In today’s marketplace, it’s still tough to stand out. A good education and relevant industry experience won’t guarantee that you’ll land the job of your dreams, or that you’ll even land the interview. There are still many equally qualified and experienced candidates out there, even if the job market is not as tough as it was a few years ago. The secret to standing out online is to impress consistently, not just when you’re in the market for a new role, and this all starts with building ‘brand you’.
The question is no longer should you cultivate a personal online brand but why haven’t you already done so? Personal branding is increasingly important because it allows you to establish a consistent digital footprint,a proven reputation and an identity while still maintaining a personal level of trust and interaction.Whether you then use your personal brand to consult, freelance, encourage interest from potential recruiters or employers or build robust business networks, it's vitally important to establish one to stay competitive.
Personal branding, the art of building a unique brand around yourself as an individual, requires you to find a signature image, a unique voice and a recognizable standard that both your networks and any intended audience can grow to recognize. It is not about just having a static presence on social media platforms.It’s your reputation. It’s about bringing who you are to what you do and how you do it. Think of your personal brand as your calling card—it's what you're known for and should showcase your unique strengths, skills, and attributes.
A strong personal brand is dependent on a strong story. Consider celebrities who have a strong personal brand for inspiration. Richard Branson is a good case in point, while he is of course affiliated with the Virgin brand, that brand is almost synonymous in its vision and values to him, with a very clear story and a consistent message. If you have multiple areas of interest or specialism, a well-developed story becomes even more crucial so there is a unified theme.
Here are some elements to consider which will ensure your personal brand makes the right impact:
1. Start thinking of yourself as a brand
Firstly consider what you wish your target audience to associate with you when they see your name? Is there a certain subject or discipline in which you want to be perceived as an expert or are there general qualities you want linked with you? Before you can establish or develop your brand, you have to decide what you want to be known for. Try to focus on developing yourself in a very specific niche. With this specific focus, you'll have more opportunities to prove you know what you're talking about, and while your potential audience might be slightly smaller, it will also be that much more relevant.
Once you understand how you wish your brand to be perceived, you can start to be much more strategic about developing your personal brand
2. Audit your online presence
Understand exactly what your current online brand actually is. Set-up alerts for your name on a regular basis. If you have a fairly common name then it might be worth considering using your middle initial or middle name to differentiate. Take the time to ensure your social media profiles are as robust and complete as possible. Post updates regularly (at least once a day for Facebook and LinkedIn, at least a few times a day for Twitter), and don't be afraid to re-post your older content for your new followers.Cultivating a strong personal brand is just as much about being responsive to what is being said as it is about creating intellectual property.
Find ways to add value to your audience by sharing content that’s in line with your personal brand. Always be purposeful in what you share as every tweet you send, every status update you make, every picture you share, contributes to your personal brand. It is an amalgamation of multiple daily actions. Once you understand how you wish your brand to be perceived, you can start to be much more strategic about your style and tone of communication.
3. Start writing and publishing your own content
Once you know your niche, it's time to start building your reputation for expertise in that area. Content marketing is the best way to build a personal brand and reputation online; when people look for information, they tend to go back to sources that were helpful to them. If you can become a trusted source of information through your content, over time you'll become collectively known as the expert of your specific niche. Start by guest blogging on other reputable blogs but definitely consider starting your own blog and update it on a regular (at least weekly) basis.
4. Associate with other relevant brands
Your personal brand can really be strengthened by your connection to other brands. So find and leverage those which can elevate your own personal brand. Start with companies, colleges and colleagues, for example, which college or university did you attend - are there groups you can join or an alumni newsletter you can contribute to? Also consider submitting a guest post to the company blog or look at other digital assets you can connect and communicate with, such as industry related discussion groups perhaps.
5. Always be in networking mode
The key to building‘brand you’ really is by continuously networking. Always be ready to engage with other individuals in your field and anybody else who could be valuable in helping you spread the word about your expertise. Be a regular in community/group discussions whenever you can.
Building a personal brand is not a one off project, it requires regular updating and nurturing but eventually you will be in a great position to reap the benefits. Just remember to stay consistent with your efforts, pay close attention to how your audience responds to your content, and hone your brand to achieve the results.
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