Whether you're aware of it or not, everything you do on social media contributes to your personal brand. It's just a fancy way of saying 'the impression your audience has of you'.
Your personal brand in real life is impacted by
- Your appearance
- Your words & actions
- The relationships you have
The factors that affect your personal brand on social media are very similar.
But when you talk about personal branding, you're talking about carefully thought out actions which allow you to stand out on social media and be recognized by the audience you're targeting. That's why you start with a strategy.
Build a Personal Branding Strategy
What does your personal branding strategy look like? Well here are the main questions you want to answer to come up with the strategy.
1. Who is your Target Audience?
It all starts here. What is that narrowly defined group of people that you seek to build a relationship with on social media? Find your niche. Who do you want to talk to? And who would want to engage with you in a discussion?
Mind you, it's easy to confuse this group of people with people you know (family, friends, etc.). These are the people you want to connect with over the same interests, or over a problem that you can help them solve.
2. Where does your Audience hang out?
This often goes completely ignored by businesses and people looking to work on their personal brand. Often they realize this is a problem but don't know how to solve this problem.
If you haven't thought about this problem, chances are that there's a huuuge gap between you and your audience on social media. You'll risk talking to people who do not understand your message, do not get the language and words you use, and therefore aren't open to engaging with you or doing business with you at all.
Start with searching for what channel they hang out at. If your area of interest is cryptocurrency, are there more crypto enthusiasts on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or Linkedin? Or do you have to think about an unconventional social media channel where only crypto enthusiasts hang out?
Then think about what groups and subchannels within these social media platforms do they hang out in. Is the hottest crypto gossip exchanged in a group on Linkedin or Facebook? Are there particular hashtags this specific community uses?
The better you can answer these questions, the higher the quality of your audience. And let's face it, you're only good as your audience.
3. What is your Message?
Just like you have to be picky with your audience, you have to further narrow down the topics you want to talk about. You do not want to be a Jack of All, Master of None. Choose a topic and industry you are comfortable with talking about, a position that you have enough knowledge of or want to research about.
That's not all though. Unfortunately social media is saturated with opinions on everything. A lot of those opinions are so similar sounding that they get lost. Your take on the topic and your overall message should be fresh, honest, or timeless so people listen to you. With every passing day, social media stops giving attention to people who don't seem genuine, who seem no different than everybody else.
Of course, I realize, coming up with such a message might be the toughest part of this exercise. But it is one that you will be grateful for the most once you figure it out.
4. What relationships and people can help you?
Especially if you're starting from scratch, it's very unlikely to build a successful brand if you go it alone. This means that
a) you'll have to take the example of people who are doing the right things in that space. Break down what they're doing, what kind of language they use, how they interact with people on social, and what tools they use. Try to emulate them.
b) you'll need to think about people that you can create good personal relationships with in the same space. You won't connect with the best in the business right away, but keep an eye out for people who are up and coming, and then give them a shout out or create content about them, or what they're doing. Help them out. Pay it forward without any expectations. That's the most important part.
Implementation - Let's get to it then
Here's how to implement this personal branding strategy on social media.
Your appearance on social media
Start from how you appear to others on social media. The first time someone might come across you can be while they are scrolling their feed. They might only see your display picture and a small blurb under it (and what you posted).
Right away you can signal to them that you're someone worth connecting with. There are so many ways to stand out in people's minds, it's best we take a look at a few good examples from Linkedin here:
Right away you see that a few things are common and striking among these profiles.
- A really classy headshot. A good quality picture where preferably you're sporting a smile makes you seem both approachable as well as professional.
- Their description usually doesn't state their role at a company. It states their mission or the problem they're trying to solve. In that way, their profile is unique from any other professional's. They let the rest of their profile talk about the positions they hold. Like we discussed earlier, make sure what you say here talks directly to your target audience.
When they finally do view your profile, you have the option of pushing them towards a particular link or a pdf that you want them to see.
On platforms like Instagram and Twitter, however, you don't have the option of uploading a pdf. You can still lead people to a website.
Your words - the most important part of the equation
Here is where your messaging strategy comes into play. You've figured out the topics you want to talk about, and very specifically what angle you want to take on that topic.
Your profile bio, your About sections, your posts, and the content you create need to consistently now reinforce this message.
With any kind of branding, consistency is key. Make sure your message and the tone of voice you use on all platforms is consistent.
Case in point: Gary Vaynerchuck. A coach who speaks in a very honest manner. He's open, approachable, and famously uses a generous amount of profanity in his speech. He realizes that this is his brand. No matter where you see him, whether it's on Linkedin, Youtube, his blogs or his podcasts, that personality and that brand shines through every single one of them. His words are consistent across all channels, and it is easy to know what he stands for.
Still not sure how to approach this? Just be yourself. Don't think too hard when it comes to your personal brand, and let your personality shine through. Your target audience will appreciate that more than anything.
Your actions - responsible responses & relationships
Social media, like we keep on saying, is supposed to be social. As a person on social media, your network of friends, acquaintances, colleagues, followers and inspirations are your most valuable asset.
Here are the three levels in which you should engage with them.
Respond to your network
At the very basic level, when you send out a post or a message and someone replies to it or sends you a direct message, you should respond to it. Even if someone is handling your account for you, it is imperative that you respond to any responses yourself. A warm and personal response ensures people that you're not a bot and more importantly that you're approachable and down-to-earth.
Maybe respond to their questions, take their suggestions. That can keep them coming back and engaging with you.
Invest in relationships
As mentioned in the previous section, the right relationships in your industry can help you immensely. But the key is to not go into them without expecting and to give first. Once you have a small list of people who you look up to and could form mutually beneficial partnerships with, try to think about how you could help them out.
Start there. Look for ways to get in touch with them. Stu Heinecke lists a number of ways to do that in his book How to Get a Meeting with Anyone, but this smaller list can already give you a few ideas.
Bottom-line; try to think about how you can help them and pay it forward.
Engage with the larger community
Your community is larger than the people who comment on your posts and people you look up to. You'll need to find out where your target audience hangs out, like I mentioned above. Once you have an idea, you can start engaging with them there.
What you should not do right away is spam that group/community with links to your website or blog. Instead, start with providing them with your insights and value right in that channel. People who get convinced of your worth will then follow you back to the source. Harry Dry talks about how this is a key strategy that helped him grow his community in this article on his excellent website.
Of course personal branding doesn't stop here. This is just a way to set a great foundation for your personal brand on social media sans tricks or hacks. The band New Radicals was on point when they sang Dont forget, you only get what you give. That's a mantra as good as any if you ask me.