Too many people I interact with fail to understand why personal branding is important.
Personal branding isn’t just important – it’s a must in 2018.
Think about it – if branding is important enough for Fortune 500 companies to spend millions (in some cases billions) on it, don’t you think you should consider investing a little thought and energy into branding yourself as well?
Branding is essentially the promise that either a company or an individual makes to the world. It explains to people what they can expect from you.
This promise is crucial because humans naturally hate inconsistency. Evolution has designed us to crave predictability because predictability = safety.
So when we apply this to personal branding, your goal is to let those around you, whether digitally or in person, know what they can expect from you.
You want your brand to be honed to the point where if somebody were to ask two different people the same question about you, they’d get almost identical answers.
Too many people out there are afraid of starting a personal brand because they feel that it’s either extremely vain or they fear the judgment of others.
Building a personal brand is far from an exercise in vanity. Instead, it’s a way to clearly present yourself to the world so that you ensure people get what they see with you.
The process of defining your values and getting a clear understanding of who exactly you are is something that actually benefits those around you.
It’s not (or at least, it shouldn’t be) your new strategy to get more Facebook likes.
For those who are worried about other’s judgments, consider the alternative.
People are going to judge you no matter what. At least if you’ve defined your personal brand, you’ve clearly told your side of the story and people now understand where you’re coming from.
At the end of the day, the only thing that truly matters is that you know who you are and what you stand for. When you do, you'll care less and less about the judgments of others in the first place.
The list of reasons why personal branding is important could be made a mile long, but let's boil it down to the most meaningful ones. Building a strong personal brand:
Stephen Covey wrote in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People that you need to start with the end in mind.
Before you can start defining the exact characteristics of your brand, you need to understand what your end objective is.
Do you want to establish yourself as the go-to authority on a particular subject? Or maybe you just want to be a source of inspiration for others. Do you want to get speaking engagements? Or maybe you want to be able to run a coaching business from your computer.
A big piece of this is defining exactly who it is that you want to help. You need to be detailed here and create a very specific customer avatar.
If you don't know where you want to go, you'll make it entirely too easy to get lost.
Every single one of us walks a different path in life. No two people are exactly the same.
You've got to dig in and figure out how your unique life story can bring value to others. What perspective can you provide them? What specialized knowledge do you have? How can you help people solve their problems?
This can be the part that trips a lot of people up. Too many of us feel like we have to be a certified guru in order to help others. This just isn't true.
No matter how far along the path to success you are, you can always help others. Sometimes it's just as simple as inspiring others by taking action towards your own goals.
That's ultimately what I do with my brand. I don't profess to be somebody with all the answers. I just show you what it's like to get started in entrepreneurship in the hopes that it helps you get started.
Despite how unique your life story may be, there will always be people out there who can relate to the challenges you've faced.
Showing these people how you deal with those challenges can inspire others to take action while also putting you in a position of authority in their minds.
Russel Brunson really nails what you want to do here. He talks about how you want to build an “attractive character”. Not some unattainable level of perfection (again, this isn't an exercise in vanity). Instead, present yourself as somebody relatable. Somebody who has faced difficulties, but has found a way to overcome them.
Think about every Hollywood movie you've ever seen. The main character inevitably finds himself in a tough situation, but always ends up finding a way to overcome it.
There's a reason for this – humans love a good story. Your job is to present your life as one of these stories.
You want your customer avatars to be able to see some of themselves in you. Only then will they start to see you as somebody who can help them overcome the challenges they're facing.
Here's a great video of Russell breaking this concept down:
Ultimately, you need to figure out a way to package the last couple of pieces into a cohesive identity.
Boil down the value you offer your customer avatar into a single statement and make it a recurring theme throughout everything you do. Think, “What's in it for them?”
For me, this is “I'll make you a better entrepreneur.“
Now that we have an understanding of why personal branding is important and you've clarified your image, let’s break down the nuts and bolts. How does it work?
For most people, the hub for their personal brand needs to be their website. In today’s world, there’s no excuse for not having your own personal website.
It’s dirt cheap and incredibly easy to build out. Too many people get scared away thinking they need to be some sort of technical wizard, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.
Platforms like Word Press, Wix, and Square Space have made the process of building your own site incredibly simple. Even when you do run into problems, there’s almost always somebody else who’s had that same problem so you can usually find the way to get around it either on YouTube or a forum.
If you’re really not comfortable doing it yourself, hiring a web developer has also become dirt cheap.
First and foremost, it's important to understand that websites are inherently visual. We don't want our site to strictly be a bunch of text (no matter how informative or persuasive it may be).
