Brand marketing has been around since the dawn of companies, and is all about getting as many of the right audiences interested in your business as possible. In a similar fashion, personal branding has been around since the dawn of humanity, and boils down to getting the right kinds of people interested in who you are and what you can give to the world.
What’s changed in the last iota of human history (the last 5 years or so) is that social media has emerged as an incredibly powerful way of marketing yourself to extremely targeted audiences. Personal branding has taken on a whole new meaning in the context of the web, since literally anybody in the world can research you and what you stand for with a few clicks and keystrokes.
This brings home the powerful concept of creating a personal brand for yourself online, no matter what your profession is. No matter what stage of your life or career you are in, there are untold benefits to creating the right online image of yourself. Whether you like it or not, people are searching for you.
Just as in business branding where the 4 P’s govern marketing, they can be extended into the personal branding space to help you think about your online image:
1. PRODUCT – What’s your key focus and competency? You need to be able to describe yourself in just a few words. Although it’s extremely hard to take a life’s worth of effort and summarize it in a sentence, the truth is people out there don’t have the time to read pages of interesting information about you. Make a short, snappy bio and stick with it, duplicating that same bio across every professional profile you have on the web.
2. PLACE – In which channels does your personal brand sit? In the online world, almost every major website allows you to create a profile. Your professional profiles must reflect where your audience naturally lies. If you are a professional photographer, for example, then you need to make sure that your Flickr feed is updated and your Twitter account is chirping and engaging with like-minded photographers in the industry. For any professional, a blog is an extremely important way of letting the world understand who you are as a person. It is a vital platform for freelancers, small businesses and industry professionals alike.
3. PROMOTION – How are you targeting the right audience? Search engine optimization always helps, and with the right keywords you can make sure the right people find you on the various social networks. Make sure you clearly state your profession, location and name in all places allowing for easy searching of your profiles. In order to leverage your social media profiles, connecting with other influential professionals in your industry and city is the key. Create guest blog posts on other sites, and talk to like-minded experts on public channels like Twitter on a regular basis.
4. PRICE – How much do you value yourself? I don’t think it’s the greatest idea to tell the world your hourly rate, but it is important to position yourself so that people understand what they will need to give in order to have you. This can be powerfully, but subtly communicated through the design, content and engagement of each of your online profiles. If you use incorrect grammar, hardly update your profiles or give out low quality information, people will perceive you accordingly. What message are you getting across to people about your personal value?
What I’ve done
I’ve started this blog, had it designed to reflect the image I want to portray to the world – unconstrained, professional and open minded yet remaining simple and to the point at all times. I have had the blog optimized for search engines, and currently get about 10000 hits a month, and sometimes that much over a couple of days with a great post. This enables fast and easy searching of my personal and professional content, and further exposes me to like-wise business associates.
I have profiles on Linked In and Twitter which I have linked with this blog. I actively engage in conversations on Twitter and Linked In, and try to help people out wherever I can. I have profiles on many other networks, but have decided to focus on the two main ones. My Facebook page is completely private, since I have separated that from my personal branding and use it exclusively for friends and associates.
It is important to note that a personal brand is very different to a business brand, but must be approached in the same ways to develop and nurture. Examples of excellent business brands are MTN, Vodacom, IOL and Freight Quote.
In the future, I aim to create a video blog to further showcase what I do and add a face to face touch to my online conversations.
I’m curious, who are you and how are you creating your personal brand online?