2020 marks the start of a new decade, and for many members of our audience and community, building a personal brand is at the tippy top of their resolutions.
It makes sense. Consider the following:
- 82% of people are more likely to trust a company when their senior executives are active on social media.
- 77% of consumers are more likely to buy when the CEO of the business uses social media.
Building a personal brand also allows you to advance in your career. Whether you are an employee or a business owner, building brand equity consistently allows you to pivot and opens you up to new opportunities while also serving as a powerful bargaining chip when negotiating rates and pay. We consistently see speakers’ fees, retainer fees, and salaries that increase in correlation to an increased social following.
It makes sense when you can attract and influence people and have the ability to shift that influence to serve a company’s goals, your net worth is far higher than if you didn’t.
So, let’s jump right into 6 practical tips for doing this in 2020:
1. Establish and document your “WHY”
Building a personal brand, when done right, is NOT always easy. You will experience people who question you, you will struggle to find the time to do it, and it will feel uncomfortable at first. It can take a while to see the payoff of it all. It’s like pushing a massive snowball up a hill. But mark my words, if you do it consistently, that snowball will start to roll and gain its own traction and you’ll be sitting there pinching yourself that the opportunities coming your way are happening.
That being said, know this: AT SOME POINT, YOU WILL WANT TO QUIT. You won’t understand why you’re putting yourself through this, and you’ll resort to low hanging, low energy opportunities, which can provide quick results, but ultimately won’t give you that brand equity your seeking. To prevent this, make sure you document your “WHY.” It really needs to be compelling too, and part of it can be selfish. In fact, it should be.
A big part of my “why” is sharing knowledge so others can grow into their own entrepreneurial potential and do the work that matters the most to them. It’s why I started my business. But the “why” that keeps me pumping out the personal brand content when I feel most defeated is this:
I want a location-independent business. I want to make good money doing good work from wherever and whenever I damn well please. Period.
And that has happened for me now and serves as the motivator I need when that Sex and The City marathon on E! Network is summoning me to the couch.
2. Identify your audience
If you want to attract and influence a following, you need to first identify WHO those people are. I’ll give you a hint: anyone with a pulse won’t cut it. The narrower you can go in defining these folks in the beginning, the more powerfully your content will resonate, and counterintuitive to what many believe, the quicker you’ll build a following. This happens because you shift your content from generic, sleep-inducing topics to topics that will actually matter and move the needle for people.
The professionals that often struggle with this core tenant of branding the most are those trying to build a personal brand while working for an employer (that is, those who aren’t entrepreneurs). Let’s take the case of a data analyst. You may think your “audience” are your superiors, but I’d perhaps aim for other data analysts at different companies. You can write about trends you’re seeing, tools you’re using, and given there are no breaches of corporate confidentiality, how this data is advancing your organization. This will also appeal to an audience your company is interested in, which is their customers.
It shows your boss and founders that you are serious about your job, that you’re committed, and that you are applying what you learn at the company beyond your 9-5. When it comes time to negotiating or lobbying for a new opportunity either internally, or externally, this will help establish your worth (provided you are actually doing a great job and not just creating content 😉 ).
3. Pick your platform
When you’re looking at massive personal brands, it can be tempting to follow in their footsteps and want to be on every social media channel. DO NOT DO THIS. I repeat, DO NOT DO THIS.
It’s easier to become consistent on ONE platform first. Stuck which platform to pick? Easy…go where your audience is. For me, I started on LinkedIn. Only after three years of flexing my content creation muscle every single day and building a following on LinkedIn did I then start attacking Instagram. That worked well because I could transfer my influence from one platform to another, and I had already developed the habits of content creation. In that way, the second platform became easier to attack and more of an amplification of my message, rather than going through two unique learning curves simultaneously.
Every platform has its own nuances and etiquette. You can’t just recycle the same content or people will know. Give yourself the simple task of creating content in one place first. After that, you can start to examine if another platform will help generate more opportunities.
4. Develop a system to capture content ideas
In all my years of creating content, I’ve found that inspiration rarely happens on command. In fact, inspiration generally strikes for me when I’m in action, aka the most challenging time to capture it. For this reason, I have the Evernote app on my phone, and I capture all ideas in a folder called “Content Ideas.” I record the “aha” as soon as I’m able to (after a meeting, after a workout, after a workshop, etc.).
I then share these ideas with my team who help me create powerful graphics and content bits to disperse. It really has become my “inspiration hub.” When I didn’t have this tool, my content felt sparse and forced because I’d sit down to create it and get writer’s block and then give up.
5. Outsource what you’re not great at
As mentioned in the above point, I am now at a point where I only do things at the intersection of:
What I’m naturally excellent at -AND- What is the most valuable use of my time
For me, that’s generating ideas and writing. My brand grows from my ideas, and writing is not only something I am great at; it provides a cathartic way for me to document my learning lessons and reflect and grow.
Therefore, I now have a team that handles everything else. From writing short-form captions to creating graphics and stories for Instagram, I can create 10x more content, and typically more creative content, because it’s being seen through a lens other than my own. I want to underscore something, though. Outsourcing this was very challenging because I was actually “good” at doing everything above. But being good doesn’t mean it’s the highest and best use of your time, especially if you’re looking to scale. Have others help you maximize your output and keep you accountable as you build your brand. Need help? Message me, we do this for some of the top personal brands on this platform.
6. Create vulnerable and authentic content
A good friend of mine, MaryBeth Hyland, and I were talking about why some personal brands “pop” and why others don’t. What is the differentiator? What is the ONE thing that makes people excited to follow someone and hungry for their content vs. scrolling right past it?
After working on personal brands for a decade and analyzing data, I realized that the one unique differentiator is undoubtedly vulnerable, authentic content. People who gain the most momentum are those who are courageous enough to convey tough moments, heartfelt words, and true appreciation through content. That is, they are not merely “influencing” and “creating” they are actually impacting and connecting at scale. Reading their content feels like coffee with a relatable friend. It feels like one big “Aha!” It resonates because they’re saying the things we think but maybe don’t realize or admit to ourselves or others. You will experience a seismic shift in your personal brand the moment you stop phoning in content and actually start writing with intention.
My favorite way to do this? Start writing your content to a friend. When I’m stuck, I write to my mother. Seriously, my mom is my best friend and she loves me no matter what I say so it’s a great way for me to drop my guard when I’m stuck. Whether it’s a blog post (like this one) or a long-form caption, if I feel too rigid, I write “Hey Mom,” then I just write content to her. It keeps my voice conversational it keeps me grounded, and it helps me shift from uptight corporate content to relatable, affable content.
Some last words of inspiration…
Building a personal brand is a long play. It can be a slow, challenging burn, but I promise you this, after working to help transform passionate practitioners into powerful thought leaders for nearly a decade, it’s an activity you’ll never regret. Like a corporate brand, the more brand equity you build, the better suited you are to navigate challenges, receive new and interesting opportunities, and gain control over your fate rather than succumbing to external circumstances that are out of your control.
Of course, if you’re stuck on where to start, or want help building and creating consistent content, we’re here for that too, and you can shoot me a message on LinkedIn.
You can do this. It’s a new decade, and there’s never a better time than right now to start.
I look forward to seeing you in the feed!