This means that yes, it's time to get ready for your close up. There's no getting around it – you'll need some high-quality pictures of you. Luckily, it's now easier than ever to get some great pictures of yourself, even if it's just on your iPhone.
Ideally, these should be action shots where you're doing something that lends you credibility with your customer avatar. For example, a life coach would want a picture of him either giving a speech or working with a client, a cook would want a picture of her preparing a dish, etc.
As far as layout goes, the Hero Image is without a doubt the way to go. You've undoubtedly seen this design before. Basically, it features a large image of you (yeah, you – the hero) and that value statement we organized earlier.
The video that follows is an amazing tutorial showing you how to build this out on Thrive Themes, which is the theme I recommend if you build your site on Word Press.
Remember, the whole reason personal branding is important is because it clearly states your promise to the world.
Once you provide a visually appealing introduction to your site with your Hero Image home page, the rest of your site serves one purpose – supporting and strengthening that promise.
How do you do this? There are a couple main ways:
If you're at a point where you have a couple of happy customers (you really only need two or three to make it work), you'll want to take the opportunity to build some social proof.
Ask the most impressive (and happiest) clients you have to write a one or two sentence blurb about their experience with you and feature it prominently on your home page.
Because websites are inherently visual, they're a great place to display some of your previous work.
Obviously, this means photos or videos are preferred here. For some of us (i.e. photographers) this is easier than others, but there's always a visual way to display your work if you get creative.
For authors maybe you can post screenshots of some of the passages you've written. If you're in E-Commerce maybe you can post screenshots of your sales figures. If you're in sales, maybe you create an infographic displaying your biggest accomplishments.
About pages are typically the most visited page on your site for a reason – people want to know why they should care about your site.
So your About page really isn't about you at all…
It's about your visitors. What's in it for them?
This will take you back to that value statement you created earlier. You'll basically want to just flesh that out a little further. Using video and/or pictures to do this is ideal.
Neil Patel has some great ideas on this:
Here's a list of some great about pages if you need some examples.
Now, this is one I would leave off if you haven't actually put in the work.
You want people to be wowed by your blog, so if you only wrote a couple posts 3 years ago and haven't touched it since, take it down until you can get it up to snuff.
Having said that, this can be one of the most powerful components of your site. It's one of your best chances to demonstrate your knowledge or expertise over your given domain.
It's also an incredible tool to expand your reach. You can reach countless people through the magic of the internet, giving you a chance to really spread your message and establish credibility.
One of the best ways to expand your reach through your blog is to encourage others to share your content. There's a number of ways to do this, but the best way I've found is through the Social Warfare plugin.
It's what's responsible for the social share buttons you're currently seeing on the bottom of your screen. It makes the buttons “sticky” so they remain at the bottom of the screen as the user scrolls. The plugin is also specifically designed with page speed in mind, which is one of the most important considerations in web design.
You may not have heard the term “Lead Magnet” before, but you've undoubtedly seen one if you've spent any time at all on the web.
A lead magnet is a tool used to capture the email address (or other contact information) of visitors to your site. It offers these visitors something of value (i.e. a free report, access to a newsletter, etc.) that is only provided to them after they input their contact information.
You'll need to set up an account with an Email Service Provider (ESP) to do this, but it's well worth it and it's not at all difficult. I personally use Aweber, but you can also check out MailChimp or Constant Contact.
The whole reason you want to do this is that it provides you with direct, unfettered access to your ideal customers. Unlike social media where you're totally at the mercy of the platform you're using, with email marketing you're in total control and can send out a message whenever and however you want.
This is the most powerful tool in your entire personal branding arsenal. It's the foundation of your relationship with your followers. This is where you can consistently demonstrate to people that you have what it takes to help them with their problems.
You can spend all day building an incredible social media presence and the perfect website, but ultimately, the money is in the list.
Even if you understand why personal branding is important, it won't do you any good if you don't give people a way to get in touch with you.
Alternatively, you can easily create a form on a “Contact” page that allows visitors to get in touch right from your site.
Now that you have your site all set up, be sure to give it a thorough review to check for grammatical errors and anything that seems out of place.
The last thing you want is to do all of this work to establish credibility only to have it be ruined by a clearly misspelled word and poor grammar.
If you still need some examples of personal sites to get the creative juices flowing, here's a list of some great options.
There are countless other ways to build your personal brand outside of just your website.
The challenge is figuring out which ones to focus on.
It seems like social media platforms go in and out of popularity faster than high school girls, so it can be difficult deciding where to invest your time and energy.
Your biggest focus when it comes to social media needs to be video. I know, I know…you don't want to get in front of a camera. Honestly though? Too bad.
