We’re all familiar with popular brands like Nike or Apple. These brands conjure products characteristics like quality and style, but how do similar brand characteristics apply to individuals? What is it about Elon Musk, Richard Branson, or successful influencer branding that makes them stand out? For these people, authenticity and individuality play a major role in their success. They use their individuality to appeal to their audience.
This article explains what a personal brand is and how to build a personal brand. Your personal branding strategy should be to showcase your unique edge, so we offer branding tips on building a digital online presence to convey to the business world what you as an individual stand for.
Your personal brand is what differentiates you from your competitors. Fundamentally, it's a marketing strategy. In Nike’s case, the brand reflects sports technology combined with fashion and style. In Apple’s case, the brand emphasizes interconnected technology with relatively high-priced products to reflect quality. In Richard Branson’s case, his eccentricity and pioneering attitude is his brand. Branson has over 12 million followers on Twitter who are attracted to his personal branding statement as a “tie-loathing adventurer, philanthropist & troublemaker, who believes in turning ideas into reality.”
You don’t have to launch a global airline, but your brand should reflect the unique combination of skills you have that no one else does. For example, you might have niche programming experience in a language that few people know and be able to apply it in a specific industry context.
Online is where brands and professionals are most visible. People shop online, look for services online, companies recruit online, and we rely on mobile phones to serve our every need. Your online brand can lead to interviews, promotions, partnerships, or speaking engagements.
If you apply for a job, you will be the subject of a Google search. Your potential employer is bound to look at your LinkedIn profile. Before a job offer is extended, your social media accounts may be screened. If you collaborate on a project as a consultant or remote team member, your peers may Google you. An HR professional is likely to do an online search and use screening and background check tools before they hire you.
Because information is so readily available through online searches, your online brand can significantly influence your career. In some cases, a company may hesitate to hire you unless you have a digital presence. According to CareerBuilder: "More than half of employers won't hire potential candidates without some sort of online presence today."
If you are an entrepreneur or a freelancer, your brand is even more important because potential clients want to understand what you offer. According to LinkedIn, “A strong personal brand will draw people and opportunities to you like a magnet; it's both cheaper and more effective than any Yellow Pages listing.” Basically, if you aren’t properly managing your online brand, then you are actively losing out on business.
To read more about networking, read “Building Your Professional Network to Land a Job.”
A strong online brand might consist of a personal website and a professional profile. The more professional profiles you create, the better because that will determine where you show up on a Google search. Here are some places where you can build a personal profile to reach your target audience.
LinkedIn is a good place to start building an online portfolio. It’s the go-to platform for professional networking. Look at the pages of other professionals in your industry to see how others have branded themselves.
LinkedIn allows you to showcase your niche skills, authenticate them, update your brand with your latest news and accomplishments, and even establish yourself as a thought leader in an area.
The Linkedin platform gives valuable advice for individuals building their page.
This is the first thing that a visitor to your profile or recruiter will see, and first impressions count. Avoid cliches like “extensive experience” or “team player” in your headline. Instead, channel Richard Branson and find words that describe the unique aspects of your professional life and career and your own personal brand.
Your LinkedIn platform does not have to be a chronological list of your work experience like your resume. Instead, highlight the most interesting and impressive projects that show your unique experience. As you add them, LinkedIn allows you to add the company logos, which improves the aesthetics of your page and makes it look more professional.
Be active on LinkedIn by adding content and news about partnerships you are engaged in. Connect with colleagues, classmates, and others by providing endorsements to build your network and encourage others to be a contributor for you.
For more on effective personal branding using a LinkedIn profile, read “LinkedIn Profile Tips”
After you’ve created a profile and website, update them with new content and guest posts to keep your brand voice interesting and current. Add testimonials to your websites and platforms. Testimonials are quotes from past clients or team members that showcase your value as a professional. These should be added to your website also as they are powerful in adding authenticity to your brand.
One way to grow your brand and to capture a larger audience for your brand pages is to use keywords. Google Adwords and Keyword Planner can create a list of words related to your personal brand and industry. Using tools like these, you can find specific keywords or phrases that a subset of your desired audience is searching for. Keywords boost your rankings in search engines to help business owners discover you organically.
There is always the chance that your profile could get a negative review from a disgruntled client that shows up in a search result or social media platforms. Sometimes they are the result of mistaken identity, but you should pay attention and manage your reputation.
Developing a strong business brand in the first place will go a long way to combatting any negative feedback. By updating your pages, you will also cancel out the effect of any undesirable postings.
You can also set alerts, such as Google alerts, to monitor the web and inform you whenever your name comes up on social media profiles or websites. There are also software solutions designed specifically to protect reputations, for example, Reputation and BrandYourself.
Think of Oprah, Gordon Ramsay, or successful Youtubers and influencers. Their personal brand plays a major role in their success. Their personalities make them approachable (well, perhaps not in Gordon Ramsay’s case), trustworthy, and memorable, but they also have unique skills to offer. Successful personal branding is their biggest asset, and creating a brand for yourself can be yours too.