If you’re interested in doing more for your personal brand online, then read on. There are tons of tips and guides to help you figure out how you define your own brand, how you connect with like-minded influencers, and how you begin investing and building your online presence.
First things, first…
What is personal branding?
According to Wikipedia
Personal Branding is the practice of people marketing themselves and their careers as brands.
And, with the rise of social media, there’s been a switch — where companies are becoming more like individuals and individuals are becoming more like companies.
Companies want to humanize themselves, and individuals want to celebretize themselves.
Jay Z said it best:
So, let’s all make ourselves businesses, people.
Why is personal branding important?
By raising your brand online, you open yourself up to a world of new opportunities! In the same way that online dating helps singles discover a sea of potential suitors they’d never meet otherwise, online branding and networking exposes you to a world of like-minded professionals and enables them to discover you.
Some benefits of online branding:
- Raising your visibility and discoverability online
- Opening up new career opportunities
- Gaining industry recognition for the work you do, or your areas of expertise
- Helping you form new connections and expanding your network
How do I define my personal brand?
One of the first steps in deciding how to market yourself is creating a positioning statement (note: this is very similar to brand and product marketing. Before you jump into the go-to-market strategy, you need to agree on topline messaging).
I’ve put together a framework that you can borrow. I recommend taking some time to yourself to really think through these questions. A glass of wine. Maybe some candles. Maybe your favorite playlist in the background. The most important thing is for you to decide how you want to be perceived. With that perspective, you can decide what actions are needed to build up that persona.
Here’s the framework:
Where do I begin?
The challenge and the opportunity with personal branding is that there’s no almost no limit to how much you could invest. But, unless personal branding is your full time job, you probably want to focus on low hanging fruit and then build up to more sophisticated activities.
That being said, I do want to highlight that there’s no magic pill when it comes to building a brand. It takes work, it takes commitment, and it takes time. Remember, Sheryl Sandberg didn’t create her Lean In empire in just a day. If you’re not willing to invest in yourself, then maybe wait until you’re able to. For now, here’s a highly summarized snapshot of what the progression of your efforts could look like (AKA crawl, walk, run). Keep reading for more details on each of these phases.
While this post doesn’t provide detailed suggestions on how to use every social network, it does have a lot of universally applicable rules, as well as Twitter and LinkedIn specific tips.
If you’re trying to decide what network makes the most sense for you, I would suggest you consider your target audience (which you should have identified in the above self exploration). Pick a network they’re most likely to be on and then build your presence there. Or, if you’re more agnostic with your audience, pick a network you feel most comfortable with, and practice there. Create good habits and then expand them to other networks.
Now, to the nitty gritty!!!
Step 1: Make a good first impression
When people first discover you, whether it’s through search or an invitation from you, make sure that it’s a version of you that matches your personal statement.
Have you ever googled yourself? Seriously. You need to go do it…right…now. Click into all of the search categories. This is what employers will do, or people who met you but didn’t get your card, and want to follow up. Make sure that this version of you is the version you want people to discover. If it isn’t, go through each of your results and see how you can remedy unsavory content. If you have a common name, and search results are full of other Jane Doe’s, then contributing content to the internet, and building your personal brand will be a great solution. The more relevant you are, the higher you’ll appear in search results. The more search results there are about you – Jane Doe – the more likely that you’ll appear higher than that other, less impressive, Jane Doe.
Spruce up your profiles with profile photos and bios
Make sure that your social media profiles (in this case Twitter and LinkedIn) have updated photos and descriptions of who you are. Studies show that LinkedIn profiles with a picture are 14 times more likely to be viewed.
- Choose a picture that looks like you (now, not 20 years ago)
- Your face should take up 60% of the frame
- Wear work-appropriate clothing
- Be alone in the photo (avoid cropping out friends)
- Choose a background that isn’t distracting
- Write in the 1st person. (Shanee agrees)
- Convey your brand. (Use words from your personal brand summary above)
- Differentiate yourself. (You’re more than a collection of professional skills. Highlight some of the unique things about you or the perspectives you have)
- Take advantage of LinkedIn’s headline & summary. (You get 120 characters in your LinkedIn headline. Take advantage of that space to say more than your job title. In your summary, try to capture visitor’s attention within the first paragraph)
- Fill our your Twitter bio and link to any other sites where people can learn about you. (Leaving your Twitter bio blank makes it hard for people find you or understand what you’re about.)
Step 2: Listen and Engage
I know it’s kind of cheating to combine listening and engaging in one step, but I believe that the two are closely intertwined. You should always start by listening, understanding the conversations in play and use the information you glean to help you decide how to engage in conversations, and who you want to get to know. I think about this like an in person networking event. You wouldn’t walk into a room and begin shouting at strangers (Well, you might. But I wouldn’t recommend it.) Instead, you’d likely sidle up to a group that was chatting, listen for a while, nod attentively, and then eventually throw in a comment, or introduce yourself. The same is true online!
Here’s how you can get started.
- Use search.twitter.com to look up topics and hashtags that interest you. (Find out how people are talking on Twitter, what kinds of terms they use, who’s talking.)
- Use followerwonk.com to search through Twitter bios and find people you might want to follow. (Following is a passive way of introducing yourself to new people.)
- Join LinkedIn groups (This will allow you to see conversations in professional interest groups, you’ll also have more access to new people as LinkedIn often allows connections to be made between people who have shared groups)
- Set up Google alerts for topics you care about. (You could even set up a search for your own name 🙂
- Follow accounts and influencers (Following people on Twitter and LinkedIn notifies them that you’re interested in what they have to say. And, in return they might follow you)
- Add people to Twitter lists (Lists are another nice way to show people you appreciate their content. I like to create lists that tell people why I’m interested in them, e.g. “Innovative Marketers”)
- Favorite content. (Clicking that heart button, or that like is a virtual way of nodding and saying “mmm hmmm.” We all like a little positive reinforcement, and that thumbs button does just that)
- Re-share content. (Retweets and reshares are another nice way to endorse others. With tweets you can use the “quote” style to add your own insights as well, and you can add commentary to reshares on LinkedIn as well.)
