Personal Branding: getting it right online
Your digital life is an extension of your CV and your personal brand - it's important to look after it the same way you would look after your reputation in your corporeal life. Many employers will do thorough research into any potential candidate, including social media, so making sure you're putting your best foot forward isn't just personal brand management - it can actively help you get a job.
We have compiled five steps to help kickstart your online brand to help make you an attractive and hireable candidate.
1. Craft Your Brand
Who are you and what do you have that others don’t?
It is such a simple question, yet it is often what makes you so appealing to social media followers. Providing an honest (but professional) insight into who you are is key to building the relationships that form the foundation of a strong brand.
Who are you targeting?
Are you aiming specifically at your chosen industry? Or are you aiming for a wider network of social media followers? Whatever you decide, you need to tailor your content and responses to your target market. Without knowing who your audience is you'll just be screaming into the void (which seems to be 99% of social media these days).
How do you want people to see you?
Often in branding a more personal approach is most effective. People want to see who you are, not an airbrushed and unrealistic life, as ultimately you’re hoping for online follows to develop into offline connections. Authenticity is key to relationship building online and offline - if you don't seem real people won't engage with you.
What do you want to get out of it?
Have a clear view of the outcomes you want from your online branding. Followers? Contacts? Website hits? Product Orders? Investors? Whatever it is, have this goal in mind with every single letter you type.
To get all of these in one go would be fantastic, but let’s be realistic; target your audience and grow organically at whatever pace you can.
2. Create Relevant Social Media Accounts
Every year new and trendy social media channels pop up to challenge the stalwarts of the industry. You can try to jump on every bandwagon that comes your way, but you'll find that you're spending more time managing your myriad accounts than you are living your life. You need to think who your target audience are, where they will be and how they will want to connect with you. Are investors going to be on Tik Tok? Are Gen Z influencers likely to be on LinkedIn? Think about the people you interact with on each platform and choose the ones that best suit your goals.
Should you use paid services to grow your following?
No. Paying for followers is pointless if you're trying to use social media for anything other than a vanity or status symbol. Your organic audience will be the people who support you and convert to leads and sale, or valueable contacts and friends. Paying for followers from a bot farm on the other side of the planet is a waste of your money and feeds into a much wider and insiduous problem on social media - inauthentic gaming of the system.
Keep it consistent
Try and keep uniform usernames and/or branding across your social media pages. This makes it easier for people to find you, increases brand recognition, and helps protect against copycats/soundalikes out of your control. Sites such as Name Check check all social media sites to see if your chosen username is free.
3. Produce Quality Content and Be Creative
People want something different! They want your insight and experience, not basic and generic business know how. Talk to your readers and followers; ask them what content of yours they enjoy, or what they would like to see, and go from there.
Using images, videos, GIFs and animations all add to the quality of your content (when used correctly and for the right reasons). Creating your own videos can be very effective if the execution is right; you can get very affordable home studio equipment and use your mobile phone to film almost anything these days. Avoid using any media that could be seen as cringeworthy - things like misused or tired memes, inspirational quotes, or clearly fake news can all reflect very poorly on you if you're seen spreading them.
Remember - never, ever share anything you haven't read.
Posting regularly is a good idea as long as you're adding something of value to the conversation. Posting for the sake of posting, or just adding to the noise, is ultimately pointless. Join in the conversations where you can add interesting and valuable insight and avoid the ones where you can't.
4. Connect to Others and Share - Especially With Your Peers
Follow other people in similar fieldsg, but also those who are active in your favourite hobbies and interests. Not only will it make social media more fun (as it can get a bit exhausting trawling through endless business-related feeds), it will help people get a better idea of who you are as a person. It's worth remembering that people generally trust people more than they trust companies and brands - show them you're a real and rounded person. Getting involved in conversations is key; being just another follower will get you nowhere.
Share and collaborate
Collaboration is a fantastic way of increasing your reach and finding new audiences. You can offer to write guest articles for websites, blog swaps with your peers, articles on places like Medium - there are lots of options for getting your expertise out there. Making sure to tag all the relevant people when you post online is very important as well. As mentioned above, as much as it's great to share, make sure what what you're sharing can't come back to bite you. Always, always, always check sources.
5. Stick With It
Stick with it for the long term
A few days of concerted effort and then giving up because you didn’t get offered the job of your dreams isn’t going to help you. No one wants to see a page, feed or blog where the author has not posted in 6 months; people will assume you're flaky or, at worst, dead. Posting fresh content, with regular updates will stand the test of time. Building relationships with followers through acknowledging and responding to their comments and messages is a sure fire way to develop those connections.
Enjoy what you write
Writing regular content on a topic you have no interest in is going to be reflected in the content itself; it's incredibly easy to identify a bored author from their writing. Find out what it is specifically you enjoy writing about and make it your niche. Your enthusiasm will sell the content.
Being interactive and communicating effectively with your followers is a guaranteed way of building a loyal following. Collaborating and sharing with other online authors is also a great way to help build your online brand. If you ever hit a rut online, before doing anything drastic, take a step back, review your content and talk to the people around you to find out where to go next. Stick with it - it gets easier!