Personal brands are easy to create but hard to develop into breakout marketing resources. The general idea is to create an identity around your own personality, showing off your expertise on your individual social media profiles and building an audience and a reputation. From there, you can leverage your audience and reputation however you’d like; some use it to find new job opportunities or develop their careers, while others use it to support a corporate brand or organization.
Whatever your goals, you need to have a strong personal brand at the center of your strategy. But what is it that separates successful personal brands from their less successful counterparts?
1. They didn’t get there overnight. The first thing to keep in mind is that, with very rare exceptions, most personal brands don’t become successful overnight. Instead, they’re the result of hard work and diligence, stretching over the course of months and sometimes years to build a reputation; after all, one of the only downsides to content marketing is the amount of time it takes to generate momentum, and personal branding suffers from that same drawback. A breakout event here or there, such as a viral article or a major announcement can give you a boost, but you won’t develop a lasting audience unless you commit to it long term.
2. They know their niche. Successful brands don’t just start producing content and networking with people; they take the time to figure out exactly what their niche is. They look at the competition to understand how to differentiate themselves, and choose an area of expertise that’s general enough to capitalize on a wide audience but specific enough to make them stand out. Then, they do market research to figure out what that audience needs; what types of content do they want? What are they currently missing from the influencers in the industry who already exist? These are important questions to answer before you go any further.
3. They converse with individuals. Don’t forget about the “social” part of social media. People have social media profiles because they want to talk to other people. You can’t build a personal brand by posting content alone; instead, you need to go out of your way to talk with the people you expect to follow you. Ask them what they think about your content and what they’d like to see from you in the future, thank them when they engage with your material, and answer their questions when they come to you with some.
4. They spend a lot of time crafting the perfect content. Content is one of the most important pillars in a personal branding campaign; it’s what will anchor your audience to your brand, and what will serve as fuel to keep your reputation momentum going. This is something successful brands don’t take lightly; they spend hours finding the perfect topics, doing original research, and perfecting their wording to craft near-perfect posts for their audiences. Without that effort, they’d be unable to continue.
5. They look offline as well as online. Though one of the greatest appeals of personal branding on social media is the fact that you can do it online to gain convenient, free access to an international audience, don’t underestimate the power that in-person networking can have for a personal brand. Attending local events can boost your reputation, and earn you spots as a guest speaker, or connect you to other influencers in your industry (not to mention growing your number of followers when you connect with your new contacts).
6. They probably have some help. Chances are, any successful personal brand you find on social media didn’t get there by working alone. They probably had some early leg-ups from other personal brands and influencers who shared their content and engaged with them when they barely had any following. They got breaks from publishers, and may even have assistants who help them manage their ongoing workloads; don’t be afraid to seek help when you need it.
7. They reward their followers. Followers need incentives to keep following; otherwise, you’ll just be cluttering up their newsfeeds. For starters, you need a steady stream of new, original, and valuable content to provide. It isn’t enough to start with a good foundation; you need to consistently offer new and engaging material. But beyond that, you should take steps to show your followers you care about them. For example, you could host contests and giveaways to reward your followers monetarily (especially when your personal brand gets big enough). Or, if you’re looking for something simpler, you can share some of your followers’ own pieces of content, or give free advice in your area of expertise.
These secrets aren’t easy or simple to replicate, but if you can apply them to your own personal brand, you should be able to lift your social personality to levels that adequately support your goals. Start with the basics; you need to choose a good niche and start developing and syndicating the content necessary to build your expertise with that audience. As you continue, take careful measurements and adjust your tactics to yield the best results for your intended final goals. It’s a long process that demands flexibility, so don’t be discouraged if it doesn’t spark right away; remain patient and keep your audience’s needs in mind; in time, you’ll find success.