There’s no way around it. People will Google you. You can either plan and brand what they see, or leave it up to fate. Your reputation is priceless—don’t take the chance of making a bad impression.
Suppose you are looking to hire a real estate agent to help you find an apartment to buy in New York City. Your two best friends each give you the name of an agent they have used, and you have decided to work with one of their recommendations.
You Google the first agent see her real estate focused social media profiles, a host of positive Yelp reviews, a personal website, and a blog detailing different NYC neighborhoods and general advice for moving to the Big Apple.
You Google the second agent and you only find a defunct ZoomInfo profile.
Which agent do you choose?
The first agent, of course, because she has dedicated time to building her personal brand.
A personal brand is content you create that positions you as an authority in your field and maintains a consistent, friendly voice throughout your social media and marketing channels.
Whether you are currently an entrepreneur, planning to become one, or just looking to advance in your field, developing a personal brand early on is essential to long-term career success.
Why Do I Need a Personal Brand?
Think back to the two real estate agents.
The first one invested time and effort in creating valuable resources for prospective clients and establishing herself as an authority in her field.
The second one exemplifies the idea that if people can’t find you online, it’s like you don’t exist. Having that strong personal brand, especially one with a robust online presence, can be the difference between a client choosing you or your competitor.
The best part is that your personal branding can be tied to any business goal.
Maybe your startup is doing a seed round of venture capital and you need investors to believe not just in your business, but in you.
Maybe your business has been around for a few years, but you’re looking to expand into new markets or offerings.
Maybe you want to surround yourself with the people who can help your business get to the next level, or you want to pay it forward and find budding entrepreneurs to mentor throughout their journey.
Regardless of motivation, you are the face of your business and your personal brand is part of what differentiates you from your competition. Ready to get started? Here are a few ways to build your personal brand, both online and in-person.
Balance the Personal & Professional
Some entrepreneurs have preferred to separate their personal and professional social media profiles and online accounts, but blending the two can lend a new air of authenticity and showcase your multifaceted personality.
While not every social media post should be a picture of your dog or your last vacation, interspersing personal details throughout can humanize you and build rapport with your audience in a more intimate way.
Similarly, when writing your bio across various platforms, maintain a healthy mix of words and information related to your company or professional brand (such as that you are an app developer or a freelance writer), as well as words and facts about your life outside of work (such as that you’ve traveled to 25 countries or that you are a parent).
These details make you more relatable to prospective clients, industry contacts, and investors.
Engage Social Media Followers
Consider that 82% of people are more likely to trust a company when CEOs and other senior executives maintain an active social media presence.
Social media is no longer an option; it’s a necessity.
As with all branding, quality is more important than quantity, and you will want to be engaged on a handful of platforms where you can write, post, or share relevant content on a regular basis, rather than try to use too many platforms and not doing any of them well.
Your target audience and your business will determine which platforms will be most effective for you.
For example, Instagram is an excellent choice for a creative and image-based brand, especially one tailored for millennials and Gen Z, while Twitter is still a popular tool for industries like journalism. You might also consider joining or starting industry-specific groups on Facebook or LinkedIn.
Regardless of how many platforms you use, your social media handles should remain consistent (your full name is usually ideal).
Post Thought Leadership Articles
Post thought leadership articles on sites like LinkedIn, Medium, and your personal blog—because yes, as an entrepreneur you should always have a personal blog or at least a personal website.
You can also pitch articles to industry-relevant publications and trade forums, or offer to write a guest post for a blog that aligns well with your business’s goals. By establishing yourself as an authority on your subject, people will want to seek your personal expertise as well as your product or service.
It can be tricky at first to create content around your personal brand without sounding too much like a salesperson for your business, but sprinkling in elements of a personal narrative (such as going on a college tour with your child or talking about an experience you had recently with a friend outside of the office) can help you achieve a better balance.
Participate in Networking Events, Industry Conferences, and Speaking Opportunities
Similar to writing thought leadership articles, making a name for yourself at these events shows your deep experience and willingness to share with others. The added benefit of networking events and conference events is the ability to develop connections in person and help your new contacts to put a name to a face.
If you are able to teach a workshop or give an enlightening lecture, potential clients will be more likely to want to connect with you, follow you on social media, and ultimately, use your business.
Building a personal brand takes time and concerted effort, and it might take a few tries to get it just right.
Gary Vaynerchuk didn’t get 2 million LinkedIn followers in a day . . .
. . . nor did Sheryl Sandberg achieve a net worth of $1 billion overnight.
Personal brands are a marathon, not a sprint; so make a plan, work hard, and enjoy the journey!
Janine Perri is a freelance writer and marketing professional with experience writing about business, marketing, education, travel, and language services.