Interested in building a personal brand, but not sure where to start? If you want to know the best way to begin a personal brand and distribute it throughout different social platforms, then this is the perfect blog to get you started and headed in the right direction.
As a precursor to this blog, I want to mention that this isn't your average read. The information in this post is very in-depth and specific. It is valuable and has had a major effect on my life. If you are serious about building your personal brand (which I believe you should be), then I would suggest that you take time to analyze my thoughts and look at the examples I've provided. I don't write these blogs for recreation, but to provide real value to your life. Good luck.
Do you have any idea how much you can actually accomplish with that phone in your pocket?
Facebook, Nike, Google, Apple, Ralph Lauren, Coca-Cola and Microsoft. These brands dominate the commercial space on our televisions, the products in our homes and are worth billions and billions of dollars. For decades, some of the smartest minds have worked to develop the convincing brand stories that make these companies known to the world. Take a moment and ask yourself, "what is the word that comes to mind when I hear one of the brands?" Whatever word you think of, I can assure you that it isn't due to your own intellect, but rather that it's a testament to good branding.
These past few years, I have come to understand that building my personal brand is just as important as building the brand of the company or organization which I work for. To me, this is a necessity that is often overlooked. Let's look at the list above for reference; Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Bowerman, Larry Page, Steve Jobs, Ralph Lauren, John Pemberton and Bill Gates are the founders of the brands mentioned. It is the personal brands of each of these individuals that helped to make their companies as successful as they are. Not only that, but it's likely the personal brands of each of these individuals that gave them many of the opportunities they had in their lives.
When people think of your own name, what do you think comes to mind? What brand story are you telling about yourself? Particularly today, when the internet provides so many helpful tools to share our stories with the world, there is really no limit on what your personal brand can do for you.
So, here are my five essential steps to building your personal brand on social media. Like I mentioned above, these steps have done many things for my own life and also for many others I know.
Pick your expertise.
Essentially, what story are you going to tell? Are you an expert carpenter? An entrepreneur? A computer science wiz? A video gamer? An athlete? An artist? A mechanic? There isn't just one acceptable route to take when it comes to a personal brand, however, it is important that you are consistent once you get started. Ask yourself what you most enjoy doing and where you see yourself in five years. Choose a specific topic to aline with your personal brand and learn even more about it. Commit to becoming a thought leader in the category you choose.
Choose a social media platform.
Luckily for us today, the internet provides endless opportunities when it comes to personal branding. These days, even a 16 year-old kid from a small town in Kansas can build a following and totally dominate through the internet and you can as well! Before this happens though, you'll need to choose which platform or platforms you are going to use to share your thoughts.
YouTube: Personally, I love YouTube and see it as one of the greatest platforms of today as well as the future. Although, Facebook has recently begun to rival this platform in minutes of video viewed every day, YouTube is still (in my opinion) the best platform to share your story via video (in most cases). Also above any other platform, I believe that YouTube provides the best opportunity for discovery. Whereas other platforms have algorithms that make it harder to reach a lot of people without paid advertising, YouTube is still fairly organic. If you tell an incredible story on Youtube, you have a chance to be seen by millions. One of my all time favorite YouTubers Casey Neistat for example, has shot some of his most viral videos on very basic point-and-shoot cameras. His creativity paired with YouTube's platform has allowed his voice to reach millions of people every time he posts a video. I also really like Gary Vaynerchuk's "Ask Gary V" show on Youtube, where he discusses entrepreneurship.
Facebook: Although it's important to establish a basic presence on Facebook regardless of your expertise, I don't necessarily believe that Facebook is the best platform for building a following. This is primarily due to it's algorithm, which can make discovery challenging without advertising. That being said, the "share" button shouldn't be forgotten and really good, high-quality content can definitely get noticed. Also, almost everyone has a Facebook, whereas they may not use other platforms, so Facebook may be really good for certain demographics (it's great to connect to your own immediate network). One great example of building an effective personal brand on Facebook comes from my friend Keenan Coit who is a realtor in my hometown Grand Junction, CO. By simply posting high-quality and educational videos on his Facebook profile explaining something about the local real estate market, I've watched Keenan start to really develop a strong group of followers that believe in what he does (myself included). His most recent video that introduced the qualified team that works with him during every real estate deal, got nearly 4,000 views and great engagement (which is a quite significant for the local market). Worth noting is that the content and stories behind each of Keenan's videos are very high-quality and thought out, but the video itself isn't usually an expensive production. A few of his first videos (that still got considerable reach) were just him simply speaking into a camera. I mention this, because budget or production quality shouldn't ever prevent you from getting started. Lastly on Facebook, I've recently noticed how the platform seems to have become a fairly good home for anything humorous or controversial because those are the types of videos that people often like to share. See Cole LaBrant (humor) or Tomi Lahren (politics) for a few good examples of this.
