You are the creator of your own brand. Yes, you, dear reader. Whether you like it or not, your digital brand is on display. Are you making sure it sends the right message?
When you get a job interview, your potential employer browses your social networks and, by googling your name, he or she gets access to your online presence, long before the questions start. The same reasoning applies to blind dates. Your digital footprint is available to anyone who cares to look for it, forever. If this idea gives you the chills, it’s time to design a better online rep.
If you think having a personal brand doesn’t suit your needs, think again. These days, we’re all online marketers of our own brand. Those hundreds of Facebook friends, Instagram followers, and LinkedIn connections aren't your real friends. They are your audience, and you probably already try to please them.
If you’re like most people, you tell jokes, post funny pictures, viral videos, and cool photos of your life to get precious likes. You try your best to look smart, interesting, funny, sucessful, and desirable. Well, everyone does it; but it’s not the best way to build a valuable brand.
I work on digital marketing since I can remember, mostly by myself. Yet, I'm also guilty of neglecting my personal brand for other projects. “Home of a blacksmith, skewer of wood" is an old portuguese saying that I submit to many times.
Whatever you do for a living, you can create a better online presence to earn more trust, respect, and recognition from your peers, boss, friends, or clients.
Convinced but don’t know where to start? Let's get to work, right now.
First, you need a strategy. A plan that makes sense and that can be put put into practice with the time and resources available. I can help you with that. For free. Really, just follow my lead.
What is your brand?
Steve Martin has a great piece of advice that resonates with me: “Be so good they can’t ignore you.”
What is it you do best? Forget your passion and all the dreams you may have, that’s another story. Be honest with yourself, and recognise there is something you do better than most people. So much better you can actually get a big fat paycheck to do it.
In my case, it’s not football, it’s not reviewing videogames, it’s not photography, and it’s not traveling the world. I would love to be awesome at any of those things and get paid for it. But sadly, I am easily dismissed as an ace in any of mentioned fields. I may still pursue them and have some success, but they're not my core skills.
What I excel at is digital marketing. I’ve been making a living from it for the past 15 years. I can make money off of my own online projects, I can sell my services to clients, and my friends (and random strangers) come to me for advise.
I eat, sleep, and breathe digital marketing. This is my brand, and this is where I can be my best self. It’s what most people know me for, and I like that.
Let’s focus on you, now. Choose the one thing you’re already great at or that you’re on track to become great at.
When choosing a long term path in personal branding, you must also consider your values, passions, and personality. Write them down if you have to, and check if it all fits nicely together. Your brand should not conflict with any of these, or it will lack authenticity and eventually fail.
You can take this process one step further and ask a friend what he believes your values, passions, strengths and weaknesses are. After all, a brand is about how others perceive you, so bring them into the discussion, and ask for their opinion.
It can be disheartening to hear perceptions of you don't correspond with your own assessment, but you gain more information and understanding about your brand, and what needs to be changed.
By now, you should have a clear picture in your head of the main thing you want to be known for - a vision of your brand.
Question: Do you see yourself doing this same thing five years from now? Ten years from now? Do you like to read about it daily and to improve your skills constantly in the search for mastery? Does it feel good to have your name instantly associated with expertise in that field by colleagues, friends, family, and total strangers?
If you answered yes to everything, let’s proceed.
Who is your audience?
Your personal brand, activity, and objectives will determine your target audience.
You can market yourself to become a renowned expert in a specific community, to get promoted, to get new companies to hire you, to get clients to buy your products or those of your company, to get invited to talks, to write a bestseller, and so on.
Think long and hard about your personal goals, and whom you have to reach to accomplish them. Those people are your target market.
I want to be known as a digital marketing expert. My goal is to get more and better clients for my consulting portfolio in online marketing strategies. This will lead to an increased income and more professional satisfaction.
There are three types of people that you want in your audience:
- the person that will pay you
- the person that influences the person that will pay you
- your supporter
With free content I am targeting other online marketers, whether freelancers or agency workers. These are my peers, and if they believe I’m an expert, they may influence the top tiers to hire me. Despite also being my competition, people often need help from an expert in specific fields where they don’t feel at ease or just don’t have the time to work on. If I provide value, consistently, for free, they can, in return, feel motivated to give back in becoming my supporters.
The big question for me is whether to target online marketers in Portugal, my home country, or to go worldwide. Focusing on a smaller group makes the ascension to higher ranks easier, while targeting the whole world exponentially increases the competition. I chose the latter. Bold move, I know. I believe in myself enough to pursue the greater reward of having an international brand.
I can't tell you if you should narrow your audience to a micro-niche that you feel confident you can dominate, or if you should broaden your reach and challenge yourself to evolve to the next level. It’s a personal choice, but I believe everyone has a brand and a market where they can become the go-to expert.
Can you offer value?
This question is somehow related to the previous one. If you want to grow and please your audience, you should offer something of value (to them).
Consistently offering value is a great way to attract people, to prove yourself as a specialist in your field, and to keep them coming back for more. It also makes it a lot easier to ask for something in return when the time comes.
So, think again about who you want to reach, and ask yourself what you can give - written articles, tutorials, consulting, podcasts, entertainment, etc. - that will be valuable and will establish your brand.
Yes, I am talking about content marketing. Even if you’re not ready to create, from scratch, the excellent content that your audience craves for, you can be the curator that feeds them the best, latest news catered to their interests.
If you’re good enough to hook them, your audience can develop into a community, which brings many perks. But that’s for a different time (article).
If you’ve made it this far, it’s fair to assume this article has offered some value to you. Now, I have to keep doing it, to consistently write new articles useful to my audience. That is the real challenge: to create a high expectation, and never publish anything that fails to meet it.
I know this is a lot for anyone to digest. Find out what your personal brand should be, your audience, and what you can offer them. I believe you already know the answers, but linger over them, jot this down on a paper, talk to some friends, and make sure it’s what you want to do.
In the next article in this series, we start getting our digital hands dirty with the inevitable first step - registering a domain name.
Until then, share your thoughts on personal branding, your strategy, and difficulties, in the comments area. I would love to read all about it.