- Respond to content. (If liking or sharing don’t feel like enough. You could voice your appreciation by replying to a person’s content. A comment allows you to introduce yourself, in a more active way than just clicking)
- Endorse targets on LinkedIn. (This one’s a little niche, but have you ever scrolled through LinkedIn and seen the carousel at the time asking you if you endorse someone for a specific skill? Don’t hesitate, click. It adds value to that person’s LI profile and shows them that you appreciate their skills and contributions.)
Step 3: Starting conversations
So you’ve checked out the scene, and now you’re ready to put out the vibe. You’ve followed other influencers, you’ve joined groups, you’re getting Google Alerts on the regular. Now you want to start adding your voice to the mix.
A couple general tips before we jump into Twitter and LinkedIn.
General posting tips
- Show multiple facets of your personality! Even though this is a professional brand, you want to talk about more than work. Make sure you post a mix of personal and work-related topics. I recommend something like 70/30 – but play around and find what works for you.
- Demonstrate your expertise by commenting on timely news. Is something trending that you have an opinion about? Don’t be shy! Share it.
Twitter posting basics
- Keep it short. (Even though you have a whopping 140 characters to use, some studies show that using less than that leads to higher engagement on content.)
- Include an image or video. (Multimedia assets are a great way to make your updates shine in newsfeeds, and they’ve also been shown to increase engagement.)
- Use hashtags sparingly; research the right ones. (You don’t need to use a hashtag to get discovered. However, if there is a trending hashtag, or a specific hashtag for a conference you’re at, use it. Always double check that you’re using the hashtag of record.)
- Include @mentions when possible. (This ensures that the people you’re talking about get a push notification that they’re on your mind.)
- Play with posting timing. (There’s no hard and fast rule on publishing, despite what the whitepapers you trade your emails for want you to believe. Every person, brand, and product has a different sweet spot. That said, experiment. Some things to test: try morning commute times, lunch time, afternoon lull time, and commute times. Don’t forget the weekends 🙂
- Ask questions, use polls. (People are surprisingly eager to share their opinions online. Give them a chance to shine by asking questions and running polls.)
- Don’t be afraid to post frequently. (Twitter feeds run fast and furious. Because of that, posting frequently, and even repurposing content you’ve shared in the past can be an effective way of reaching different audiences. That said, monitor the reactions to your posts and ensure that you’re not overwhelming followers.)
LinkedIn posting basics
- Share inspiring and informational content. (Readers on LinkedIn are especially interested in helpful resources that can make them better in their jobs. They also like inspiring life tips–dare I say, self help. Use status updates to share links to great articles, or post your own pro tips)
- Check your newsfeed and reshare posts. (If you see someone in your network post something that makes you go, “WOAH!” then pay it forward and reshare that post with others in your network)
- Post questions in LinkedIn groups, or provide answers. (If you’re struggling with a professional question, you can use your LinkedIn network, or your LinkedIn groups like a forum. Ask for help. Or, if you see someone else with a Q that you know how to solve, go ahead and chime in)
- Publisher is a great way to share long content. (If you’re ready to do more than share a status update, consider Blogging on publisher. LinkedIn even does the legwork of notifying people in your network about new content)
- Starting your own blog or website. (Creating your own website is a great way to centralize all the pertinents about you on a branded domain. It’s also a great way to raise yourself in search results. You can do anything from a SquareSpace website, to a WordPress blog. This is definitely a more time intensive so don’t feel bad if you’re not ready yet.)
- Creating video content on YouTube etc. (YouTube is the second largest search engine in the world. Adding content there is another strong signal for your personal brand)
- Creating SlideShares (Maybe you communicate best through slides…I get it. SlideShare is another way you can share your expertise. It’s like the YouTube of slide decks)
Ways to automate your efforts
There are lots of tools (free and paid) that can help you be more efficient in your online branding efforts. Here are a few I recommend. If you have more, let me know in the comments!
- Newsreader: Feedly or Flipboard. (I really like Feedly because it integrates quite nicely with social publishing tool BufferApp, it also makes it easy to read a bunch of blogs in a beautiful mobile app)
- Social publishing tool: BufferApp or HootSuite (BufferApp is great! You authenticate your personal networks –Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.–and then Buffer allows you to fill a pipeline of content and then choose preset times for that content to drip out. You don’t need to log in to each network, or post as soon as you see something. I spend about an hour a few times a week reading through my Feedly feeds and picking the best content I want to share, and then syncing it to Buffer. Saves me lots of time and keeps me “present” on my profiles for longer)
- All purpose tool: If This Then That aka IFTTT (If you’ve never tried IFTTT, I recommend you spend about 15 minutes poking around their website. It’s so powerful it’s almost hard to explain. But, I’m going to try anyway. Essentially you can use IFTTT to create what they call recipes, that take an action after certain events occur. An example of this is, you could set up an IFTTT recipe that sends you an email every time a tweet containing a certain keyword appears. Or, create a recipe that downloads photos tagged with a specific hashtag on Instagram to your Dropbox account)
You’ve made it to the end! Now, to review….
Make a good first impression
Listen and engage
Thanks for reading! Drop me a comment to let me know if you learned something, or if you have questions. And, if you’re interested in some personal coaching, feel free to send me a private message!