Instagram: This is definitely one of my favorite platforms as I love the simplicity of picture sharing and also the creative factor in writing a good Instagram caption. Also, I appreciate the Instagram community, which seems open to discovering new people and eager to connect. Instagram is great for some personal brands (particularly something more creative and imagery based), but isn't as good for others. As with many other platforms, discovery has become MUCH harder on Instagram over the past year, so don't expect to grow a following overnight. In fact, I am a pretty firm believer that unless you are an attractive female willing to post partially naked photos online or unless you are already famous, it is ver difficult to build a following just off of Instagram. My recommendation would be to use Instagram to supplement another platform such as YouTube. Don’t just waste time on Instagram interacting with other people on the platform. There are better ways to grow. See my Instagram - @Benj_steele or one of my absolute favorites @Whaleysworld as a few examples.
Twitter: Some people believe that Twitter is "dead", but I would disagree. I think that Twitter is a great place to share thoughts and connect with other thought leaders. It seems that most people, no matter how famous they are, actually manage their own Twitter accounts (whereas they may hire other people to manage their other accounts). This provides the opportunity to connect directly with people who are much more well known than you. Also, Twitter can be very good for PR purposes and reaching out to news sources. The fact that Twitter hasn't yet adopted an algorithm means that your followers will see almost everything you Tweet. Also, the "retweet" button is really powerful and can give you amazingly good reach. There's this girl at my University that does a really good job at running a fun and unique Twitter account...@ChartieBartie. Although her following is relatively small, her engagement is great.
Snapchat: Personally, I'm not a big fan of this platform (completely my personal preference); however there's no doubt that Snapchat has risen to become a dominant platform over the past couple of years. It will be interesting to see what happens in the future as it's rival Facebook/Instagram has added a few features like Instagram Stories to steal from it's following. Of all platforms, Snapchat may be the one of the hardest to be discovered on, so it would be pointless to use it as a platform on it's own; however, Snapchat can definitely be a good addition to a blog, YouTube channel or Facebook page. If you want to grow an account, use your other existing platform, to invite your audience to follow you on Snapchat. Snapchat is very personal and I've seen how followers are likely to actually see the content that you publish on it and engage with you. A few of the great Snapchat stories come from Jeromejarre and RyanSeacrest.
LinkedIn: For any future professionals out there, LinkedIn is a great platform. I wouldn't frame it as an opportunity to go viral or be discovered, but it's a good place to connect to others on a professional level. One advice for LinkedIn, don't go connecting with loads of random people that you don't know. I think that LinkedIn is primarily appropriate after you have already made a connection with someone or have a purpose for reaching out to them (want to go work at their company or something related). LinkedIn is very personal.
Create a blog: Obviously, I'm a big advocate for this one as I'm here writing this blog myself. Blogs take some serious time and energy in order to grow, but it's definitely worthwhile. A major key to this one will be writing quality posts with top key words that get you better SEO (search engine optimization) and ranked on Google. Also, quality content will eventually allow your content to be re-shared by other larger blogs, which will in turn grow your own following. Obviously, it goes without saying that if you do not enjoy writing, then this isn't a good platform for you. A few good blogs are Tech Crunch (latest news on tech and startups), The Art of Manliness (if you like mustaches) and Steven Onoja (men's fashion). One of my best friends Jesse Sumrak started a blog a few years ago relating to apocalyptic fitness that gained so much organic traffic that he was able to sell it not long after graduating college. The blog was called Fallout Fitness. His blog is a great example of a very niche topic that is unique enough to actually gain some attention. Also, Jesse is the king about quality writing, using good keywords and SEO.
Podcast: A podcast is one of the best ways to share your expertise and is also one of the most underutilized platforms. There are a few great podcasts out there that I try to listen to daily. One of my favorites is The Smart Passive Income Podcast, which is run by Pat Flynn. Pat started as a blogger and now dominates the podcast platform as well. Also, my good friend Joseph May, who started The Breton Company and raised over $200,000 on Kickstarter, also runs a podcast. He interviews different entrepreneurs in the Utah Valley area and tells their stories. It's called The Entrepreneur Stories Podcast. I recently (since first writing this blog) have started my own podcast as well, The Ben Steele Show. Even though the podcast is relatively new, I’m already seeing the powerful benefits of having a presence on that platform.
