Believe it or not, each of us has our innate personal brands based on how others perceive us
With social media making it easy for people to follow influential business leaders, technocrats & startup founders, the likes of Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos & Sundar Pichai have garnered cult-like online followerships. For instance, Elon Musk’s Twitter following is double that of SpaceX and Tesla combined. As an entrepreneur, this is a privileged position to be in, as you have an audience receptive to your values, ideas & ambitions.
It’s also relatively easier to amplify a personal brand as we identify with human stories, and a strong personal brand does just that — project your personal experiences in an entrepreneurial context.
Each of us has our innate personal brands based on how others perceive us — a personal branding strategy will simply leverage these experiences, success stories, failures and future plans, and make it a bit more intentional. This can help you land better gigs, promote your products & services, and open doors.
Whether you are an eager first-time founder, or a personal branding sceptic, spare some time and try these 7 simple steps to lay the foundation for a strong & authentic personal brand:
#1. Get A Professional Headshot & Profile
Get a haircut, shave, grab a blazer and drop by your nearest photo studio for a quick professional photoshoot. Most photographers will happily edit your headshots for a few extra bucks. Within minutes you’ll have a far superior high-resolution profile photo in your hands than most badly cropped ones from office gatherings & house parties.
After your face, a profile bio is often the first impression an audience, i.e. media, industry colleagues or investors would have of you. Resist oversharing about every medal & every promotion — mention crucial details such as your education, career & entrepreneurial ambitions, and limit it to 250–300 words.
#2. Answer The Who, What & Why
It’s important to define brand guidelines & tone of voice for your personal brand by reflecting on your personality, values & purpose.
Try and define your natural personality — reflect on your beliefs, philosophies, the things you stand for, what kind of promises can you make about the way you act and run your business? Unlike goals that are primarily about you, your purpose must be based on what you can promise and help others achieve their goals.
You can always ask some friends to share words they’d use to define you — distil & refine these keywords to come up with your final draft.
Friend A: Smart, Sassy, Sarcastic
Friend B: Caring, Clean, Ambitious
Friend C: Chirpy, BRILLIANT, Social
Friend D: HELPFUL, Caring, Kind
Friend D: Polite, Sweet, Funny
Friend E: Natural, RELIABLE, Intelligent
#3 START WRITING AS A HABIT
Content is the atomic particle of influence — creating and distributing free content is one of the most effective ways to build your brand and earn the trust of your target audience. Drop persistent emails to industry-specific publications or blogs with guest posts, use LinkedIn articles/blog posts to refer people to your company website as well as your posts on other websites.
When you share your viewpoints and demonstrate your knowledge through guest posts, you demonstrate that you’re smart enough to offer a valuable product or service. This builds trust and helps to position you as an expert and an authority in your industry. However, remember that people access your blog primarily via Google and social media, and it takes time to build a following on these channels, so be patient & persevere.
#4. FIX YOUR GOOGLE SEARCH RESULTS
A favourable Google search is often the strongest personal branding footprint for most of us. While you can’t ‘fix’ search results, you can try and push unfavourable results to the bottom of the stack by claiming your profiles across all social media platforms. Paid services like BrandYourself can also help remove objectionable content from existing social media channels.
Having a personal website is an important component of building a personal brand. This is a piece of online real estate that you own and control, and in some cases, visiting your website will be one of the steps your target audience takes towards becoming a client. Register <yourname>.com for a couple of hundred bucks with the likes of GoDaddy, NameCheap, HostGator & BigRock, and create a sleek website keeping your intended audience in mind.
#5 ENGAGE WITH MICRO-INFLUENCERS
While major influencers can definitely help you get noticed quicker, they might charge a hefty sum. As a rookie, you may not be able to draw the attention of big influencers — this is where micro-influencers come in. These influencers don’t have a large following, but the following they do have is loyal.
Recognising & connecting with micro-influencers to showcase your expertise & talents often feel more authentic than celebrity endorsements that look and feel like paid advertising.
#6. BUILD A COMMUNITY OF ENTHUSIASTS
Use your website, blog, social media & other industry engagements to build a community & an email list. Instead of trying to build a large and broad audience, shift your focus to becoming a leader of a community in a specific niche. Once you define your target audience, try to build an online community for them to interact with each other, share ideas, support each other, and reach out to you directly.
You can always send out newsletters, host live events, create Facebook or WhatsApp groups so your audience and/or clients can spend time with you. Casual meetups, private dinners, workshops, retreats, and mastermind groups are all great ways to solidify long-term relationships with your audience.
#7. BE ORGANICALLY SOCIAL
Social media is an open door space; it’s a sign of your accessibility, transparency and commitment. Since you may be pressed for time, and you don’t have scores of PR specialists offering you a helping hand, focus on a single channel such as LinkedIn & try to remain relevant by posting useful content or comments regularly.