From the green mermaid of Starbucks to the Nike swoosh, we encounter corporate branding on a daily basis, but probably don’t give too much thought to developing our own brand. Branding is obviously important on the business-level, but these days creating your own personal brand is just as important. Building a recognizable and credible personal brand online can help develop greater industry recognition, gain better contacts and clients for yourself and your company, find a better job, and lay the foundation for future success.
Creating your unique personal brand is about more than just designing a clever logo or a catchy tagline (though those can come in handy). There are a number of important considerations to address when building your brand, and this helpful guide is designed to help you not only create your brand, but build one that really stands out from the competition. Keep in mind that when building your brand, it’s important to be yourself. Your brand serves as an amplification and crystallization of who you are. While all of these recommendations may not necessarily apply for you, you can pick and choose which ones make the most sense for your goals.
Create Your Personal Brand Vision
Before you begin buying domain names or launching social media campaigns for your brand, it’s important to begin with establishing your goals and long-term vision for your life. Don’t feel daunted that you have to work out every last detail of your life plan, just take in to consideration what you’d like to accomplish in the coming years and where you want to see yourself further down the road. Having a more vivid understanding of the big picture will help you more clearly distinguish your brand.
1) Establish your core values –Create a list of things that motivate you in your life; the who and the what that you think of when you make important decisions. This could include your friends, family, community, as well as ambition, intelligence, happiness or any other values that you hold dearly.
2) Prioritize your values – As you make your list of values, you’ll find that you feel more strongly about some over others. Ambition and your job might be very important to you, but are they more important to you than living near family or your happiness or community values?
3) Identify your passions – Create a list of activities and pursuits that you really care about and would enjoy doing even if you weren’t being paid to do them. These passions can be professionally related (technology, design) as well as personal (travel, music). Identifying these passions can give you a better understanding of professional goals you might want to set for the future as well as making sure you leave leisure time for the things that make you really happy.
4) List your ideal traits – There are a variety of methods to help you identify the key traits of your personality, including the Big Five Personality Traits (Conscientiousness, Extraversion, etc) and Myers & Briggs. By identifying your characteristic traits you can help identify which aspects of your personality you may want to emphasize for your personal brand, and which areas you might want to work on.
5) Compare your findings with outside perspectives – Talk to your friends, family, and colleagues about the values, passions and traits you’ve identified about yourself and see how they measure up with how they see you. When you are creating your personal brand it’s important understand how others see you and how you see yourself, that way you can work on better aligning the two perspectives.
Defining Your Target Audience
Identifying the specific audience you want to target will help you further articulate your personal brand. You’ll save time, energy and money by defining your audience and not trying to please everyone. Here are some helpful steps to target the right people for your brand:
1) Targeting the person who will pay you – It may sound simplistic, but your first focus for you audience should be the one that pays you, which can be a current or future boss, a current or future customer, or maybe an investor.
- Identify the person who can help you move to the next step of your career.
- Create a thorough description of who that person is and what they do professionally and personally.
- Identify their motivations so you can determine how you can help them achieve their goals.
- List potential opportunities for you to connect with them and help them reach those goals.
- Develop a strategy to take those opportunities to help your target audience.
2) Identify the influencer of the person that pays you – Influencers are anyone who holds the attention of the person that can move your career forward. This can be a superior, an industry writer or speaker, a mentor or a client. By earning their trust and approval will help you win over the person that will pay you.
- Identify the influencer by studying who your target follows on social media, which publications they are likely to read, and which personalities they are likely to follow.
- Create descriptions as you did above to create a clear picture of who these people are.
- Develop a contact plan to reach out to this person, whether through social media, email, phone or in person if possible.
- Think of the ways that you can benefit the influencer in some way.
3) Identify your support team – These are the people that are already in your corner and can help provide encouragement when you need it most and offer an honest perspective on your brand and progress. Supporters may include friends, family, coworkers, mentors or anyone else who is willing to support your vision.
- Identify who is on your support team and reach out to the ones that you trust the most.
- Share your goals with them so they can see your vision and provide feedback.
- Update them regularly with your progress and specific actions you’re taking to achieve your goals.
- Give back to your supporters by finding ways that you can help them achieve their goals.
Establish Your Online Presence
Once you have a solid understanding of the message you are looking to communicate with your personal brand and who you are looking to communicate with, you want to build your online presence. To establish this presence you’ll want to focus on various assets and avenues that will communicate your brand message, which can include a website, blog, and social media profiles. It’s important to secure these assets early on and ensure that they can be synchronized for continuity.
