What is personal branding? Nope not searing your name on your forearm so people can tell who you are. Well, tattooing could be a form of personal branding as well, really. But personal branding goes beyond the way you style your style to stick out of the crowd.
Personal Branding, in this digital age, is creating an online presence that distinguishes you with some quality or expertise, for the world.
So indeed, it does set you apart much like tattooing every inch of your body would. However, the distinction is the creation of an online presence that is uniquely associated with you, who you are, what you represent, and whatever you identify yourself to be.
In other words, how you want to market yourself, your career, or your personality, is your unique personal brand. This could be similar to professional brand building like entrepreneurs are known to do. However, personal branding can be done by anyone, with or without a commercial angle to the purpose.
Why is Personal Branding important?
Let’s begin with the most crucial – Employers. What you do online is no longer in a silo, sitting pretty all by itself and doing nothing for you.
If your social media updates are gaining you popularity among your friends, you can be assured that what you have for everyone to view in public can also have its impact on your career. Hopefully it will be able to boost your career instead of tanking it. And that is why the need to understand how you would want to have yourself represented online.
Studies have shown that, since 2006, the percentage of hiring managers who looked at social media profiles, of potential hires, have expanded from a mere 12% to a substantial 70% (and perhaps still growing as we speak).
They just don’t look for scandalous pictures where you clicked yourself kissing a donkey. They look for marginal to severe criminal behaviour. They see if you fit into their corporate culture by being amiable, considerate, and rational, while certainly not being belligerent, inappropriate or discriminatory.
About 27% check to see if you fudged your qualifications in your resume, lied about your sick days, or have been deceptive in any sort of way (Source).
Here are some other numbers pertinent to employer supervision of your online presence.
- Online information that supports candidate (potential hire) qualifications, are viewed by 61% employers
- If the candidate has a professional online presence, viewed by 50%
- What others have to say about the candidate is relied upon by 37% employers
- And any other reason like criminal behaviour, offensive conduct, inappropriate posts, racial, sexist, or other discriminatory comments can dissuade 24% employers against hiring the candidate.
Rest assured, your moves are not unnoticed by others and personal branding, if not already taking care of keeping your professional appearance unscathed, also helps you to attract a lot of positive attention from employers, current and future.
How to build and improve your Personal Brand?
The first thing to identify, as a potential self-brand builder, is what you want your brand to represent. Are you an expert in anything? This could be a serious trade or be a self-appointed expert hair-braider.
Do you strongly believe in a certain cause or hobby and want your opinions, or interests, to describe who you are? You could be an animal lover who follows the state of animal care in a city, a state, or wherever. You could also be an amateur photographer who is enthusiastic of snapping away pictures of sleepy cats.
The content in itself is not the defining quality of your brand (well at least not limited to the kind of content) but rather what you feel yourself most connected to and how you want to market yourself. If an amateur photographer is what you are, then your personal brand can be perfectly happy being that.
Identify what your brand will speak about – an idea, an interest, a craft, an opinion, an expertise, or any variation of anything really. Just as long as you have the capacity to resonate with it and market yourself quite consistently within that brand.
The second aspect is to understand how you want that representation work for you. Do you see your brand helping you create an online presence that is independent of your career, but nevertheless focusses deeply on your interests? Or do you want the representation overlap with your profession in a way that can boost your overall career? Understand what and who your target is.
In other words, here’s how personal branding can help you.
- A positive online image can help increase an employer’s faith in your skills. Especially if your brand resonates with the skill, or quality, they are looking for.
- It can also bring your profile in the radar of recruiters who are looking for candidates with that particular skill.
- Even if job search in not in your realm of consideration, building a positive and constructive online presence can only enhance your credibility as an expert, hopefully helping you to move on to become an influencer in the field.
Below are a few simple steps to polish your online existence to a meaningful end.
While the social media sites let you be the spokesperson for your brand, they don’t particularly help you to expand your reach much beyond your immediate follower base.
Blogging allows you to do just that. One of the better ways to get popular exposure is through the opportunity to blog for an established website as a guest blogger. That is, if you have valuable content to share, you can propose to write for an existing popular blog or website, in your niche area, with said content.
The two-way street helps the blog get valuable content for its readers, from outside, expanding its breadth of repertoire, while the guest blogger gets the advantage of getting an exposure to a new and bigger audience. It is like advertising for free in an already dedicated community.
