Brands are people and people are brands. It’s the way of the world now; your online presence is your key to landing dream jobs and rising to the top of your field.
Look, we get it, the idea of creating a personal brand can feel kind of, well, gross at times.
It conjures up images of the aspiring thought leaders scrambling for claps on Medium — or the perfectly made-up Instagram models who can monetize just about anything.
But, these thirsty examples aren’t the only paths toward personal branding,
You want to be a go-to source in your field, right?
Chances are, that’s a yes.
Below, we’ll look at how you can ensure your digital profiles paint a picture of what you offer potential clients and employers, without compromising yourself in the process.
How to build your personal brand online
What’s your story?
Some people prefer to keep the professional and the personal realms separate.
Others may feel straight up uncomfortable talking about themselves or telling their story.
Of course, selling yourself can be way harder than selling products or services — in this case, it feels personal when someone says, “thanks but no thanks.”
Think about your strengths and defining characteristics, your milestones, your passions, and your career path. If you’re not sure where to start, look at the thing that you’re best at and go from there.
Then, craft a story that looks at your path. Are you a former corporate lawyer that gave it all up to become a travel blogger? Are you a lifelong marketing pro, starting a company that helps small businesses turn it all around?
Yes, a lot of entrepreneurs talk about themselves a lot — sharing their origin story wholeheartedly.
If this truly makes you squirm, then we recommend creating a professional story that offers the highlights of your career and how it qualifies you to do what you’re doing now.
Know that branding and marketing are not the same thing
When you’re talking branding strategy, it doesn’t refer to the process of getting your name out there. Branding is more about what you do and why.
Strong brands — Apple, Coca-Cola, Amazon — all paint a clear picture when you hear their name. And while you’re likely not going to hit the big time on that level — you need to consider what people will think about when they hear your name.
And, if you don’t define this for yourself, others will go ahead and do it for you.
What are your values?
One thing to consider is authenticity. You don’t want your personal brand to represent a person that doesn’t exist. Instead, do some work—and uncover what matters most to you. PwC has a created a worksheet that’s quite helpful. The idea is, you’ll check off five or so values that mean most to you — then, cut it down to one or two that best represent you and your goals as a business person.
What is your professional persona?
It might be helpful to think about your digital presence as your “professional persona.” It’s a version of yourself that embraces the fact that you need to share your accomplishments and ideas.
It’s also worth pointing out that social media is a great place for introverts to outshine their more vocal peers. Here, you can transform quiet contemplation into a way to share your ideas.
The professional persona, of course, keeps your presence limited to your work experience and accomplishments.
That said, a few personal details can endear you to others without getting, well, too personal.
This blog post from Social Talent recommends choosing just three things to share about yourself — and they don’t need to reveal much about your personality and preferences. The example used here includes sharing a photo after a run or some local sights, things that show you’re a person, but don’t dive too deep.
Okay, you’re probably thinking — what do you mean “persona?” I am a person.
But, here are a few things to think about when crafting your professional alter ego:
What is your niche?
If you’re a writer, which topics are your bread and butter? Designers, what’s your style? Consultant? What kinds of businesses do you work with? Your social accounts and personal website should lay this out in clear terms.
Writers, for example, should mention any niche topics they cover–whether that’s providing social media captions, copywriting ad content, or tackling a specific type of subject matter.
How do you talk about yourself?
Who are you, what do you do for your clients? On your LinkedIn page, website, and any additional profiles, you’ll need to present a consistent tone of voice, and carefully consider the language you use to talk about yourself.
Are you informal, funny, professional? Make sure this online voice aligns with the work you do, your values, and your personality. It should feel natural.
Why are people attracted to working with you?
Don’t hesitate to highlight testimonials, LinkedIn recs, or your own account of what you offer that no one else does.
What is your personality?
Again, it’s not necessarily a requirement that you reveal your Netflix preferences or your favorite spots to grab a drink.
Building a personal brand takes a lot of effort and a significant time investment. It’s easy to resign yourself to the fact that you have to craft a brand narrative, but you don’t need to start asking for “likes and subscribes” or booking speaking gigs you’re not feeling great about.
Frame it this way: you get to control the narrative about who you are and what you stand for. It’s a power move.
Practice makes perfect
For the social media averse, it’s unlikely that you’ll dive in and be swimming in followers overnight. Start slow.
Initially, this might mean filling out your LinkedIn profile and from there, publishing a weekly blog post on your website or Medium account. Maybe your next move is Twitter.
The point is, these little moves can help you push out ideas here and there that can reveal your talents and takes on various things.
It’s hard when you’re staring down a world of influencers and thought leaders pumping out podcasts and videos and inexplicably have tons and tons of professional grade photos.
But, authenticity wins. If that’s not you, focus on your strengths. Ideally, it’ll make it easier down the road when you have a list of accomplishments, skills, and content to point to next time you have an interview.