Personal branding. What is this alien concept you speak of? Despite this becoming much more prevalent among Internet users, I still have found through casual conversation that it’s a rather uncommon concept throughout the general public. Personal branding is the use of social media and other Internet platforms to define your personal and professional goals and interests, in addition to connecting with other like-minded individuals.
So, why should you brand yourself? Isn’t that just for companies? No. It’s not – that sort of mindset is also very common though. Some people simply don’t care enough to put in the effort to do so, but it’s crucial if you want to break away from the mold and stand out among your peers. In a world of constant change and copious amounts of talent, you can’t expect to be noticed unless you do something different.
To be effective at personal branding, you must have definitive goals and interests. Don’t limit yourself to what others may think is “cool” or like about you. If you’re a comic book nerd, embrace that, but stick to a select few interests. The point is to not worry how diverse your interests are from one another, but to keep focused on what you want to be known for and who you want to connect with.
For example, I’m interested in technology, wildlife, outdoors, and writing – all very diverse interests, but I’ve managed to connect and create personal relationships with people in all of those varying areas through social media.
This doesn’t mean you can never post anything that veers away from your “designated” interests, but in general your social media account shouldn’t look like a Picasso painting gone awry.
Be Active And Consistent
What’s just as important as focused content, is being consistent and active in sharing and curating that content. Whether you’re sharing some of your own work, such as a post on travel tips or someone else’s article on the best uncommon places to visit in the world, the key is that you’re keeping your content frequent and up to date.
“That’s all great Aaron, but I’ve got a busy life doing all those things I’m passionate about – how am I supposed to find the time to post?” If you find yourself asking this, it’s a valid concern, especially since there are peak times you should be sharing content.
The answer is to schedule your posts. This allows you to create when you feel most inspired, but to share when people are most likely to see it.
We’ve covered Buffer a lot here at MakeUseOf, and for good reason. It’s a fantastic browser extension for Chrome, Firefox, Opera and Safari that allows you to schedule posts to Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, App.Net and Google+ Pages (unfortunately not personal profiles at this time).
Want to do more than just schedule tweets and posts? Hootsuite and TweetDeck allow you to manage your all social media accounts from a single interface. TweetDeck manages just Twitter, however, Hootsuite allows you to manage Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn accounts, in addition to groups on these social networks. Both tools have fantastic user interfaces that are pleasantly easy to use.
Reach Out. Connect. Be Real.
Tools and content won’t do you any good if you don’t create relationships. And it’s important that you don’t just talk about yourself, but seek out other awesome individuals. In addition to putting forth that effort, be authentic and yourself with others – don’t try to come across as someone you’re not. You’ll be seen right through and it’s a huge turn off.
Social Media Groups And Communities
Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn all have places that can be powerful resources to connect and interact with other people who share the same interests and passions that you do. These groups range from local networks to worldwide communities.
Google+ has what they call Communities. Here you’re much more likely to find people all over the country and world, and a huge variety of broad topics from photography to wildlife to niche topics such as wildlife photography.
While Google+ is a general approach to a wide variety of topics, Facebook Groups tend to be built around a specific region and/or interest of people (though they certainly aren’t limited to that), such as a group I’m a part of called “Northwest Partners in Amphibian and Reptile Conservation“. Where Google+ Communities can be a great tool to connect with people all over, Facebook Groups can help establish in-person meet-ups and relationships – both are excellent.
LinkedIn has a couple great resources: Groups and Pulse. LinkedIn Groups are much like those of Facebook and Google+, though they don’t have nearly as much consistent participation – it’s kind of hit or miss whether a group will be widely used by the other members or not. Regardless, it’s a great tool to connect with other professionals in your field.
Pulse is a blog-like form of content consisting of articles from anyone on LinkedIn. Starting your own blog can be tough initially due to lack of traffic and attention, despite having great content and topics. Sharing your knowledge in an article on LinkedIn can be a way to get discovered and even drive people back to your blog or website.
Twitter, Medium & Hashtags
Twitter doesn’t have a specific “group” people can all join, though it’s a great way to reach out and connect with complete strangers in a non-creepy way. Medium is a “social platform” of writing that is focused around sharing your expertise within a community. Like Pulse, it can be a way to get exposure. However, for some, it’s much more than that. Not only is it a great way to share your knowledge, but also a great way to expand it through smart content consumption.
While Twitter is a great way to stay connected with like-minded individuals, it’s pretty hard to get a solid sense of what they know (and share what you know) in 140 characters. Medium was built by the Twitter founders and is merged into your account, so when you (or someone you follow) writes something, it shows up in the feed and notifications. There are also Collections, which are stories grouped by theme or topic.