There are some distinct advantages of guest blogging that is summed up here.
- It takes care of putting your words and correspondingly your identity out into a community that is already following the blog.
- Apart from the credibility of being hosted on a popular site, you also get the added boost of SEO (Search Engine Optimization), without having to worry about the complex technicalities. In the big picture, Google gives a lot of weight to higher authority websites in their search results.
- It helps build relationships and contacts with other readers as well as other bloggers and influencers in your niche.
- Even to your readers, having been considered as a guest blogger outside your personal blog, social media accounts, etc, increases their faith in your expertise.
- When such blogs/websites promote their content on their social media pages, you automatically get a proxy exposure and feedback on your content through comments, shares, etc.
The catch or the perk, depending on how you look at it, is that such authoritative websites / blogs don’t allow random content. So, if you have something to share, it needs to be valuable. The content thus goes through a cycle of editing, vetting, and other checks before making it to the end audience.
We, at Careerizma, provide such an exposure to help you build your personal brand, through blogging on our site (Read Build, improve or change your career via blogging). We encourage you to share your expertise and knowledge through blogging, thus building your Personal Brand as a Subject Matter Expert.
On the popular blogging sites like LinkedIn, most articles are usually amateurish (since there’s not editorial control) or rarely get the traction (as their algorithms suppress the visibility for your articles to boost their paid promotion) unless you are already established as an expert.
Instead, you can build your brand here, on the Careerizma platform, by publishing well written articles that focus on what you have to offer to our, and ultimately, your readers.
Your LinkedIn Presence
A 2014 study by the Adecco Group, world’s leading provider of HR solutions, found that LinkedIn serves as a far more solid source for recruiting solutions to both recruiters and job seekers in nearly 25 countries in the world.
The rest, like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc are also quite effective but it is much easier to build a serious professional profile on LinkedIn complete with relevant networks and visibility to potential hiring personnel.
The path to a perfect LinkedIn profile can take some iterations. Even adding the right connections and network can be a time investment. But done right, a solid LinkedIn profile can really help your brand. Build an up-to-date profile, with a relevant professional picture, a suitable header and a relevant and recognizable URL.
Complete your profile details and describe your brand, adding your website link for effect. Join relevant groups and most of all use the feature of posting original content on LinkedIn to write about your expertise. The right kind of content, content activity on groups and among your network, and subsequent endorsements from your connections, can enhance the credibility of your profile.
Your other Social Media Presence
Purge out any old, irrelevant, potentially inconsistent or embarrassing accounts, or content from your other social media pages.
Much like LinkedIn, work on building a consistent image through your online activity – blogging, following and sharing other relevant material from other pages and influencers, sharing, posting, etc.
Stay away from posting polarizing or charged material on your brand page as it may end up offending the following you are so eager to build.
One of the best ways to go about your social pages is to keep your professional and personal brand pages separate. Invest some time on putting up a “meaningful” picture and describe your brand through the content you share, regularly.
Your Online Activity
Whether it is on your website, your blog, your social media posts, or guest blogs, keep up with sharing your expert content regularly. Mind you, don’t assume that pushing your marketable self is always a good idea. This may in turn put followers off your page.
Instead, use entertaining, visual, and valuable content to keep your followers engaged. If you blog, keep up with what kind of questions people seek answers to in the area of your brand’s expertise. Use that knowledge to create more original content.
Keeping a steady flow of engaging content speaks volume about your passion and investment in your personal brand. It even encourages your followers to talk about you elsewhere, bringing in more in return.
In these cheap and easy ways of building your personal brand, make sure it stays away from negativity. This includes being mindful and tolerant of the people who seek your advice in the field you have worked to show your expertise. Any inappropriate comment or remark will get associated with you, as in with your brand.
Also remain consistent with what you want to represent as your personal brand. Frequent deviations will only confuse and in turn cause the loss of followers. After all, they are there because of your brand’s appeal.
Brand building doesn’t happen overnight. It takes a lot of work and a lot of research into first what your brand wants to say and then how can you effectively market it. It can take months if not a few years to establish yourself as an expert.
Nevertheless, it is a process and it keeps reaping benefits gradually along the way. Employment and recruiter perks aside, it gives a unique voice to otherwise ordinary people with some form of extraordinary capacity.
Some useful links if you ever want to take the art of building a brand as a career.
- How I got into Brand Management career in India
- Common interview questions to get into a Brand Management career