Your personal brand is how you sell yourself to the world, both online and off. Getting it right should be a priority, not an afterthought.
Without a plan how do you know what it is that you’re trying to achieve and how you’ll achieve it? One element of creating a plan is that you’ll research such things as what to include in your profile, who the influencers are in your industry, the best sources of relevant information and news to share and where to share that content. If you don’t know the answers to these basic questions then you’re not ready to create an online presence. Equally if you don’t know what you’re messages you’re trying to portray or what your goals are then how are you supposed to market yourself offline.
You’ll invariably engage in conversations with other professionals where you’ll need to talk about what it is that you do and what you want to be doing in the future, you should be prepared for these conversations. Another reason to plan is to set goals and timelines of what you’d like to achieve and by when. These KPI’s will motivate and inspire you to continually improve and optimise your brand, pushing your knowledge, expertise and influence forward.
Make a plan.
It’s all too easy to say that you’re the most successful person ever with a brilliant mind that’ll be a billionaire in the next year. If this isn’t true then you’re just kidding yourself and damaging your brand at the same time. Brand authenticity, whether a huge multi-national corporation or you as an individual is crucial to success.
Most of us are naturally drawn to individuals that are authentic and honest, even if they can’t (yet) match some of the accomplishments of others in their profession or industry. If you’re completely honest (but not negative) about who you are, what you do and what you want to achieve then you’ve nothing to hide.
When you're talking about yourself with compete honesty and authenticity you'll feel more at ease and confident in what you're saying. These attributes to your communication will improve how you're perceived by others when networking.
If you're applying for jobs and are competing with others of a similar background and maybe even abilities then a job offer may be decided upon how well you came across at the interview. If you're honest, confident and authentic then you may well trump another applicant that hasn't been quite so transparent and honest about their brand. Living in fear that you’ll be caught out about something you’ve stated about yourself just isn’t worth it.
Forget corporate buzzwords and being anything vaguely associated with a Jedi or Wizard, explain in plain language who you are and what you can offer. If people can’t tell what your specialisms are or what you can offer them then they’ll go elsewhere and find someone that makes is crystal clear.
Being vague about that thing you do or seemingly having fingers in many pies without concentrating on anything specific gives the impression that you’re a ‘Jack of all trades and master of none’.
We're all becoming less tolerant of having to spend time looking for information. As such your profile and personal brand may only be given a moment of someone's time. If the information they're looking for isn't immediately obvious and clear then they'll move onto someone else that has made it so. Including relevant and well thought out heading and tags is key to grabbing interest and keeping it.
You’re much better of being an expert in one field than average at many, this needs to shine through in your personal brand.
We all want to get a bunch of content onto the web that attracts and drives traffic to our profiles or websites. Letting this want overwhelm the need to share top quality content will have the opposite effect.
Sharing low quality updates, repeating what you share too often, never creating your own original content or being selfish and only ever sharing updates about yourself are all the wrong way to do things and will have an adverse effect on your brand.
There’s nothing wrong with sharing content that highlights your achievements as long as it’s in among content from other industry experts and network members. You should also be taking the time to create your own content and building your reputation as an author and influencer in your own right.
Sharing high quality and original content less often is much better than spamming your news feeds with badly written or pointless articles.
Quality over quantity.
One mistake that may people make is assuming that the more followers you have the more successful and influential you are online, not true. There are literally millions of fake Twitter accounts, most of which are for sale and at least some will probably be following you. To find out how many potentially fake followers you have visit twitteraudit, you might be surprised.
Other accounts follow you purely in the hope that you’ll follow them back, when you don’t they stop following. Just because you have a large audience doesn’t mean that they’re all engaged and happy to share your content either. There’s a large number of dormant accounts on most social networks that never get logged into or share updates.
You want to build an audience that engages with you and becomes an extension of your immediate network. If you’ve got a smaller number of people following and reading what you have to say, but are happy to comment on and share this with their followers then that’s much more influential than a larger number that do nothing. Steadily building an engaged and active following is key.
Don’t be greedy.
Your personal brand isn’t all online, it exists in the real world too. Networking at events, conducting yourself accordingly and concentrating on how you sell yourself to others offline is as important as your LinkedIn profile or Facebook page.
