The traditional definition of a brand is the public perception of a business, which often serves as its identity. A brand includes values, a mission, a story, and many other assets and marketing tools that ultimately make up a business. And when it comes to the personal branding of an individual, those same things are important.
Personal branding is all about creating an image and influencing public perception of you and what you stand for. It is everything that makes you who you are, and it will showcase how you are different from others in the field.
Building a brand is an important concept for a business, and it is just as important for an individual. People can learn all about you with a simple search, and in 2022, it will be more common than ever. While that can be intimidating, you will find all you need to know about personal branding below, from what it is to how to use it to your advantage.
The Concept of Personal Branding
Most people think of a company or product when they think of a brand, such as Tylenol or KFC. But there are many types of brands, including personal brands. In fact, with the rise of social media and influencers, the idea of a personal brand has become more pervasive in today’s culture. And you have your own brand as well.
Even if you do not know it, you have already started building a brand by what you do and how you do it. This brand refers to how you are perceived online, and it includes your offline activity as well. Like with a company’s brand, it is centered around how people perceive the various parts of you.
While that might be confusing, you can simply think of everything as a brand, from your style to the way you speak and the values you publicly showcase. These things make your brand what it is, and if you have not already, you should be using your brand to your advantage.
Now that you have an idea of what a personal brand is, you need to understand just how important it is. People around you who are already aware of personal brands have likely developed theirs, especially online. They use the various resources out there to present themselves in a certain way to people who look them up.
In today’s world, someone searching for information about you online is common. Companies do it when they are looking to hire you, and they do it at every level of your career. Even before then, if you apply to a college, they search your name online to see what is out there.
The truth is, some people and companies find it to be a negative if you do not have an online presence. The same applies to companies and freelancers, where their business can be directly impacted by their online presence and how polished it is.
Consider this. There are two companies with the exact same values beneath the surface. However, one of them has a strong online presence that presents those values to consumers. If you are someone who cares about the why and not just the what of a company and its products, which would you choose?
Even if you do not care about the why, think about the benefits it can bring you. A personal brand might not always be useful, but it can be, and it gives you another advantage in a highly competitive world.
The Steps to Building a Basic Brand
The process of building a brand might seem overwhelming at first, but once it is broken down into digestible chunks, it no longer seems as intimidating. Start with the basics, like building an online presence centered around your skills and experience. Some of the steps in the basic stage are:
- Look at what is already out there
- Remove content that could hurt your image
- Figure out your personal brand
- Build your online presence
Those are the first steps, which will be discussed in more detail below. Once these things are done, you will have an online presence that shows who you are and what you are about. It will showcase your brand, and from there, you can start actively strategizing your next steps.
Review Your Current Online Presence
If you are online, you likely have a social media presence, even if it is minimal. Additionally, any page that mentions you on the web should be inspected to ensure it is delivering the information you want it to. Of course, at this point in the journey, the main thing is to root out any content that might deal a negative blow to your brand.
Looking through the internet and finding everything about yourself might not be realistic, but the first few pages of search results when you type in your name are what really matter. Type it in, perhaps adding some demographic information to narrow things down, and see what pops up.
There are auditing tools you can use as well, but as long as you are thorough, it is something you can accomplish by yourself. You might also consider looking through any site you have an active profile on and taking note of that content, even if it does not appear in the early searches.
Remove Negative Content
Everyone has a different personal brand, which means certain content is more appropriate for some people than for others. However, your personal brand is tied up in how people perceive you. Do you want to be perceived as a good candidate for a job? If so, you might want to remove content that can lower the chances of that happening.
A good place to start is social media. Social media is the largest public face you have, so it stands to reason that many people who are trying to understand who you are will search through those platforms. Check all of these places for things you might want to remove:
You will want to look at videos and any other types of content you have and do the same for the other places online where you have a presence. But how far should you take it? Well, consider removing anything involving:
- Unprofessional Behavior
- Sexually Explicit Material
- Drugs or Alcohol
- Bigoted Behavior
Once you take care of content that could harm your brand, you can start taking steps to build it up.
Figure Out Your Personal Brand
What is your personal brand? Well, it depends on what you are trying to do and how you want to go about doing it. Really, it can be anything, so it really involves asking yourself some questions about who you are and what you want to accomplish. Once you know that, you can start tailoring your own ambitions to attract the right attention.
- What are your goals? Think both personally and professionally.
- What sets you apart from the rest? Think about what to focus on.
- What proves everything you claim? Think about ways to prove it all.
It is not enough to say who you are and what your goals are. You also need to showcase what makes you stand out from the crowd. More than that, you need to be able to prove that you are worth trusting and truly as unique and driven as you claim to be.
Understanding your starting point is vital, and once you have all of this under control, you can make both short and long-term goals for building your personal brand.
Begin Building Your Personal Brand
Now that your online presence is cleaned up and you have a clear understanding of who you are, what you want, and the skills you bring to the table, it is time to take a step forward and start developing your brand. And, just like before, the place to start is with your online presence.
Having a strong foundation is key to everything, so you want to make sure the same is true of your personal brand. That means having multiple profiles on relevant websites, focusing mostly on social media and sites related to your professional aspirations. Sites you might want to build a presence on include:
You also want to focus on sites related directly to your field. Do not spread yourself too thin, either. These sites will populate the search results and be valuable additions worth the time spent. Of course, another vital website to have is one of your own: a personal website.
Websites are not difficult to build now, even if you do not have any experience coding. Moreover, since a personal website can double as a portfolio and a link to all of your other important pages, it is worth doing right, even if that means hiring someone to help.
