Let me start at the beginning.
1) What is personal branding?
Your personal brand is your reputation and image. It’s what you’re known for, and what people have come to expect of you.
Personal branding consists of the strategies and actions you take to guide your brand.
Therefore, your personal brand is how others perceive you. Personal branding is what you do to shape these perceptions.
2) Why brand yourself?
If you want to get the most out of your career (and, might I say, life?), people need to know about you and your talents. But awareness of your brand is not enough. You need to offer value that is unique. You must differentiate from others, or else you will be a commodity–usually with a salary to match.
3) Do I need to be active on social media to brand myself?
Social media is a tactic. First, figure out your goal and your strategy. You need a differentiation and message strategy so you’ll know what to say and do in social media, other communications channels and in person.
Sometimes, I think that the world believes: “I tweet, therefore, I brand.” But, there are millions of people who are probably doing more to harm than enhance their brand by using social media. (Does anyone need to know that you had a tuna sandwich for lunch?)
That said, you do need to have a presence in social media because this is the new way that the world communicates and engages. Have your personal branding goals and strategy in mind before you begin. If you want to be known as an expert in a particular subject, make sure that 80 percent of your online posts are about your desired area of expertise. If you want to be known as an elder care expert, and you are tweeting about Justin Bieber, your followers will be confused.
4) What are the benefits of strong personal branding?
A strong personal brand means that people will have an immediate image of your rational and emotional value. There is clarity and power that comes from a consistently communicated personal brand. You don’t have to be Lady Gaga, but you get the picture.
By being clear in what you are and how you message, the influencers in your ecosystem will be able to advocate for you. Whether its doing an e-introduction or writing a LinkedIn endorsement, others will be empowered to help you.
As your personal brand gets more widely recognized, opportunities will arise–jobs, clients, projects, partnerships, and speaking and media opportunities,
Your name will have a certain cachet. Your brand equity will grow. You will be more successful at work, and be able to do the things you want to do.
All of this will bring you greater satisfaction in your career and your life. Therefore, a better brand equals a better life.
5) What is the quickest way to start branding myself?
There are many social media platforms that may fit your strategy, but LinkedIn is the granddaddy of networking platforms for professionals. You should ensure that you have a good footprint there. LinkedIn is the place where employers, recruiters, potential partners, potential clients and others go to engage with professionals that they are seeking.
Implementing your differentiation strategy and messages will help you to show up well on LinkedIn. You need to have a strong profile with keywords that people are searching so that you can be found. Use a professional-looking photograph (no blurry image from a recent party!).
Request recommendations from former employers, clients, and colleagues because what other people say about you will carry more credibility regarding your character and capabilities than what you say. You should remind them of your expertise, what project you worked on and what the result was before they endorse you. Don’t leave it to chance.
Consider joining LinkedIn groups in your area of interest, and then contribute to them. You’ll be engaging with others, hopefully, adding value and this will aid your reputation of someone who offers something of value.
You can buy a new set of clothes, which may get you noticed, but what is your substantive value? Don’t be an empty suit, be known for your ideas, passion and expertise.
6) What if I don’t have an area of expertise that sets me apart?
Being a generalist these days is risky, as you are expendable. Read the trends and develop expertise in a hot area–this could be in an area of technology, leadership, global strategies, company culture or best practices. Personal branding is all about being proactive, and not being a victim.
7) Can’t I just be known for my personality?
Personal branding comprises both your rational value (your functional value) and your emotional value (your personality, attitude and image). I call this cake (positioning) and icing (emotional branding). However, if you don’t have a strong raison d’etre (cake), then all the icing or personality in the world will not make up for your lack of substantive value (unless, of course, you are a reality TV star).
In sum, get a good brand strategy before embarking on a personal branding program. But, don’t think of this as a campaign. To have a powerful brand, you need to be that brand in thought, word and deed.