Creating a brand is an essential part of business, for companies and, more and more frequently, for professionals as well. A brand differentiates one company from another on every level—its name, logo, product, staff, tone, reputation, design, sound, look and more.
For a company to succeed in such a saturated and globalized market, their brand needs to have a strong enough name and logo to spread through households with minimum effort, selling the reputation of the company indirectly.
In fact, many consumers today pay for goods and services because of the loyalty or affinity they have for a particular brand. Think about some of the well-known fast-food restaurants in the United States—can’t you recognize that golden-arch logo from afar, even from the highway?
But becoming recognizable in the marketplace is not as easy a task as it may sound for a business—and though it’s a more and more common practice for professionals to focus on creating a brand name of their own on the side, it’s even harder for a personal brand to achieve any level of global recognition.
For starters though, what exactly does it mean to create a personal brand, especially if you’re not exactly selling something?
What Is a Personal Brand?
Think about a celebrity figure (like, say, Carrot Top) or a thought leader in your field, someone you look up to or like. What is the first thing that comes to mind about them? What makes them stand out to you? And what does it make you feel about who they are?
Now, think of yourself like a company, product or brand. What would you think about yourself if you were encountering yourself for the first time? How do you dress and behave in the presence of others, and how does that “market” you?
Every part of you encompasses your personal brand—whatever notable characteristics, traits, expressions, words, habits, pictures, etc. you display, the feelings they evoke in your audience, or the public, along with your general reputation and trustworthiness. This includes your on- and offline presence, from your physical appearance (or website layout) and wardrobe to your core beliefs and actions.
Though you are marketing yourself, your brand should center around you as an individual, rather than what you hope to gain or “sell.” Who do you want to know you, how do you want to be known, what do you have have to say, and do you present yourself in a way that fosters that opinion in others?
Keep in mind: People notice the small details, so you should take pains to control how they could interpret your actions, words, voice, beliefs, attire, website layout and more.
Benefits of Creating a Personal Brand
When it comes to your online and offline presence, knowing who you are, what you stand for, and what you wish to convey can be a powerful awareness that helps impact your career over time, even if you aren’t publishing a personal blog and are simply stoking your social media presence.
By developing a strong sense of self and personal brand, you can:
- Separate yourself from the crowd
- Increase your number of network connections more efficiently
- Receive unique career or learning opportunities
- Gain recognition in your field or industry
- Become a well-known online name or influencer
- Position yourself as a leader, someone whose voice should be listened to
- Stand out as a potential manager
- Learn how to utilize new skills and greater resources
- Hear and offer honest feedback
And those are just some of the many benefits of establishing yourself as a reliable and trustworthy brand. Now, it all comes down to how to go about creating your brand.
How to Create Your Personal Brand
The key components of building a personal brand are generally the same as that of a business, albeit with a few caveats. Thankfully, there are a few basic rules that can help improve your overall profile and internet presence, which, in turn, increases your followers.
Here are five tips you can follow to actively build and promote the growth of your personal brand.
1. Be Authentic
When building a personal brand, the urge to present yourself as someone other than who you really are can be alluring. However, if you take this route, then you’ll need to be that composed version of yourself at all times, even when you don’t feel like it.1
Imagine how draining it would be to stay in costume constantly. Ultimately, it’s better—and easier—to just be yourself. Don’t be afraid of the vulnerability that stems from being honest about who you are, as it can fend off a reader’s potential distrust of your persona. This can benefit your personal brand in the long run, because people know exactly what you’re about and, thus, what they can expect from you.
So, whether you’re taking the most-liked pictures of the mountains you hike each morning or your cultural witticism has been reshared enough for you to claim viral fame, remember that embracing your interests and owning your personality remains at the heart of your personal brand.
In the end, people value those who are authentic to themselves. And shouldn’t being yourself come naturally to you anyway?
2. Stick to What You Know
When building a personal brand, picking your area of expertise is critical. Being too generic when describing your skills won’t be as helpful, because just as it holds true in the business world, in the realm of personal branding, there will always be competition.
Because of this, you have to position yourself as an expert in one specific area and build your brand on that authoritative foundation. Really limit yourself to one key topic or subject overview.
Instead of a blog generally directed toward your thoughts on life, find one direction to take it in; for your Instagram, try to find a basic theme to explore across all of your photographs. Instead of tweeting your every feeling, perhaps only offer your thoughts on movies or an area of marketing or live-tweeting certain types of television shows. This way, you become known for what you do.
By picking a niche and focusing on it exclusively, you put yourself in the position to demonstrate your knowledge and develop your audience’s trust. Take pains to avoid being seen as a jack of all trades and master of none.
3. Position Yourself as a Thought Leader
It’s not enough to say that you know something. When building a personal brand, you also have to prove it—and stand out for it.
Starting a personal blog and publishing content regularly can help you build an online presence, and it will also demonstrate that you have a firm grasp on the subject matter that you routinely engage in, ultimately positioning yourself as a trusted source of information.
In terms of keeping your positioning unique, rather than writing the same blogs as others on the topic, a blog can be a great way to let your passion on a specific element of interest shine through, from mentoring young professionals of color in the field to advocating for international ethics in small businesses.
Be sure to share your posts across your social media profiles to enhance your online presence and maximize the odds of people discovering you and sharing your work with others, which ultimately builds your following.
It’s natural for brands to compete with each other in the world of business. However, in personal branding, those you view as competitors can also be used as allies and opportunities for growth. Keep your friends close and your competitors closer.
It is important to engage with those who are already active in your field or passion. This can include influencers on social media who could give your web presence a boost or other experts in the field. Connecting with these individuals can help widen your scope of influence and increase your own knowledge base, thus strengthening your personal brand.
5. Never Stop Learning
Although you may have an immense knowledge of a particular field or industry, strive to never feel as if you know all there is. Opportunities for learning are ever-present, and to be a successful brand, you must capitalize on learning opportunities whenever they arise.
This can include earning an online MBA, attending a lecture or a seminar, taking a class, or even talking to others who you admire or aspire to be like in the field. There will always be an opportunity to grow in your chosen profession and spread the wealth of knowledge to your network of peers and colleagues.
Go Forth and #BrandYou
Your personal brand should always be a reflection of who you really are as an individual. On your path, you will encounter people who may challenge or reject your thoughts and ideas.
Many more, however, will look to you for guidance and become your advocates, helping you discover your identity and spread your brand until it’s a well-known name. Before long, you’ll be able to land that seat in the C-suite simply on your large following alone!
For more career-boosting tips, read about how you can level up your career or how important a brand can be in international business dealings today.