Optimization is helpful if you want your online presence to rise to the surface. It involves using your full name, including a location whenever you can, and filling in every profile in its entirety. You will also want to speak in the third person to keep up professionalism.
If you want to go even further, you can utilize meta-data, adding relevant keywords and making your personal website’s code more appealing to search engines. There are many ways to stand out, and it can start as simply as optimizing your profiles to pop when someone searches your name.
Becoming More Credible
The basics have already been covered, and while they can take you far, if you truly want your brand to shine, there is still work to be done. At this point, you have cleaned up your online presence, figured out your brand, and started building a brand that is present in multiple places online. Now it is time to build up some credibility.
Credibility cannot be stressed enough, especially with the fierce competition online. People are becoming increasingly aware that they need an online presence, and with remote work being more popular than ever, you want to be someone that other people, and search engines, see as credible and relevant.
Get Your Content Out There
One of the best ways to become relevant is by writing strategic content. Create content, such as blogs, videos, audio clips, or anything else you think about. Then, once you are comfortable with the form and work, start putting it where interested parties might see it. LinkedIn is a great place for that, though any site relevant to your field will work.
Do not be afraid to network, either. Networking can be a fantastic way to put yourself out there, not only because you are interacting with others in your field, but because they can often offer you opportunities on their platforms, such as being a guest writer on a blog.
All of this builds brand visibility, which helps you reach a wider audience and improves your credibility. In fact, being a guest in another person’s space ensures even more credibility, showing that someone else in the field trusts you and your work.
Build An Audience
Branding yourself is not an easy task, and with how informed everyone is in 2022, you have to push yourself and your online presence to break through all of the things in your way. For instance, if you want to grow your brand beyond the basics, you need to:
- Figure out your target audience
- Know where to find and interact with that audience
- Be aware of the most effective content to do that
The best way to find a place in these markets is by reaching out to people who already have the hard part done: entry. It is possible to find a place without help, but it is far more difficult. People already out there have credibility, and if they lend a little to you, it gives you a nice step up.
It is likely that you know people in the same area, and they are the ideal place to start. But if you do not, or if you want to take things a step further, reach out to people you want to know. Reach out to influencers and publications or people who have a strong presence. Follow them, watch them, and learn everything you can.
Do not be afraid to branch out, either. People outside the same field can be helpful, especially those that have a similar brand. After all, a brand embodies a lot of things and has its own tone, not being solely about your field and career aspirations. Connecting with those who have a similar view is valuable when building your audience.
Bonus: Keep Track of Data
While not exactly a method of improving your credibility directly, understanding where to find and how to use data can make even the smallest efforts more effective. It is important to know what works in your field so that you can adapt and use it for your own purposes.
Are your articles doing well and getting views? What about the other content you are creating? Data is everything. It saves you effort, improves your results, and makes it much easier to understand what works as a whole. Without it, you might just be stumbling in the dark.
Cultivating Your Success
Once you have a brand and an audience, you want to strengthen that relationship into something stable. That does not mean you need to stop growing, but your focus should be on maintaining the level of quality that got you noticed in the first place. Comfort can feel nice, but always strive to deliver new content.
High-quality content is a must, but having it be unique is another vital part of the success of a brand. After all, the market is flooded with people, each with their own brand that is unique to them. They are your competition, so you need to stand out. Plus, good content is directly related to opening new doors and further opportunities.
Showing up consistently and delivering quality content is key, so you should always be thinking about the next step. Some of the things you can do to cultivate your brand include:
- Network: Keep in touch with people you already know and add new, interesting people to your network. Social media is a great place for this.
- Engagement: Content is great, but you need to connect with the audience in a more direct way. Answer their questions or have a conversation. Involve them in your work and your world.
- Content: As mentioned above, content is great. Content is not only what keeps people coming back, but it helps your branding strategy tremendously. By putting more out there, you are easier to find, and your brand and audience grow.
There is a lot to creating great content and effectively engaging with your audience and other people in the field. However, all of that comes with time, practice, and effort. The important part is to stay true to your brand and never stop growing.
Tips for the Road Ahead
Effective personal branding has a lot of aspects, and it is not a short process. You will not create a brand in a day, and you might find it difficult to pinpoint the path to success at the start. Here are a few tips for what is to come, which should help you on your journey.
- Utilize the tools available to you. There are all kinds of tools out there that help with personal branding, from those that look for all the instances of your name online to those that help you with handy alerts when the ranking of your name changes.
- Keep SEO in mind. A lot of success starts with a search engine, so making sure the right things appear when people search your name is a very useful tool that should not be underestimated.
- Ensure your brand is present everywhere. Your brand has its own voice and purpose. It is how people see you, and it should be present in every aspect of your online presence, including any content and profiles you have out there. The same is true of any interactions you have.
- Be yourself. Your personal brand should not be precisely what you think other people want. Consider it and put your best foot forward, but remain true to yourself. You want to be unique, and a great way to do that is by showing who you are and what you are about.
Finally, keep yourself open to new possibilities, which means reaching out and keeping in contact with other people. Do not miss out on things because you are afraid to try new things or network with new people.
There is a lot to be gained from having a strong personal brand, and you are doing yourself a disservice if you do not have at least a basic brand established. It is a way to let people know who you are and what you stand for early, and it will certainly help you stand out from the crowd.
If you take things further and decide to grow your brand and build an audience, not only will you open up new doors, you will also meet and connect with more people. So if you want to take your career to the next level, start with taking your personal brand up a notch.