Everyone talks about “branding” these days. Unfortunately, few of us truly understand how to build a personal brand, let alone what a personal brand is. For those who are new to the concept, you’ve reached the right place. We’re here to write a series of posts on personal branding and this is part 1 of a 3 part series. Part 1 will go through the basics of personal branding, what the benefits are, and what the first few steps are in getting started. In order to benefit the most out of this series, I highly recommend having a pen and paper in hand and answering the questions that are asked. These questions are very personal and will help define you, what you want to stand for, who your target is. Part 2 and 3 will include tools that you can use to properly set up your site, blog, and social pages.
Let’s start simple, what is a personal brand? Well, long story short, it’s you! Long story, umm, long, a personal brand is a fancy way of developing and defining some type of “mark” that uniquely sets you apart from an audience. It’s that uniqueness that creates a brand, and thus draws people to the product, service, art, or content you are offering. In other words, it’s you as a brand, what you stand for, what you represent.

Building a Personal Brand: Where to Start

For starters, it’s good to understand why you would want to build a personal brand. There are multiple benefits that one would attain the more they get their name out there. Let’s start by quickly going over what these benefits are:

  1. Builds Trust: Part of this buildup is getting more people looking at your work and trusting that you’re the right person for the job, any job! Building trust takes time, so does building your personal brand. In fact, you’ll notice a direct correlation between how much effort you put into yourself and the trust people will start giving you.
  2. Building Your Network: People want to work with someone that is well connected, knows what they’re talking about and has authority over a specific domain. If you build that authority figure in sports, travel, business, nutrition, it doesn’t matter. As long as you’re building your personal brand in an area of expertise, your network will grow with you.
  3. Make More Money: This might sound obvious to you but I’ve seen people forgetting this very crucial point. In one aspect, once you build your personal brand, you’re automatically going to attract more people to you, people that want to work with you. Additionally, your time becomes incredibly valuable when you have the luxury of choosing who you want to work with. This gives you a prime reason to start charging a premium for your time!
  4. You’re Famous (maybe?): There is no real certainty in this aspect. We’re not going to promise you that by building and working on your personal brand that you’re going to be attacked by the paparazzi. Everyone has a certain level of clout. By building your personal brand, you’re going to develop everlasting clout amongst a specific community that you want to target. You’ll in a way be famous amongst a community but that can be huge for you.

In order to build a brand, you must decide one what it is you are aiming to put your mark on. Are you a business selling a product/service, or simply aiming to popularize a social media account? Furthermore, what’s your end game – popularity, sales, networking, self-expression, business growth, or something else?

Defining your purpose and goals will help you settle on a “mark” to utilize as the center of your personal brand, which leads to our next step…

Step 1: Define Your Mark

As stated before, your “mark” is the center of your personal brand – it’s the thing that makes you unique. Your mark will be entirely dependent upon your brand’s purpose. Take the following examples of how a brand’s purpose will affect your mark.

  1. Branding a Product: If you are attempting to brand a tangible item, your mark is tied to the uniqueness of your product. What physical features does it have that set it apart from the competition?
  2. Branding Yourself: If you are branding yourself as a social media influencer, your mark will be tied to something much more personal. This could be: your fashion, your personality, your sense of humor, your friend group, etc.

A cheesy (but very helpful) way of deciding on a mark is to ask your closest friends to define you in one word. The answer you hear most frequently is an excellent starting point for your personal brand – funny, fashionable, creative, artistic, etc. It gives you insight into a characteristic that is both unique and natural.

Step 2: Start Your Platforms

Depending on what it is you are developing a personal brand for, you will need a certain set of platforms to market these on. These could include social media accounts, websites, community blogs, and many other channels.
Let’s take a look at the different tools you can use to start your journey online:

  1. Your site: Building a website doesn’t need to be difficult, and with tools like Squarespace and Wix, you can be well on your way to getting a beautiful, simplistic website up and running right away. You can also use WordPress along with so many themes from available shops.
  2. Your Mailing List: I highly recommend using Mailchimp for building your email list. Creating interesting content on your site that people can use, download, something that they are willing to give up their email to get goes a long way. For starters, you’re giving them an insiders look at the value that you can share. Second, you capture their email granting you an opportunity to really flex your muscles with what you know via newsletters, conversation starters, etc…
  3. Your Social sites: Don’t open an account on everything if you don’t have to. Genuinely consider who you’re trying to target and talk to.

Step 3: Build an Initial Content Plan

Content strategies and plans can get crazy complicated. In the beginning, keep it simple…
Your first and foremost goal should be to set up a content plan whereby you can clearly communicate who you are, what you’re interested in, why people should follow you, and why you are unique. You can’t communicate all of that in one social media post, so decide on the type of content and number of starting posts you will need to release to get that information out into the public.

Quick tips on how you should engage with your content and others:

  • Be an expert and talk to people online;
  • Find your community and engage with them. Actually be proactive;
  • Share other people’s content (and they’ll share yours back too);
  • Create content worth sharing, genuinely think to yourself “would my audience care about this?”
  • Always respond to people, the good and the bad;
  • Share your social media accounts at events and conferences (build relevant content from those conferences too);

Conclusion

Starting a personal brand seems like a daunting task if you have never done it before. But the truth is, so long as you take the necessary baby steps, building your brand doesn’t need to be a complicated task. Start with your purpose and goals – what are you branding and why? After solidifying your branding concepts, move onto beginning tactical steps such as: building a website, starting social media accounts, and planning an initial content strategy to communicate why you are unique and what people can expect to see by following your brand!