What’s one of those?
Let’s begin at the beginning shall we?
What is a personal brand?
Think of the phrase, ‘That’s what I’m all about’ : This is the foundation of personal branding. Your thing, what makes you tick, who you are.
Big brands are the same, they are all about something, be it sports, entertainment, sustainability… and they all do what they do in their own way, express it in their own voice.
But how do you establish what your Thing is?
Introducing a marketing thing we call Brand Pillars. They hold up the canopy of your content and identity like tentpoles.
Law of physics: You need three points to support a structure. So let’s start with three brand pillars.
Say you’re a recruiter; one of your brand pillars is likely to be the sector you recruit in, such as tech.
Another pillar might be something in your education or professional background that influences your approach to your job, or what you focus on within your job, such as psychology, sport, or leadership.
A third could be something that interests you about the real life, day to day world you work in, such as mental health, employee wellbeing, or Diversity and Inclusion.
That’s the starter pack for establishing your personal brand, but what about making sure it’s actually… well, good?
Effective personal brands are unique, differentiate against competitors and promote your authentic passions, skills and interests. A great one will focus on offering value to your audience, so they see you as an expert in those pillars mentioned above.
As to why you need one and what it should achieve, the benefits you will see from a strong personal brand include:
- Standing out in a busy industry
- Attracting clients
- Growing your network
- Building relationships and trust with potential employers
We’ve convinced you? Great. Now onto the practical stuff…
We all know that social media is constantly evolving, and it’s a rapidly changing environment. The ‘right’ advice on how to make a splash in this oversaturated space can be quickly outdated, and incredibly confusing. In truth, ‘hacks’ claiming to offer the secret to going viral overnight are often empty promises.
The only sure route to success in personal branding is Authenticity, Strategy and Consistency. Here’s how in 5 steps:
1: The Profile
Your profile is your shop front.
In that shop you might have the best products, prices, and the best attitude going, but if the face of your business that’s visible to the outside world was run down, boring, or misleading, no one would ever come inside the shop to see your business’s best qualities.
You want your profile to reflect all that’s great about your personal brand, and show it off.
That means every section has been paid attention to.
On any platform you’ll have a profile picture, a tagline, bio or about section. These should sum up who you are and what you offer. On different platforms you’ll fill different spaces, for instance:
The banner on linkedin? – That’s your digital business card, use it to show your services at a glance.
What belongs in your Highlights on instagram? – Your ‘best bits’ of content, or whatever you want your viewers to find easily, that endures over time, rather than moving down your feed as they get older and less relevant.
Twitter and Tiktok? – Choosing which tweets or videos you ‘Pin’ to your profile will dictate the first impression that new followers get of your personal brand. You get where we’re going here.
Then there’s your content. This will follow directly from your brand pillars, and if they’re authentic this should take the work right out of creating posts, because the inspiration will come to you naturally from your daily life. We also mentioned up top how your content should offer value to your followers, which bring us to…
2: The Audience
Go back to basics. What’s the reason you’re doing all this?
You want to gain clients? Then your content should showcase your services so well, it’s an offer they can’t refuse.
You want to get a new job? You’re selling yourself here, so you want to demonstrate your skills, your passion, and don’t forget your personality! Try not to think of this too much like an ad, and certainly not like a CV, it should be realistic and human. The more real you are here, the more likely it is that your dream employer will see you and think ‘They’ll be a great fit here’.
To reach your audience, think about what they need, and show how you can offer it. If they have a problem, show that you have the solution. Get under their skin by immersing yourself in their space, joining forums, following the right influencers, stay up to date with industry news. This will position you better to be noticed, but more importantly: You have to consume content to create content. It’s all about a conversation, so you can’t create in a vacuum of isolation, you’ve got to be engaging with what’s going on out there.
3: The Frequency
This can be the most challenging aspect of the process for many.
After all, we’re busy professionals, that’s why we want our personal brands to work hard for us… but it also means our time is in short supply, leading to the big dilemma:
When and How Much do I post?
You want to be putting fresh content out there to be seen, but ‘The more the better’ is not always true, and definitely not helpful. You can disengage your audience by posting way too frequently, repetitively, or inconsistently.
If you aim for a consistent routine, you’ve got to be realistic. If you can’t manage every day, go once or twice a week. This is not set in stone and you might gradually level up your frequency, but it’s better to start small and work up.
Ultimately, we’d call 3 posts a week healthy, but 1 to begin with is a big improvement on none.
As far as timing goes, you can get into the nitty gritty of when your audience are most likely to be looking at your posts… but in real life, this may be unnecessary.
A couple of things that are more important than the timing of your post:
First, quality. If your content is good, it will gain traction no matter when you publish.
Second, engagement. If you aim for first thing in the morning, you have all day to engage in comments on your content. This is where networking happens, not in you hitting ‘post’ and walking away.
4: The Hashtags
Hashtags are a cause of debate in the social media world.
The bottom line is, they’re a great way to streamline the content you see, hone in on relevant topics, as well as target your own content towards those interested in certain areas. But misuse of hashtags just to spread your content far and wide is a bit of a social media taboo. Just don’t spam, people aren’t fans of this, and it looks visually messy too.
Best practice with hashtags would be:
- Use max 3 per post.
- Search them to see which are most popular, exploring different terms to describe the theme of your content.
- Follow relevant hashtags and engage in that area. Comment, chat, network! It will bring you together with like minded internet dwellers, plus your engagement (and hopefully profile) will then be seen by everyone following that hashtag.
5: The Formats
It’s not just what you post but how you post it.
Take LinkedIn. To name a few you have text posts, graphics, multi image posts, polls, document sliders, videos, and for a short time even stories. On instagram it’s a medley of posts, reels, stories, igtv, lives… the list goes on.
So is there any method to the madness?
An easy win is simply to aim for variety. The platform wants you to take advantage of all its capabilities, so often the algorithm will favor that.
Other than this, simply choose the most appropriate format for your post, which will depend on how much information it contains, what the visual content is, and what you want it to do.
We’ve tried to cram in as much practicable advice here as we can, congratulations if you made it to the end. But as with all things social media, there’s always more detail to unearth, and will be new and evolving ways to explore personal branding in the future. Keep at it, and more than anything: Watch, learn and grow – in branding as in life.