1) Setting up your social communities – You’ll want to decide what specific name or handle that you’ll be using for your personal brand and secure that name.
- Check username availability across social media platforms, websites or even trademarks using knowem and NameChk to see if your name or username is being used elsewhere.
- Claim your social media profiles. If you have a unique name this will be easier, but if you have a popular name that is available, you may have to get creative to find one that you can use across platforms. The key is to keep it short, memorable, and easy to type.
- Focus on the most important social media profiles like LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook. This can vary depending on your brand and audience, so for some images and video might take precedence over the written word. But keep in mind video can be a tremendously powerful tool for practically any brand.
- Stay up to date on newly emerging social media platforms and keep tabs on the ones that may be useful to have a presence on.
2) Securing your personal website – One of the most important components of your personal brand strategy is establishing, creating and maintaining your website. It’s the home base where all of your other outreach efforts (social media, networking, etc.) will direct people.
- Check domain name availability using Check Domain or GoDaddy to see if your personal brand name is available.
- Secure your domain name and similar domains. If you’re preferred name is taken under the ideal .com suffix, see if you can deal with the current owner, consider other popular suffix alternatives or secure a name that is as close as possible with a .com suffix.
- Consider purchasing similar domains to redirect people to your site.
3) Create your personal website – Once you’ve secured your domain, you have a few options for building your branded website. Your website serves as a great blank canvas for you to control the design, content and how it gets promoted. You can hire someone to design your site for you or you can utilize one of the many user-freiendly Content Management Systems (CMS), like WordPress or SquareSpace, to fairly quickly and easily set up your own.
- Sign up for the CMS and connect your domain name to your website.
- Select a theme. With a CMS like WordPress there are lots of good free themes to get started. If you want more customization and functionality, you can also go with a paid theme or custom design.
- Add content. Make it immediately clear to visitors who you are, what you do, and how they can contact you. It’s also recommended that you add a professional photo of yourself so people can associate your brand with a memorable face.
- Create an About page. Briefly and descriptively let people know your background, what you do now and where you’re planning to go in the future.
- Include case studies or endorsements. If you have projects or clients that you’ve worked with previously, it can be helpful to show how you’ve helped others in the past.
- Create a Contact page. This may seem obvious, but you want to be sure there are clear and easy ways for people to get in touch with you.
- Use a professional email address. Avoid outdated, playful addresses of the past and stick to simply your first name with the domain for your website.
(h) Implement SEO strategies for your website to build higher search engine rankings.
4) Create a blog – A blog is an excellent way to regularly provide new, relevant content to your audience. Your blog will enable you to share your experience, personality and expertise, as well as attract an audience when you promote your content on social media and elsewhere. WordPress offers blogging functionality when you use their CMS.
- Develop a blog strategy – Research industry sites to find out the type of topics and questions your target audience wants to learn about. It can also be effective to provide your own commentary on industry news. And consider interviewing influencers and other bloggers in your industry as it’s a great way to attract a wider audience and develop connections.
- Share your blog content – Use other sites to promote your content either in full or in part. Links to your blog on Twitter, Google+, and other social media are helpful to bring readers to your site. You can also use LinkedIn, and other industry forums to share entire posts or portions.
- Utilize content sharing platforms – You can schedule and share your content across multiple social media sites using platforms like Hootsuite, IFTTT and Buffer.
- Build an email list using MailChimp or Aweber in order to connect with your audience on a regular basis via email.
- Consider creating videos or podcasts to help build your brand and following as well.
- Enhance your blog and expand your following using content marketing strategies and audience building techniques.
Now that we’ve gone through the first establishing phase of building your personal brand online, the next phase will cover how to expand your audience, connect with influencers, gain press exposure, monitor your brand, and more. Stay tuned for the second installment of How to Build a Credible Personal Brand that Shines Online.
“7 Things You Can Do To Build an Awesome Personal Brand” (Forbes)
“5 Steps to Building a Personal Brand and Why You Need One” (Inc.)
“Personal Branding Basics: 3 Steps to Advancing Your Career” (Forbes)
“The Importance of Entrepreneurs Building Their Personal Brand” (Entrepreneur)
“5 Keys To Building Your Personal Brand” (Huffington Post)