Video is absolutely dominating the web right now. You have to be making videos if you want to break through the breathtaking amount of noise on the internet.
For quite some time now we've lived in an age of total information overload. There are 2 million blog posts being published every single day. That doesn't even take into account the mind-numbing numbers of Tweets, Facebook status updates, Instagram posts, etc. that happen every minute of every day.
You have to find a way to cut through and capture people's attention. In short, you have to give people the type of content they want. In 2018, people want video.
Bottom line? If you want your personal brand to have a meaningful online presence, you need to figure out how to make a splash on YouTube. You might think it's too crowded, but with the right strategy you can still carve out an audience.
If you're nervous about being on camera, remember that you can always go back and edit your video. It also helps to imagine that you're talking to a friend rather than the camera. If you're still nervous, here's a list of 27 ways to be more confident on camera.
You might also be feeling like you need to have top-notch equipment or be some sort of editing pro. This simply isn't the case. You can build out a solid presence on YouTube with nothing more than your iPhone – look no further than Tai Lopez, whose infamous viral video ad was filmed on his iPhone.
When it comes to editing, I'd recommend using Adobe Premiere Pro. Yes, you have to pay for it. To me, though, it's worth it because it's what literally almost everybody uses. That means that whenever you have a question about how to use it, you can always find a tutorial on that topic.
Focus on putting out solid, helpful content consistently and you'll be on your way to having a loyal subscriber base on YouTube.
After YouTube, Instagram is the most “visual” social media platform. It's strictly based on pictures and videos, which positions it incredibly well to be around far into the future with users rapidly devouring this type of content.
Aside from Instagram being based on the right type of media, it's also one of the easiest platforms to grow organically on. Using a handful of different strategies, you can ensure you consistently have a new influx of people following your personal brand on Instagram.
If you don't have too many pictures of yourself, don't worry. You can do a mixture of original pictures and curated content such as quotes, inspirational memes, etc.
Ah, Facebook…the platform some of us love to hate.
When Facebook first started, it was an incredible place to build a following and spread your message.
Unfortunately, it's become harder and harder to produce meaningful results on Facebook.
Just a few weeks ago at the time of this writing, Facebook announced that they were effectively killing off organic reach for Facebook pages. This means that if you want your audience to see your posts, you'll now need to be prepared to pull out your credit card.
Obviously, Facebook is a business so it's hard to blame them for this. It may mean, though, that when you're just starting your personal brand you'll want to focus on other platforms where organic growth is feasible.
Once you do grow to a certain point, Facebook ads can be an incredibly powerful tool to help expand your reach, so don't count them out entirely.
Pinterest is an interesting one.
It's also growing like wildfire. According to their website, Pinterest has over 200 million active users, which is a breathtaking 40% year-over-year increase from September 2016.
Much like Instagram and YouTube, their content is incredibly visual. It exclusively features pictures, so if your niche/brand doesn't lend itself well to that, you'll want to focus elsewhere.
If, however, your brand does lend itself to the Pinterest platform, here's the most comprehensive guide I've found on a Pinterest marketing strategy. It's from Miles Beckler, one of the most knowledgeable people I've come across when it comes to internet marketing in general – definitely somebody you want to pay attention to.
Personally, I don't see either Twitter or SnapChat going anywhere in the long run.
Zuckerberg is outsmarting Snapchat at every turn with what he's doing on Instagram. Twitter's user base isn't growing at all and the non-visual nature of tweets puts it at a significant disadvantage.
I've made the decision to not invest any effort on Twitter and limited time on SnapChat.
The fact that Twitter and Snapchat, two social media giants, are on their way out shortly after their rise drives home the point that you need to own your traffic.
All of these platforms ultimately have a finite lifespan. Not only that, they also completely control your distribution channel in that they can throttle or squash your traffic at a moment's notice.
That means that you need to relentlessly focus on building up traffic that you control. This all comes back to email marketing.
All the while when you're building your presence on these platforms, you need to simultaneously be pushing your followers off the platform to one of your lead magnets where you can collect their contact information.
Email isn't going anywhere in the foreseeable future, so continuing to build your email list is the most surefire way to build a reliable relationship with your followers. Remember, “the money is in the list.”
Hopefully this post has helped you understand why personal branding is important.
If you're able to get yourself established as an authority on a particular topic, the opportunities that can present themselves to you are endless.
Not only that, the process of building out your brand is an incredible experience that results in some tremendous personal growth. It helps you clarify what exactly you stand for and how you can be of service to help others.
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Until next time, enjoy!
Alex is a serial entrepreneur, coach, and active investor who drives growth and scale for his portfolio companies.