Today, personal branding matters more than it ever did not only because of the significant market value it carries with it, but also because of the opportunities it offers. Personal branding done right can open more doors for you than you ever imagined.
The business dictionary defines branding as: “The process involved in creating a unique name and image for a product in the consumers’ mind, mainly through advertising campaigns with a consistent theme.”
And for a long time, that’s exactly what branding entailed. However, with the advent of social media, branding has become everybody’s business. Today, we’re all acting as our own ambassadors. Whether you are an entrepreneur, an artist, a social worker, a writer, or even a job seeker, paying attention to and working on your own personal brand can be rewarding in multiple ways.
In the age of social media, it matters to be visible. Whether it is you, or your homegrown business, without visibility it is impossible to gain traction. Personal branding is a method of making yourself visible. Of putting out there your unique, authentic self through the work you do. It is true that the stiff competition might act as a deterrent, but your mode of personal branding should be aligned with your personality and belief – and that is how competition will not really matter in the long run.
Personal branding is nothing but using the forms of social media (which you already use) with the specific purpose of promoting your interests and outlook. If you are doing it for your homegrown business/ initiative you would have a very clear purpose. Similarly, in case you are doing it only for yourself and not a specific initiative, it would be more of your views and ideologies about things you believe in. For example, if your personal branding is for a small organic pickle business, your marketing strategies and ‘posts’ would have to include how and why you believe that these small businesses are important. You could speak about how this generates employment for women from several villages who would otherwise be unemployed. Or how it brings back the focus to local, hand-made produce. It could even be simply about the difference in the taste of something packaged with love rather than in a factory.
How would your personal branding strategy differ if you were doing it just for yourself? And not for any entrepreneurial purposes? Not very different. Except in this case, your personal branding is for “you”. Which means, in this case things like your ideologies, your views, what you associate yourself with, who you associate yourself with – all of this becomes central to your personal branding. In which case, LinkedIn is a great platform for you.
How are we able to distinguish between most famous personalities we may be aware of, without ever having met them? Because of their personal branding. Because we are constantly reading about them. Today though, one doesn’t need a PR person to fix this for them. All you need is a platform, and a voice – both of which you have free access to. Like all opportunities, this is one that gives you a lot of power, and along with it a lot of responsibility. How you choose to use it is up to your discretion.
The 5 Golden Rules for Personal Branding
1. Remember it is not about the product, it is about you
Or rather, not just about the product. Above, we gave examples of two kinds of personal branding – one for specific initiatives and the second for yourself. However, even if it is the first kind of personal branding you are aiming for, remember what you are marketing should be seen as an extension of you. And that itself becomes the unique selling point (USP) for the service or product you are putting out. Your branding strategy should have a voice, which should be no one else’s but yours. It should speak about what you believe in, and what you don’t believe in. And how these ideologies connect with whatever you are trying to sell. Sounds like a challenge? Well, nothing comes easy!
2. Be responsible
Your constitution entitles you to a number of rights which includes freedom to speech. Being able to use your own, authentic voice which promotes the ideas and ideologies you harbor is a benefit of that right. Being responsible about what you speak and choose to put out is a ground rule for not just personal branding, but any form of social media interaction (and otherwise!). Remember that when you put out or say certain things on interactive platforms, people listen to it and engage with it in a conscious as well as subconscious manner. That is the power of personal branding and social media. In the recent times however, we know of way too many examples where these liberties have been abused. With power comes responsibility – it serves well to always remember this!
3. Social media is everything for you
Personal branding demands a judicious use of any and all resources that are available for free or minimum cost. The most powerful resource at your disposal is social media. Teach yourself as much as you can about all forms of social media, and mark the differences between each. How would your interaction/ voice vary on Facebook from LinkedIn? Understand the kind of audience that uses specific platforms, and mould your strategies accordingly. You can’t ever learn enough about the ever evolving forms of social media. Being in ‘sync’ and ‘updated’ (pun intended!) about how each form of social media works is a huge advantage for personal branding. Find out how stories make a difference to your brand on Instagram, how you can use Facebook live, and what’s new on Twitter. Learning and evolving with the market is a strategy that will always come in handy.
Always a big bonus. Reach out and network with others who are doing personal branding. Take note of what works and doesn’t work with these brands. Learn from their mistakes and their success stories. Even short collaborations where there is a match of sensibilities is a fantastic way to go about personal branding. Networking allows you to step beyond narrow frameworks and visions and brings you a far greater reach and exposure. Being active on platforms such as LinkedIn, and creating valuable content is a great way to go about networking. Organizing, or being a part of meetups which discuss the concept and forms of personal branding is also a dependable way for meeting like minded people and making connections.
Wherever there is a need for growth, there needs to be investment. In the case of personal branding, even though you may have a very limited budget, make space for investments. Take up courses on specific marketing strategies that might add to your knowledge pool. Maybe one on understanding the forms and functions of social media better? Here is a great course on Coursera to help you get started with – “Introduction to Personal Branding”. If you have a small team, consider investing in sessions for them on how they can adopt and adapt to the vision for your brand better. Most importantly, invest “time”, into understanding how you envision your brand to grow, and what you see it standing for. Focusing on change helps you keep away the fear of being stagnant. And being stagnant in any business or career – big, or small, is toxic.
Creating and nurturing a personal brand for yourself can be truly empowering. Besides all the factors we have mentioned above, consistency is also a keyword for personal brand. Your efforts and your vision need to be consistent, which in turn reflects in your strategies. One way of making sure of this is always reminding yourself to keep in mind who your audience is.
All of us need to understand the importance of branding. We are CEOs of our own companies: Me Inc. To be in business today, our most important job is to be head marketer for the brand called You.
Tom Peters, Fast Company
Have a personal brand and want to share the ups and downs of working on it? We are all ears!