Hashtags are another great way to search and follow topics you are interested in (and find people who are talking about them). By using a tool like Hootsuite, you can follow specific hashtags.
The easiest way to follow blogs is through an RSS Reader. And Feedly is one of the most widely-known and feature-rich ones available. Aside from being able to manage and organize all those RSS feeds, it also has content-discovery tools.
Create A Theme
Creating a theme isn’t just about looks, but also about representation. Part of this includes what we’ve already covered – content, but this also is your username (how you’re recognized by others on the web) and, of course, the style of your various social media accounts.
Short and sweet, yet interesting and unique – that is a solid start to formatting your bio. Though typically stagnant, your bio isn’t something permanent. Interests change. Goals change. And your approach with your online presence may even change. Your bio is how you quickly summarize and grab the attention of others – much like an intro to a story or article.
In general, you want your username to be relevant and consistent. And though it’s not the end of the world, it sure does help find someone if they have the same or similar name for all social media websites.
Universal style throughout your social media accounts is a great way to brand yourself and say “Yes, I’m the same person”. So even if you don’t have the same username across all platforms, you can have the same display picture, creativity and consistent look.
Canva is an awesome website and tool for a creative and universal look for your social media profiles (though it’s not limited to just those). From Google+ to Twitter to Facebook, you can design cover photos that are unique and distinguish you from everyone else. Check out our review and tutorial of Canva.
Personal Branding Models
I’ve discovered several people who I feel are great “personal branding models” for you to use as examples while building your own personal brand.
Srinivas Rao – @UnmistakableCEO
Srinivas is the founder of an awesome podcast, Unmistakable Creative. He has done a fantastic job of not only branding himself, but also his podcast (which you should check out as it will likely be a excellent tool for you).
What Srinivas does right: Capitalized on his talent for interviewing with his podcast through social media. Active on Twitter and Google+, with a consistent display picture.
Martin Boehme – @mpvboehme
What Martin does right: Built himself as the brand. Universal display picture for Twitter, personal website and Powlyglot. Simple bio. Up-to-date and relevant content based around language and web development.
Matthew Karsten – @ExpertVagabond
Like Srinivas, in Matthew hasn’t just made a brand, but he included himself in the brand – Expert Vagabond. This isn’t a must, but if you want to do more than just brand yourself, this is the way to do it. Matthew is an adventure travel blogger and photographer.
What Matthew does right: Iconic display picture across social media platforms: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Google+. Shares the expertise he’s gained through his experiences with his growing fanbase, and interacts with his 19,000+ followers.
Aja Frost – @ajavuu
Aja brands herself as a writer, public speaker and social media expert. She’s a student at Cal Poly. Her personal website features her published articles throughout the web, in addition to her resume – an important part to include on your personal website.
What Aja does right: Active on Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn. Shares articles and her own knowledge of her wide array of interests.
Michael B. Myers Jr. – @drawsgood
Michael is a freelance illustrator, designer and animator and uses social media to share his talent: Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest, Behance, Redbubble, Instagram and Dribbble.
What Michael does right: Brands himself with his talents, including a resume on his website, drawsgood.com. Actively uses tons of social networks to spread his work and share his knowledge in the art of illustrating and designing.
Sam Kapila – @samkap
Sam is a web design instructor, podcaster, and food and sports fan. She uses Twitter along with her blog and personal website to professionally represent herself and her expertise.
What Sam does right: Consistently tweets about topics of interests and actively interacts with followers.
Thomas Frank – @TomFrankly
Thomas is just your average guy, who happens to be obsessively passionate about helping college students get the most out of their college and lives. He is the founder of College Info Geek, where he writes and podcasts to his readers. He has used social media to tie himself into his brand and actively participates in conversations with his followers. He has also been the inspiration, motivation and interest behind my own personal branding.
What Thomas does right: Eager to share and learn with others. Spreads himself across all social networks. Actively participates in conversations with his readers and followers.
Colin Wright – @colinismyname
Colin has actually written an ebook on Personal Branding. But aside from sharing his own expertise on that, he’s an author, entrepreneur and full-time traveler. He uses Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Tumblr to engage with his 13,000+ followers.
What Colin does right: Consistent display picture. Active on a variety of social networks. Has a separate personal website apart from other business ventures, to appropriately represent himself.
Experiment, Research And Repeat
Personal branding requires constant growth and change. To do this, you must find what works best for you, continue to expand your knowledge and stay consistent in doing so. Don’t be afraid to try new things. Connecting with others not only allows you to network and educate yourself more, but also expose you to new ways of doing things, so be open to them.
Have you started the process of personal branding for your career? What have you learned from the process? Share your tips, comments and questions below!