The benefits of a bigger personal brand are never-ending: not only will you command industry recognition and influence in your industry, but you'll also be exposed to better employment opportunities (if you're a freelancer, that means better rates and higher-profile clients).
In short, if you're not already working on building up your personal brand, then you're missing out. Big time.
In recent months, I've been working overtime to create a solid personal branding strategy that will actually prove results. I've articulated my findings so far into the seven-step guide below.
Step #1: Research Yourself
The first step to personal branding is to research yourself.
And by researching yourself, here's what I mean: take an objective look at who you are, what you do and why people should follow you online.
For example, if you're a WordPress plugin developer with a goal of a bigger personal brand, then ask yourself these questions like the ones below:
- What types/niches of plugins do I create (e.g. social media buttons, SEO, speed optimizers, etc.)?
- What features and solutions do I provide that sets me apart from the competition?
Your personal branding strategy will be based almost entirely off questions like these, so answer them as carefully and impartially as you can.
It's usually a good idea to focus your brand in just one niche or market. I say "usually" because there are, of course, exceptions to this rule. Joost de Valk (founder of Yoast) is a good example of someone who's been able to make a name for himself in two areas: both as a WordPress developer and as a search engine optimization and conversion optimization expert.
In fact, as a freelance writer I myself, am working on my personal brand in two niches: WordPress and content marketing. However, because WordPress is the premier content management system, these two niches often have a lot of overlap.
As a result, it's much easier to build a personal brand simultaneously in these two niches than it would be in, say, the fitness and content marketing niches. Keep that in mind when you’re researching your area(s) of expertise.
Step #2: Identify Ideal Social Networks
The next step is to identify your branding channels. Or, more simply, to find out where your target audience is hanging out on the web.
Probably the biggest part of identifying branding channels is picking the right social networks. You see, not all social networks were created equal.
For example, Pinterest has a heavy user bias to the female gender. Additionally, much of the content is based around niches like home and garden, arts and crafts, food and fitness, and fashion.
Facebook is a great place for humor-based content (like memes), inspirational quotes, and bucket lists.
On Twitter, list-based content and quotes also tend to do well, along with how-to posts. However, memes and most image-based content (somewhat surprisingly) are big flops, and question-based tweets are similarly unpopular.
On the other hand, you have LinkedIn, which is almost always a win for practically any professional in any industry.
The key takeaway here is to find the right social networks for your brand and sign up to them. Pro tip: use this research from Pew to study key demographics of the most popular social networks.
Step #3: Standardize Image
Branding is all about consistency – maintaining a standard image, voice and personality across the web.
Your picture is especially an important part of the story. You want something that clearly shows your face, preferably taken professionally, with a normal expression (smiles work well here).
Even more important, though, you need to make sure that you're using one image across all your social networks. Why? Standardizing your image allows people to recognize you much easier.
A study done by Changing Minds showed that after three days, our minds retain only 10% of written text. Whereas, after the same period of time, we retain about 65% of the visual content we see (6.5x as much).
Clearly, images are a very significant part of your brand. By keeping your image standard across all your social profiles, blog posts, and websites, visitors who see you in multiple places will be much more likely to recognize you and thereby start following you.
Step #4: Tell Your Story
Here's where you'll start selling yourself to your audience. Remember those questions you asked yourself in step #1? You'll use the answers here to create defining taglines, headlines and a brief biography that describes who you are and what you do.
It's a good idea to keep the information you develop here standard across your profiles as well. Once again, it will help to increase the likelihood of a visitor recognizing your brand whenever they see you on the web a second time.
Step #5: Start Networking
Networking is an incredibly important part of personal branding. Without networking, your branding strategy will crash and burn.
The main idea is simply to get acquainted with relevant people in your industry. The more influential these people are, the better.
It could be as simple as attending a conference to meet up with a few of the other attendants or even the speakers. Or, it could be as time-consuming as collaborating with an influencer on a webinar, lead magnet or other content piece. Either method can produce significant results.
Step #6: Get Featured on Popular Blogs
I currently maintain a list of blogs that I currently want to be featured on in a guest post. A few of them are:
- SEMrush (check!)
- Firepole Marketing
- Jeff Bullas
The list continues. But there are two things that each of the blogs on my list have in common.
One, they're popular (duh!). Getting featured on any one of these blogs will actually bring me significant results, and more than just a few stray visitors.
Two, they're relevant to my target industry. All of them have significant influence in the content marketing space, and as a result a feature on them will get eyeballs on my personal brand that belong to people who are actually interested in my fields of expertise.
When selecting blogs to guest post on yourself, make sure they meet these two crucial criteria.
Step #7: Maintain Your Brand
Last, but not least, you need to maintain your online brand.
Personal branding isn't a "set and forget" type thing. Just like an SEO or content marketing strategy, your personal brand and reputation need to be consistently maintained.
For instance, you can't guest post a couple times on a few popular blogs and expect the authority and credibility you built up from those posts to carry over for the next years. You need to be regularly guest blogging, posting on social media, networking, etc. if you want to reap the benefits of a popular personal brand in the long-term.
How are you working on building up your personal brand right now? What strategies have you found effective? Share your thoughts in the comments below!