you honestly think a prospective employer won’t look you up on Facebook or Instagram? Are you sure you’ll never connect with any of your colleagues on social media?
Our own brand is now part of a huge ecosystem full of billions of other brands, so it’s important to acknowledge this, grab the bull by the horns and take some time to work out what you stand for.
The benefits of actively managing your social brand vastly outweigh the effort it takes to do so. Here are four reasons why you should manage your personal brand:
- You might miss out on conversations from which you can benefit.
- Technology is constantly evolving. You don’t want to get left behind.
- People are searching for people like you. Don't miss out on opportunities.
- Your competition is already managing their brands.
Now, I’d like to think I’m pretty tech-savvy, having grown up with a smartphone in my hand and having completed most of my education online, I find it pretty easy to get around the digital space. I have profiles on most of the large social networks. Checking and updating these profiles is part of my daily routine, yet I had never thought of myself as a brand and with that I am probably not alone.
You have most likely heard the saying that people don’t hire companies, they hire people. The fact is, our professional and personal lives are colliding and blending more than ever before – and we better get used to it.
The cultural roots of social media scream for people to show their real, whole selves. The reasons behind someone wanting to read a tweet about my late-night gym session is no different to why someone cares what I think about a restaurant in London in my TripAdvisor review. There are people out there who have the same, or similar, interests and hobbies as me and for them my posts and experiences are valuable.
The truth is, for most of us, our personal life is more interesting than our professional life. So, why not associate a noteworthy character trait to our personal brand to make us more memorable on social media? The fact that I work in a marketing agency? Meh. The fact that I work in a marketing agency, and have three nipples? (Purely fiction, by the way.) That’s memorable.
So with this in mind, how do you control your personal brand?
1. By Being Authentic!
Choose one to three areas of expertise, an interest or a passion that sets you apart from others. The world of personal branding is flooded with competing voices, so try and find a very specific niche and an opinion! It isn’t enough to choose a general field like “marketing” or “finance”. With a niche, you will have more opportunities to prove you know what you’re talking about. Not to mention your audience will find the content that much more relevant and interesting.
“If content is the fuel for your personal brand, social media is the engine.” (Jayson Demers).
Remember whilst consistency is key to success, providing value and thought provoking material can stamp your authority on the industry.
2. Join a Group or Community
These are your ‘online networking’ events, if you like. Sharing content and posts to these people will help draw others to you and your brand. Take a proactive approach and always aim to provide value and be useful, entertaining and engaging.
Make a Name for Yourself: 11 Personal Branding Power Tips by Barry Feldman highlights some key takeaways from a networking expert he studied:
- Follow up with new connections you make promptly, stay in touch, and always follow-through on your promises.
- Connect the people in your network to each other.
- Surround yourself with top-notch people.
- Don’t let awe stop you. Have the confidence to reach out to the best.
- Study the network of successful friends and leaders in your niche and follow their lead.
- Find mentors. Do as they do.
- Ask for advice from everyone you stand to learn from.
- Give as much as you can.
- Ask your connections if there’s anything you can do for them.
- Ask a lot of questions and listen.
- Tell people you’re excited to hear their stories. They’ll be glad to share them.
- Make yourself available to your peers and organisations.
3. Monitor & Reply Quickly
53% of users who tweet a company brand expect a response within an hour. Considering you are probably pretty busy I’d expect the time to reply a bit more lenient for personal brands. As a rule of thumb: Respond within 24 hours.
Set up email notifications for all your social media accounts. Social networks usually do email communication really well, and you can adjust the settings to a wide variety of interactions. Take things one step further by connecting your email to another service like SMS or mobile notifications to allow you to respond immediately. There are also numerous monitoring tools on the market, so be sure to do your research first!
The Bottom Line
In this socially connected world, where countless opportunities are just a finger swipe away, differentiation is key. How are you going to get heard above the noise? Embrace your interests, generate great content and share thoughtfully. You have to build some hooks in order to build your personal brand.
At the end of the day, your professional life and your personal life are one and the same. It may be uncomfortable. But it’s the truth.
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