This aspect makes a lot of people uncomfortable. Too many people feel awkward about self-promotion. But as John D. Rockefeller said, “Next to doing the right thing, the most important thing is to let people know you are doing the right thing.” Your online personal branding is how you can let the world know about you!
Humorist and online performance artist Ze Frank describes branding as “an emotional aftertaste from a set of experiences.” What’s the aftertaste of your Twitter account or Facebook page? Is it zesty? Sweet? Pungent? Smooth? Personal branding is about taking inventory of the ingredients available to you and then crafting a consistent approach that will leave the right aftertaste for your audience. Authenticity is the key here, because you can’t take a pile of ingredients such as lemon and vinegar and expect the final product to taste like chocolate chip cookies. You need to perform an inventory of your personality traits and skills so that your personal brand is aligned and isn’t trying to force you into a contrived online persona.
And now that we’ve (hopefully) convinced you to be yourself, there’s just one more nugget of advice we have: nobody cares.
The first rule of marketing, according to marketing consultant and author David Meerman Scott, is that nobody cares about you or your products, services, experience, accomplishments, degrees, etc. They only care about their problems and the extent to which you can help fix them. Marketing isn’t bragging. “Marketing has always been about discovering what people want and need, and telling them a story about how they can get it (from you),” according to Seth Godin.
And so to be successful at building your online personal branding, you need to take the same steps that the big brands do.
Your logo is your social media avatar. You’ll want a high quality headshot that you can use consistently as your avatar on every social media channel. Using the same headshot on every medium builds recognition and is a good start at establishing your personal brand.
This leads to another topic – using headshots in the first place. It’s mystifying how many LinkedIn and Twitter profiles don’t have a picture uploaded. Why is it important to have a professional, high-quality profile picture?
- Not all social media profiles are “real” people. A picture helps provide assurance that you are human.
- It can remove uncertainty when someone is looking for you, especially if you have a more commonly used name.
- We are wired to remember human faces. People will feel much more at ease meeting you for the first time if they’ve seen a profile picture – even if you don’t look like Brad Pitt or Angelina Jolie.
A mantra is a very short (just a few words) description of your value proposition. What do you do? What sets you apart? Guy Kawasaki is an entrepreneur, venture capitalist and best-selling business author who insists that businesses are better off creating mantras instead of complicated mission statements that people can’t remember.
When it comes to generating #CareerGravity, personal mantras are very important. They become the headlines in your social media profiles, such as LinkedIn and Twitter. Crafting an accurate and compelling mantra/headline can often mean the difference between standing out and obscurity.
“Making technology accessible and profitable”
Real Estate Agent:
“Creating worry-free selling experiences”
“Old-fashioned service with a modern flair”
“Reinstalling the startup mentality”
“Designing desirable deliverables”
A common mistake that companies make is focusing too much on their own products and services and not enough on their value proposition. As mentioned previously, nobody cares about the products and services a company sells, and so it follows that nobody really cares about your skills and experience. Instead, they care about how those skills and experience can solve one or more problems they have.
The way to communicate this is through your value proposition.
Value Proposition Examples
“I specialize in making corporate IT assets more accessible and usable by the user base so they can spend more time being productive and less time fighting with systems and machines.”
Real Estate Agent:
“I make selling homes less complicated and as stress-free as possible for my clients.”
“I know how to fuse modern technologies and expectations with good, old-fashioned service that creates loyal customers.”
“I specialize in reintroducing the startup mentality to established companies so they can thrive.”
“My passion is creating designs that deliver what people wanted – which is not always what they asked for.”
Just like a business must identify the types and groups of people who will purchase their products and services, you need to understand who your target audience is.
Big corporations or small businesses? If you enjoy working with and/or organizing large groups of people then maybe you’re better suited for the corporate environment than a small business. Or maybe you have a very diverse skill set that would be more of an asset to smaller companies. Be sure that you “right-size” your target companies.
Innovators or service specialists? If your passion and expertise are in designing or engineering, you will likely target companies that are product innovators. On the other hand, perhaps you’re someone who enjoys and excels at working with people and so you would probably seek out more service-oriented businesses.
Professional Narrative: What’s your story? This is the secret sauce of communication: Can you turn a list of skills and job experience into an interesting narrative that will resonate with people and make them interested in hearing more?
The key to storytelling is creating an arc that moves from an opening value to a closing value with points of conflict in between.
This “career arc” should describe your professional evolution by combining your skills and experiences in a way that tells a story. For example, the opening value would represent your early career as a wide-eyed college graduate, retail floor salesperson or front desk receptionist. The “conflict” in the story becomes a series of challenges you met through the application and development of your professional skillset. For example, “After earning a certificate in graphics design from [institution name], I was able to move from receptionist to full time designer for [company name]. For eight years I designed brochures, websites and product packaging, while also establishing branding guidelines. I subsequently founded [company name] and have been designing desirable deliverables ever since.”
In the previous example, note how the story moves from an opening value (receptionist) to a closing value (freelance designer) and uses the personal mantra as a closing line. The conflicts in the story are represented by skills that were developed and applied to solving problems. In two sentences, it creates a career arc that ends with your mantra in a way that is compelling and memorable.