When people hear personal branding, their first thought might be that it's purely the realm of celebrities and influencers. However, the truth is that personal branding is an essential tool that should be explored by everyone who wants to get ahead.
Personal branding is the intentional effort to promote yourself in a way that establishes your credibility and builds authority. Over time, personal branding can be used to position yourself as a leader in your niche. It is the act of building your personal brand.
What is personal branding?
Your personal brand is what you are known for and in today's world that's primarily online. It is the impression others form when they think of you. It includes a blend of interactions, experiences, prior knowledge, public opinion, personality and reputation that are associated with your name. This is your brand.
Whether you’re an entrepreneur, established executive or recent graduate, your personal brand will dictate your opportunities. When somebody Googles your name, those initial few seconds they spend looking at your search results will cement their first impression of you. Positive search results encourage more interest in you and your brand, while negative search results will drive interest away from you and to your competitors.
The following strategies can be used to build your personal brand:
- Establish your message and goals
- Be clear about yourself. Clarity brings results
- Market your best attributes and skills
- Actively maintain a positive online reputation
- Differentiate yourself from your competition
- Create helpful content
- Engage with others on social media
How to build your personal brand:
Why personal branding matters
In today's hyper-competitive digital world, personal branding is not optional, it is a necessity. People are Googling your name and formulating near-instant opinions based on the results and information they find about you.
Branding is not reserved for celebrities, influencers, or business moguls. You, me, and everyone in between should be putting in the work to build their personal brand. Your personal brand can be used to attract hiring managers, secure investment funding, grow your audience, sell your products, and even nab a first date.
Statistically, people with strong personal brands are better positioned for success.
- 57% of employers are less likely to interview a candidate they can’t find online
- 95% of businesses use social media in their recruiting process
- 77% of potential employers use search engines such as Google to screen their candidates and 35% of these employers admit that they eliminated candidates from consideration based on information they discovered online
- Global executives attribute 45% of their company’s reputation and 44% of market value to the reputation of their CEO
Regardless of your career stage, someone is researching you online. If you’re an entrepreneur, it could be potential clients. If you’re a CEO, it could be your employees. If you’re a job seeker, it might be a recruiter. The list goes on.
The amount of time you dedicate to your personal branding will make a huge difference when it comes to reaching both your career and personal goals. Don’t lose out to the competition because you didn’t spend enough time cultivating your brand.
Remember, personal branding is not necessarily about the number of followers and likes. If you are searching for clients or a new job path, it's more about your appearance and the image you put forward. While likes and followers will definitely add to your level of influence, your brand is ultimately about how people see you and this is your initial primary concern.
How to build a personal brand
Building a personal brand can seem overwhelming at first, especially if you are starting from scratch. But it doesn’t have to feel that way. If you break the process down into smaller, more manageable steps, you can start to see your brand grow and take shape over time.
Clarity is important. Don't leave people guessing about what you do or who you are. If you are a writer, make it clear. If you run a business, make sure people who search for you understand what that business is and what it provides. Too often people create a confusing mess of information about who they are and what they do.
“Clarity precedes success.”
- Robin Sharma
Even if your brand is established, it is still helpful to revisit some of the early steps in brand development to ensure that your brand is still correctly reflecting your values, especially if they have changed.
Audit your search results
Before you can even start brainstorming your personal branding strategy, you need to assess what already exists about you online. Are you dealing with negative search results? Were you the key player in a corporate scandal? Are your search results overpowered by someone else with the same name?
Thoroughly research your search results and work to remove negative or irrelevant content. The following types of content are particularly damaging:
- The reference of illegal drug consumption
- Documented alcohol consumption
- References to weapons
- Usage of profanity
- Bad spelling and grammar
- Potentially offensive or provocative photos or statements
- Untrue or false information
If you have issues and need assistance removing or cleaning up your online reputation, there are ways to have negative items removed or suppressed.
Claim your space
Once you’ve cleaned up your search results, it’s time to establish a presence on social media and your own website. While it’s not necessary to be active on every social media platform, you should at least create a profile on the major sites.
If you don’t already have a personal website or blog, now is the time to create one. It is an essential tool for personal branding and an excellent opportunity to publish content that is all about your brand and message. You can create a free website on Wordpress, Wix, or Squarespace and we highly recommend purchasing your own domain.
Choose a username/domain that is an exact match or similar to what people will search for when they are looking for information about you online. While it acceptable to use words that relate to your brand or self, don't try to be cute or pick something that is not relevant or professional. Also, try to pick handles and names that don't contain extra characters or difficult to remember spellings. For example, if your name isn't available as a domain or handle, don't add an extra letter or strange underscores. You want people to easily remember your information. Also, don't try to mimic well-known names or use ones that are close to famous people.
Here’s a list of some of the major social platforms. Set up profiles on as many as you can to claim your online presence. Make sure you use a freshly created (never used) biography for each one.
Make sure to update your bio when necessary. Also include relevant links to your websites that are correct and active.
Define your personal brand
Now that you’ve cleaned up negative search results and claimed your website and social profiles, it’s time to envision your personal brand. This is the step where you brainstorm different aspects of your brand, including what you want to be known for and how you want to make a difference in your niche or industry.
