When was the last time you heard this:
“As business owners and marketing managers, it’s never been as important to make sure you have an online presence.”
Do we actually know what this means? We think we do, but do we? How does Jack in Business Development seem to have time for posting on LinkedIn on top of a busy work day? How is he getting likes, shares and more comments than you can count as friends. But, when you do post in a similar way it feels forced and you’d be lucky if anyone sees it?
Whether it’s to build your own business’ brand and visibility, or how you can create your own network for your own gain, Personal branding has been the buzzword of the year.
Writing my thesis on Personal Branding was a bit of a cop out in honesty. It was a chance to watch loops of Gary Vaynerchuck and Ryan Serhant videos on repeat talking about how they are changing the world with their energy and passion. On the flipside it also allowed me to go to some very deep areas of literature that are highly critical and let’s just say ‘academic’. I’ve also written multiple strategies that contain Personal branding and influencer marketing as a service and how clients can use Influencer marketing as a strategy for their business. That’s where you come in, you’re going to be lucky enough to get a mix of the highly critical literature based on academic scrutiny all the way through to those that are doing this day in day out.
Throughout this piece I’m going to reference some interesting individuals that have not only helped me get some brownie points for my Masters Degree but also show a way that it keeps it less academic with my experience in writing client strategies with what we are seeing right now.
So let’s get to it, what is Personal Branding?
Well, Khedher (2014) one of the leaders in Personal Branding research when it first started to become the new kid on the block thinks:
‘The process where people make a planned effort to market themselves with a makeup of three elements, Brand Identity, Brand Positioning and Evaluation of the brand.
I’ve highlighted a few keywords as I think it’s important to talk about these further:
Planned – Personal branding needs to have a planned effort, you need to be aware of it and accept it for what it is.
Brand Identity – In Personal Branding you need to understand your own identity, values, behaviours and online vibe. This isn’t swanky marketing talk, you need to think about what you stand for and what you are passionate about.
Brand Positioning – You must understand how you will position yourself online. Similar to a business, where is your niche? Where is the area that you think you can grow and evolve? What tone and what message do you want to get out there to your audience?
Evaluation of the brand – This goes hand in hand with making a ‘planned’ effort. If you are not evaluating your efforts, are you truly making a difference?
That’s all well and great, but there is probably an easier definition. I would simplify Personal Branding as:
Personal branding is your planned effort at an online digital reputation.
Personal branding is your presence online, it’s what people see when you post, it’s also what people think when you post, how you post and what you post.
If I was to ask you to; think of someone online that is funny, you would have a picture in your mind of someone and start to recall what they had written probably with a little chuckle to yourself. Similarly if I asked, name someone online that gives you great business insights, you would probably think about the golden nugget you took and who you took it from.
Why is it important?
We all have our own take on why Personal Branding or posting online is important. It could be to attract more customers, it could be that you are looking for your next promotion, OR it could be that you just looove dog videos and you want to show the world how much you damn well love dogs.
Whatever your reason is, it has been proven to give you better exposure, better networking opportunities and greater job prospects. No seriously it does. Without getting too deep, the ability of a personal brand allows you to take charge of your own narrative and build up your own credibility. A great example of this is Molly Mae; the once Love Island contestant, influencer and now the new Creative Director for Pretty Little Thing. Although I’m sure Molly Mae’s credentials are well suited to being the Creative Director for the fashion brand, what could also be an added bonus is her 6.1m followers on Instagram with the core demographic being that of the brand.
Can you have a Personal Brand and work for a company?
The benefit to the company is just as important to think about. With any social media account, your exposure increases over time by being consistent. Amplify that with your employees liking and sharing your brand’s content, you will see a big spike in your metrics. Over at StrategiQ HQ, we started our journey a while back, and the first two weeks we saw a 4002% increase in reach. Pretty nifty huh?
