DEAR GOD MAKE IT STOP!
As I open up LinkedIn every day I see the same posts come up again and again. Personal branding this, personal branding that, do this for an amazing personal brand, build your personal brand, personal brand is dead, blah blah blah.
Honestly, there are so many people talking about it all with either vague advice, rubbish advice, or some unique novel new phrase that would effectively replace the term “personal branding”.
Here’s the truth of it.
It’s vital. It’s crucial. It is the most important thing you can do on a platform like LinkedIn.
It’s also a hideous cliche of a term that really should be killed off.
“Personal Brand” has a branding issue
There are three things marketers love: 2 and 3 letter abbreviations, new terminology to overuse into cliche, and bandwagons to jump on.
Personal branding is such an overused term it’s now become nails on a chalkboard to hear the term.
But the theory, the purpose, the truth behind it is really REALLY good.
It’s basically a fancy term for saying “how you present yourself and your business online”.
The better you can do that, the easier it is to make sales, gain leads, and generally be a success.
Your brand, the way your audience/customers perceive you, is important. Creating a solid reputation and image of yourself and the products or services you provide will build trust.
Trust = Sales. The more someone trusts you the more likely they are to buy from you.
So where did it all go wrong?
What’s happened is that we (us marketers, fools that we are) have ruined it. We are all trying to be helpful and give advice but in truth, we all jumped on a bandwagon, made a lot of noise, and now the truth is lost in the mix.
Now 374,000,000 articles are saying this that or the other about personal branding. And that doesn’t include the god awful LinkedIn posts I see every day.
What I’ve found though is that they all overlook the core fundamentals of what it is and how, when these are done thoroughly and properly, set everyone up for success.
The Personal Branding Fundamentals
The simplest definition of personal branding is how other people perceive you.
The quote everyone spouts is Jeff Bezos famously said, “Your brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room.”
So when it comes to your brand, you need to leave a great impression and a fantastic reputation.
A personal brand is personal. A really good one will match your personality, your ethics, your professionalism, your skills, and your experience all in one.
One big issue is that personal branding is a lot like personalities. You’re not going to like everyone’s personality and not everyone is going to like yours.
That’s good though. As the phrase goes “if you try to appeal to everybody, you’ll appeal to nobody”. Find your tribe, your people, your audience, your gang (or whatever you want to call it) and stick with them.
Think it through & Write it down
DO NOT SKIP THIS STEP!
Skipping over this is the number one reason why personal branding has failed as a term on LinkedIn.
People don’t take the time to truly think about what their brand is or should be.
First, you have to start with your core values, ethics, beliefs, and more. This forms your personal philosophy and that will be the core of your brand.
What you need to do is genuinely write down what you want people to think and believe about you and your product. What values do you hold that your perfect customer should hold?
Digging deep into these kinds of philosophical questions will help to form an image of how you need to present and represent yourself online.
By doing this you can better reflect who you are, what you stand for, your “why” in business, and so much more.
Experiment and Adjust
The thing about any kind of marketing is that you need to keep experimenting. By experimenting and measuring the relative success of your work you can then develop a solid, effective brand.
As you keep doing this at regular intervals you will see incremental improvements that will very quickly add up.
A MASSIVE CAVEAT is that I don’t mean experiment with the core values, philosophy, or image of your brand. Keep solid with that. What I mean is to experiment with your content, your delivery, your wording, and more.
Think of it like this. The philosophy and core of your brand will always stay the same but the tactics you use to deliver that will and should change.
This way you can see which kind of content suits you,
Consistency is paramount
Don’t experiment too much with this. Pick your time, volume, and theme and stay consistent with delivering your content.
This might seem at odds with the previous point but bear with me.
The tactics you use to improve or deliver or change the type or theme of content you can and should experiment with. But don’t too it too quickly!
Good marketing takes time. With that, you are going to have to stay consistent for a little while to truly see results, either good or bad.
So keep delivering your content and marketing regularly. Become consistent and reliable.
People need to know when they can see your content, when to come back, and more. Like your favourite TV show, you will always know the date and time of the next episode.
Not sure where, or more accurately when, to start?
Look at your news feed of current connections – when are they posting and commenting?
Look for that little number just underneath the Name and tagline – that’s how long ago the content was posted.
With this, you will get an idea of when the people you are trying to connect with are active.
Also, look at the comments sections (the time is on the right hand side of each box) and see when people are engaging and posting with the content.
You should then start to see a pattern emerge between when people are posting and their successes.
What I also mean by consistency is that you need to maintain consistency in how you present yourself in every interaction.
Every post, every comment, every DM or conversation in messages, every phone or video call, and every piece of content (no matter how experimented it is) should always reflect your brand.
Consistency is a 360-degree, 365 days a year deal.
It’s not (all) about you
Following on from my mention of commenting earlier – your personal brand shouldn’t be ALL about you.
You need to make your audience the heroes of your brand. They need to be part of the story, in on the joke, key to the conversation, and knowledgeable about what you say.
Making your posts part of a larger conversation, or even the start of one, will give your audience an “in” to participate with you and your personal brand. Who doesn’t love a little audience participation?
By making your brand accessible to people you initiate conversations. And conversations are how word of mouth builds a brand.
Never forget that word of mouth is the most powerful tool in the entirety of marketing.
The best way to start conversations is to start conversations. Every social media platform prioritises comments as the number 1 indicator that a post is doing well. So start commenting.
Read the post properly and then give a comment that reflects what the person has said. It could be a salient point, an alternative view, the start of a healthy argument, or even just a witty quip.
Whatever it is make your mark to start a conversation and provide value to what you say and what they said.
Then rinse and repeat on someone else’s post.
And then someone else’s.
You get the picture.
Setting aside some time for you to post and then some time for you to comment on LinkedIn will make building your brand so incredibly easy you would figure the rest of these principles out yourself.
An audience of one
When it comes to your personal brand, when you’re thinking about your perfect audience or perfect customer, think about one person.
All you are doing is trying to connect with that one person.
If that one person engages with you, likes a post, talks to you, or buys from you – that’s your success.
The reason why you should think like this? Because it will never be just one person that does that.
But you treating your process like it’s tailor-made for that one person will be the greatest thing you do.
Basically, being able to reach and engage with one person will make them feel seen, represented, validated, connected, and overall just special. Who doesn’t want to feel special?
When they feel like that they are likely to engage and want to keep engaging with you and your content and eventually you can nurture that relationship to fruition.
Being able to post on a public platform but still make it feel like you are directly talking to an individual one on one takes practice and skill.
Singers and actors talk about this all the time “Try saying it to one person at the back”. Similar principle.
If you can connect to one person really really well then you are likely to connect with hundreds of thousands of similar people.
That’s when you know you’ve built a successful brand because you then have built a network of customers that truly love and trust you and what you are selling.
Ignore the cliché, Focus on the Fundamentals
All in all, while the phrase “personal brand” is horrific, having and working on yours is the best thing you can do. Especially on LinkedIn.
Investing in your personal brand is a matter of thought, time, effort, and consistency. This is a marathon, an ultra marathon, not a sprint.
It takes 20 years to build a brand and 20 seconds to destroy it, so keep working on it carefully.
Stick to these personal branding tips, the core principles, and you won’t go wrong.
The tactics may change and vary but the main emphasis should always be on your core ethics, personality, and philosophy and then reflecting that in everything you do.