Ask yourself questions like:
- What makes me unique? What am I offering?
- What is my vision for my personal brand?
- Why am I developing my personal brand now?
- What am I hoping to achieve with my personal brand?
- What are my professional goals? How will my personal brand help me reach these goals?
- Who is my target audience? What are their demographics and interests?
- What problems am I trying to solve and how will I solve them?
- Why would someone come to me for news/advice/recommendations/etc. instead of someone else?
Once you’ve spent some time thinking of the essence behind your brand, spend some time collecting evidence of the things you’ve already done that support it.
Make a list of:
- Personal and business accomplishments
- Successes and failures (focus on what you learned from any failures and how they shaped you into who you are today)
- Recognitions and awards you’ve received
- Customer testimonials and reviews
- Existing content
- Unique talents and skills
Build your personal brand
By now you should have a clear idea of what your personal brand is and what it stands for, so you can start to make a name for yourself on the Internet. The key to establishing your brand is to create quality, unique content that will rank well in search results.
The following are ways to use content to establish your brand:
- Publish unique content: Publishing unique content increases your chances of it ranking high in search results. It's far more than just fun pictures and inspirational posts. Create content that reflects your authority in your professional space.
- Maintain consistency: Schedule time each day to publish content about your personal brand. Consider creating content in advance so you can post every day. There is also scheduling software such as Hootsuite that will allow you to prepare and post content. Some sites also allow you to repost automatically on different platforms.
- Use different features: Make sure to take advantage of social media features such as stories and reels. These will bring your brand and content to different audiences.
- Understand the different platforms: Different platforms have different vibes and audiences. What you post on Twitter or Instagram is often going to be different than what you post on LinkedIn. Understand the differences and nuances of each platform.
- Cultivate your contacts: Make sure to follow people you know on different platforms. This will create a base for you and a place to begin your growth. Use your contact lists on different platforms and check the suggestions that you are offered. You can also ask your contacts to introduce you to other people on the platform that can be beneficial to building your brand and furthering your career goals.
- Connect with influencers: Be it social media influencers or others, it’s important to connect with leaders in your space. Not only can you learn from them, but if you are able to cultivate a relationship with a few influencers, they may share your content with their followers. However, don't stalk them and be respectful. Make sure if you tag them or interact, it's organic and not pleading or pandering in nature.
- Always be positive: People don't want to hear about negative things, especially if they are considering you for employment. Plus, people respond to positive and inspirational posts. Everyone loves to hear success stories, especially potential employers and clients!
Benefits of personal branding
Personal branding establishes you as a leader and authority in your space. Your efforts to improve your personal brand will pay off in many ways, mainly by opening doors for opportunities.
Here are a few benefits of personal branding:
- You write your own story: Let’s face it, if you don’t brand yourself online, you’re leaving yourself at the mercy of anyone with an Internet connection. When you define your personal brand, you determine what information exists about your brand and you influence how people perceive your brand. You create your own narrative.
- Greater trust: When people feel they know you and your values because of your personal brand, they will trust you more. This leads to increased business opportunities, career advancements and more. Think of your favorite celebrity and their online presence. Part of their success is because they show their life in a way that gives people insight and makes them feel like they know the person. Whether it's Dwayne Johnson's workouts or the parenting approach of Gwyneth Paltrow.
- Higher perceived value: Your brand is directly linked to your credibility. If you portray yourself as an expert in your field, you can charge more for your services and will be more likely to recover from a job loss or other downfall.
- Growing your network: Your brand can connect you to new people and places that you may not have otherwise had access to. This will expand your social circle and lead to opportunities that may have otherwise been out of reach. It's the digital version of going to a networking event and passing out business cards.
There's no excuse for neglecting personal branding in 2022. Developing your personal brand will open doors to business, social and personal development opportunities. The steps outlined in this article are designed to set you up for success when building your personal brand. The work, however, is never finished. Maintaining your personal brand requires dedication and consistency, but will yield long-term results.
Always be developing new approaches and remain positive, not only personally but publicly. Look for ideas from influencers and celebrities as well as other people in your own fields of work and interests.
Personal Branding FAQs
What is a personal brand?
Your personal brand is the impression others form when they think of you based on past interactions, experiences, prior knowledge, public opinion, personality, reputation and more. Your personal brand is what you are known for.
How can I build a personal brand?
Content is the heart of any brand building campaign. Create content that is aligned with your message and goals and that reflects your best attributes and skills. Engage with others on social media, in your own circle and beyond.
How can I establish my personal brand with content?
A good content marketing strategy will help you build your personal brand and create your own narrative. Publish unique content. Maintain consistency and always be positive. Take advantage of different platforms. Be strategic and post where your audience spends the most time. Connect with influencers.
What are the benefits of personal branding?
Investing in personal branding will lead to a better brand story. Greater trust of you, a higher perceived value, and upward mobility.
About the author
Brianne Schaer is a Writer and Editor for Reputation X, an award-winning online reputation management services agency based in California. Brianne has more than seven years of experience creating powerful stories, how-to documentation, SEO articles, and Wikipedia content for brands and individuals. When she’s not battling AI content bots, she is cruising around town in her Karmann Ghia. You can see more of her articles here and here.