If I was being truly honest, The long answer is that it might have some nuances that you should probably work through first. Let me explain, Personal branding is based on values, which your company will likely also have, and we tend to work for businesses that share our values. If you work for a company that has the values of Ambition, being Commercially Minded, Genuinely Caring and expanding your expertise, you should definitely come and work for StrategiQ. Joking aside and without the plug, you should make sure that this is clear for both employer and employee. Having a balance of pushing your work agenda just as much as your own, with the added value that they should really sit side-by-side if you have the right type of job.
How can Personal Branding help?
I think we could all probably think of our own examples of success stories, from Chris Do and Gary Vaynerchuck to other recognised business leaders such as Richard Branson and Elon Musk. However, someone you might not have heard about is ex T-Mobile CEO, John Leger.
John Leger lived and breathed the brand and values he had reset for T-Mobile when he took over as CEO. The below video summarises his journey to see how he has positioned his own brand, but also within the interest of the company he works for.
How you should approach it
First let’s talk about a couple of stumbling blocks when it comes to posting to various social media platforms.
We all have an innate fear of standing out and being laughed at and that’s what we are all worried about when it comes to posting on social platforms. Whether you realise you have a “filter” or not, we still self censor ourselves to stop posting our true thoughts and opinions. In this regard it becomes mundane and uninspiring and you will see that in your engagement rates.
Second is that you might pick it up, have a really solid plan but do not see it through. Unfortunately I can’t help you with that, what you need there is a motivational pill and to see the bigger picture. It’s probably also worth mentioning that this guide will not make you the next global Tik-Tok Star from your first post, as we all know success does not come overnight. However, what this guide will give you is the ability to have a plan and see incremental gains over time. Starting from your first comment and interaction through to your 100th.
The way you post also needs to be considered. There is a huge difference between posting and engaging. Social Media Platforms by their very definition are social. Engaging with your audience with questions, follow ups and engaging with those that engage with your post will push you much further than thinking about posting 3 times a week.
This guide shows you the door and how you should step through it but you still need the key to unlock it. If you want to build your own credible Personal Brand, stay tuned below to access the ‘How’ materials.
What Channels should I use?
Ultimately this is up to you. Even TikTok, which now has a 50% split between those under the age of 34 and those above, with 689 million monthly active users, are you seriously telling me that you can’t find the right people to target on a “dancing app?”
In all seriousness, you will tend to use the channel you think is right for you. What I would say is, own it. Second, don’t bite off more than you can chew. Being on every social media platform is great if you have the time, but if you are not building a community, you will revert to ‘just’ posting, which leads to a lack of engagement and you will find it more of a chore than what you originally set it up for.
Jordan Peterson (2018), who I’d also class as having a great personal brand and online presence, talks about the ‘false celebrity’ playing to the crowd rather than the person. What this means is that it’s not necessarily about the onstage performance, but more specifically the ‘acting’ as a performer. That’s why it’s really important to be your authentic self, unless you are the Ryan Reynolds of the world – which if you are not, sorry to say, your acting probably isn’t going to cut it online!
Some key takeaways about Personal Branding
- Personal brands need to be recognised and managed effectively. From thinking about your brand to actively thinking about how you will engage online, make sure you make an effort to position yourself.
- Be authentic, don’t ‘act’ a certain way online, dress for the job you want but don’t become something you are not.
- Don’t get lost in looking at your posting schedule and posting for the sake of it. Like a house of cards, find the time to post quality content that you would want to see on your feed, or else you will lose those engagement stats, pronto!
Tools to manage my Personal Brand?
Personal branding is a huge area and will be carved in multiple different ways. As we all know, due to the size of marketing and the size of the topic I can’t cover everything in one article. If you should have anything to take away from this article it’s that it’s not about whether you are doing it right or wrong but to enjoy the process and post about what stories and cool stuff that you are passionate about.
I don’t want to leave you without the ‘how’. That’s why I’ve created a Personal Branding spreadsheet that will guide you through a process and get you to the first three months of posting online. This workbook will help you explore your own motivations, and take you on a guided path to understanding how, what and when you should post to your audience.
Looking forward to seeing what you post, We’ll be watching!
[KHEDHER, M., 2014. Personal Branding Phenomenon. International Journal of Information, Business and Management, 6(2), pp. 29-40.]