Most employers or customers are looking for someone that they can invest in that gets the job done not only online but offline too. Your online profiles should reflect the fact that you’re available for meetings, share when you’re attending industry events in order to network and generally illustrate that you’re a real person with interests and substance.
Offline as well as online.
Personal branding, like most things, is a learning experience that you need to utilise consistently to optimise what content you create, what you share, how you present yourself and your general actions.
Every action has a reaction, this is true offline but on the internet a reaction can quickly spread and get out of hand. If you don’t learn how to conduct your digital self then you run the risk of a backlash.
Some analysis, benchmarking and research that you can do to improve your online influence include:
If you ignore the metrics and requirement to keep learning then you’ll stagnate and be left behind.
You’re a real person with your own opinions and beliefs, not sharing these in a sensible manner means that you’ve really got nothing to say.
If you constantly agree or avoid offering an opinion then you’ll never offer any original thoughts or content and no one will value what you have to say. As long as you’re not creating or sharing offensive thoughts and can back up and justify what you’ve got to say then people will take an interest, whether they agree or not.
By offering your opinion you’ll invite response and discussion, this type of engagement is great for building your personal brand. It’s important to remember that whether people agree or disagree you need to be courteous and have an adult conversation and debate, don’t resort to childish tactics. It’s your brand you’re representing.
Have an opinion.
Your brand is an ever evolving entity, both online and off. You need to take the time to constantly update it with your accomplishments, necessary amendments and content of interest.
As your profession changes so must you keep up I order to remain visible and maintain influence. Online profiles that remain stagnant for too long become irrelevant and boring, why would anyone return to your social page of website if every time they visit there’s the same content as the past time they checked?
Creating content is one part of a successful personal brand, another is curating it.
Sharing other influencers articles and updates opens an opportunity to attract their attention and potentially engage with them and become part of their network.
Attracting their attention for the right reasons is a great way to improve your own network, influence and personal brand but attracting them for the wrong reasons can have undesirable results.
Never giving referring to or giving a ‘hat tilt’ to the author of an article or original sharer of an update is simply bad manners. You’re using their content to benefit yourself and as such the content creator deserves a mention and credit.
If you do use others content (most of us do) then be sure to give proper credit and a link to their site if space permits.
Equally as important is when your own content is shared. If you don’t show appreciation for the time and effort someone has taken to increase your audience and share your content with their own followers then they’re unlikely to do it very often.
Your personal brand is essentially about you but the process in building it and being successful is much easier when you have a team behind you.
Sharing others content is fine but to gain real influence and to attract the interest of other professionals you need to create your own as well.
The 5-3-2 rule of social media sharing tries to balance your content, that of others, and your own personal updates.For every ten updates you share on social media you should aim for the 5-3-2 ratio below:
Source: Buffer blog
This ratio allows enough variety between your own content and that of others to enable a consistent sharing frequency without overdoing it on either your own shares or that of others.
Balance your updates.
We all want a large network of professionals that can help us to grow our personal brand, influence and career but don’t let that desire cloud your judgement when approaching people to connect.
You should choose the people you request to connect with carefully and already have a level of familiarity with them (they should know who you are).
Spamming 100’s of people on LinkedIn may yield a certain level of success where numbers are concerned but how much benefit will you get from a new connection that knows nothing about you (and probably doesn’t care)?! Even LinkedIn are making efforts to reduce the amount of Inmail that its members receive. If this is any indication of the annoyance that irrelevant messages have on people then receiving contact requests from relative strangers won't go down well.
Build a network of real connections that compliment your personal brand rather than trying to outdo others for sheer numbers.
No matter how many 100’s of personal branding, social media or general best practice articles reiterate it, people still have unprofessional profile images on professional networking sites such as LinkedIn.
Whether it’s a cartoon version of themselves (not funny or different any more), a holiday snap that’s been badly cropped to remove other people or just blurry, replace it with an image suitable for a professional profile.
Photos – sort them out PLEASE!
Don’t follow people for the sole purpose to attract a follow back and a new member to your network, most people won’t and it’s bad practice.
Engaging and interacting with people you follow is a much more lurcritive way to attract them to your profiles and accounts.
Offer something unique and you'll increase your network and audience the right way, by earning it.
If your own profile is of interest then you might get that additional follower or contact request naturally but don’t assume it. Build your followers and network by creating and sharing relevant, interesting and original content.
Don’t follow just to be followed.
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