Building a personal brand is without question something all of us need to focus on. This is why I decided to talk about it from 2 different perspectives, namely online and offline and how these two contribute to your own self image and how you present yourself to others.
What is branding?
“We can afford to lose money — even a lot of money. But we can’t afford to lose reputation — even a shred of reputation.”
— Warren Buffett, CEO of Berkshire Hathaway
In short, your personal brand is what you personally associate with and what others recognize you for. It basically represents who you are as a person – your values and principles, what your role in the community is – your job, title or business, and what you stand for – your interests and passions.
Before talking more about what it takes to build your personal brand, it is safe to say that you are the only one who is in complete control of what you let others see of you and what image you want to create of yourself. With this control also comes great responsibility. Because you want to present yourself in the best light possible and become a source of inspiration that others easily recognize.
Here are a few guidelines to help you better define your personal brand:
1. Be honest
One of the most important assets in the journey of creating your image is being honest, both with yourself and with others.
Although you are free to mold yourself into any person you want in real life and online, it will be very hard to live up to those standards on the long term and a false self will only bring you misery. Take the time to get to know yourself, your beliefs, values, and sincere interests first.
Once you secure a certain level of self-confidence and self-awareness, you can pay attention to how your actions and your online presence align with your true self.
Next, you want to be careful to remain constant in how you present yourself.
Doing and saying things that reveal who you are as a person will, over time, add up to your personal brand. What is more, it will be easier for people to trust you and recognize you if you are not changing very often. When it comes to real-life interactions, having a certain attitude that others can rely on and expect is a way of building your identity.
It is advisable to have diverse content on your profile but make sure what you share stays within your area of expertise and is in tune with what you believe and are interested in. These are the things people will associate you with so they should represent you consistently.
3. Create value on your profile
This concerns the online part of your personal brand and it means that in order to build a following, the content on your profile needs to be worth reading.
Share articles, videos, books, movies, photos and anything that you think people might find useful or entertaining and that you are genuinely interested in yourself. This is how you will attract followers that will, in turn, spread the word about who you are and how their lives improved because they got to know you online.
4. Show support
Always be open to showing your support and appreciation to other people.
One thing about personal branding is that it can easily transform in self-absorbed behavior and this is certainly not something that you want because it will make you seem arrogant and self-centered. While you still need to focus on yourself, commenting on others’ accomplishments or sharing your colleagues’ successes will not only make you seem more compassionate, but it will also help strengthen your relationships.
However, it has to be genuine, nobody likes fake praise and it will be obvious to other people.
5. Be involved in your community
There is nothing more important in personal branding than being present.
Participate in events, join groups (either on Facebook/LinkedIn or in real life), have initiatives and make your voice heard. Standing up for what you believe in, being courageous and authentic and showing your passion for certain causes will make people aware of your presence and start associating you with the things that you find worth talking about.
Also, don’t forget that what you promote online your actions must reflect in real life. In other words, walk your talk and be active offline, not only online.
6. Social media accounts and content
There is a different type of message you want to get across depending on the online social network platform you are using.
You need to develop a sense of what is appropriate to share on each one of those and what you feel comfortable with. Although it may be alright to post 3 selfies over the span of 24 hours on Instagram, doing the same on Facebook or Twitter may not reflect your best self. Here’s how I perceive different social media channels:
- LinkedIn is a great place for being professional and for listing your distinctions, awards, positions and latest achievements while connecting with other professionals
- Facebook allows you to share interesting content (articles, videos, photos, etc), joining groups, finding events, liking pages, getting inspiration from others and creating a semi-formal image of yourself.
- Having a WordPress with your writing, plans, or lengthy pieces of your work can also add value to your personal brand.
- Instagram can be used for self-expression, especially if you have an interest in photography, it can also be a place where you are even less formal and can find inspiration and entertainment from the people you follow.
- Twitter works in a similar way and can help you keep track of your thoughts and have access to instant content from the people you admire.
- Snapchat is the least formal of all and although it is fun to use and it is very easy to fall into the trap of oversharing. You can use it to share photos and videos from the events you are attending or the activities you are doing so that people would discover your somewhat intimate moments.
Nobody is saying you should have an account on all these platforms, you have to find the one that you’re most comfortable with and decide how you want to express yourself accordingly.
Be purposeful in what you share: every tweet you send, every status update you make, every picture you share, contributes to your personal brand. Once you understand how you wish your brand to be perceived, you can start to be much more strategic about your personal brand.
7. Keep yourself and others updated. Reinvent and evolve
Like thought-provoking pages, find people to follow and be constantly growing and learning.
Keeping the consistency principle in mind, it is also recommended to explore your interests and find mentors that can help you grow and strengthen your personal brand. Never stop learning and staying relevant in your field of expertise. If you want people to recognize you, it’s your responsibility to raise the bar ever higher for yourself and improve constantly. If you do decide to start working in an entirely new field, be patient with yourself and wait before you’re completely immersed in the new area of choice before sharing information online and offline.
Fortune500 CEOs don’t prefer social media
- 5 of the 19 CEOs on Twitter have never tweeted.
- 25 of the 38 CEOs on Facebook have less than 100 friends.
- The only social network that these CEOs outdo the US public on is LinkedIn (129 of the CEOs have profiles vs. 1/5 of Americans).
- Only 4 CEOs are on Google + (and that includes Larry Page).
- None are on Pinterest (which has, according to this report, 12 million American users).
- Only one CEO blogs (Whole Foods’ John Mackey). That blog has not been updated since November 2011 (so does that even count?).
Source: report findings by Domo.com and CEO.com
Lastly, always try to be clear and concise about the message you are trying to convey. Find what truly interests and motivates you and stick to it. Don’t spread yourself too thin because it will be harder for others to identify you with one particular thing and it will be harder for you to be in touch with your authentic self. After all, your personal brand should be a genuine reflection of who you are.