Twitch: When I went back in and updated this blog in early 2019 I had to add this platform in here because it’s something that I’m actually pretty excited about. Twitch is a live streaming platform for gamers, where people playing video games can basically stream their gameplay as well as a video of them playing in real time. The amazing thing about this platform is that it has millions of users and top streamers, who stream over 8 hours a day might have over 40,000 people viewing their stream at any given time. This platform is absolutely top notch and hasn’t been fully tapped into by businesses quite yet.
Generate content and be consistent.
No one ever became an industry thought leader by just creating a profile on the platform of their choice and walking away. Growing your personal brand is going to take creating consistent, quality content over often long periods of time. It's going to take a disciplined level of consistency in your posting and also in your voice. For example, if you choose to use Instagram, you're going to need to take enough photos to post enough times on the platform a week. I post around five times weekly, but I know some people who do even more. Bloggers often start out posting one or two times a week, but some post much more often then that. Whatever you decide, you need to create a plan and stick to it. Make sure that the content you are generating is thought out, researched, sharable, memorable and personal.
Quality over quantity.
I cannot emphasize this point enough and it may be one of the best take aways from this entire blog. When you start building your personal brand, there will be the temptation to sacrifice your authenticity in order to get a larger following. For example, buying fake views on Youtube or something related. DO NOT DO THIS. I have learned first hand that building quality and personal connections is much more important than building a large following. I know that some of the examples that I linked to above have very large followings or are famous, but you need to remember that they have been doing this for many years. Even if you only had a few hundred subscribers on your Youtube channel, but if they were people who really loved your content and watched and viewed your videos every time you posted, I guarantee that they would be more beneficial for you then gaining even thousands of low quality subscribers (this goes for any other platform as well). Don't ever sacrifice what you are doing in order to expedite the process. Be willing to put in the time and I promise you that a following will come. Gary Vaynerchuk worked to build his personal brand for about 20 years before people started to recognize him as a thought leader. Now he is one of the most well-known and respected entrepreneurs in the world.
Monetize your efforts.
This is the last point that I will make and I feel that it's a very important one. After putting in hundreds of hours to develop your platform and build a quality following, there will be a time when it will be important to find a way to monetize your efforts (meaning make money from what you're doing). Also, I would argue that this is something that needs to be done earlier than later in order to give you the motivation to keep moving forward. This can happen in a variety of ways: (1) you start advertising on your platform, (2) you become an affiliate or brand ambassador of one of your favorite brands, (3) you write an e-book that you sell for $5 to your following, (4) you direct your following to your other business that you run during the day, (5) you use your personal brand to get you a job that pays better than your current job, (6) you create a product to sell to those that follow you, (7) you offer a consulting webinar to those who follow your content, ect. and ect. Keep in mind that monetizing is a sensitive thing and needs to be approached with caution. Don't ever sacrifice the brand that you have worked so hard to build just to make an extra dollar. If you do it correctly, I'm sure that there will be a way to make money that doesn't require you to sacrifice anything that you have worked for. And believe me, there isn't a sweeter feeling then when you begin to see that your time and efforts are starting to benefit you financially.
Creating a personal branding identity is a completely possible dream and simply starts with the tips above.
Honestly, I could write on this subject for days, but I feel that the content in this blog holds some of the essential basics. Remember that I'm not saying that you have to build a huge following on any platform in order to have a personal brand, but I am saying that you need to work to become an expert in a specific field and represent yourself as that expert in some way to the public. The platforms above are in my opinion just some of the best ways to do so.
In your lifetime you will likely have jobs come and go, but your personal brand will always be with you. I cannot emphasize the importance of starting to build that today. Who you are as perceived by the public means everything.
There's a simple quote by Steve Martin that I really appreciate. It says, "Be so good that they can't ignore you." I couldn't agree more.
Thank you. Please leave any of your thoughts or questions below in the comments or feel free to email me personally at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, if you found this blog helpful, please share it with your friends.
Note: This blog was updated January 2019 and will continue to be updated as the art of building a personal brand continues to evolve. In the meantime, start building today!