The Evolution of Personal Branding
Personal branding used to be something that was reserved for celebrities, speakers, authors and other public-facing professions just a mere decade ago. The Internet and social media have completely flipped that upside down.
Flash forward to today and it doesn’t matter if you’re a student, employee, sales person, volunteer or entrepreneur, you need to create and maintain your personal brand. In a world where the new strangers you meet are going to Google you, you need to be prepared for that level of scrutiny so you always appear credible, no matter what situation you’re in.
Now vs. Then
Just over a decade ago, all you needed to do to make something true was repeat it enough. Thankfully, your target market today is much savvier and requires something a bit more than words: proof.
You need to get to the point that your personal brand is so strong that a total stranger can quickly and reliably conclude that you are a person of credibility. This means the message you spread about yourself and your brand is consistent with the message that others are spreading about you.
I would say nine out of ten clients I work with mention that they Googled me prior to having a meeting or hiring me on.
Passing ‘The Google Test’
Wouldn’t it be nice if you could control everything that comes up when somebody types your name into Google?
Thankfully, there are a few things you can (almost) always rely on to come up in the top 5: your LinkedIn profile, your Twitter profile, your Facebook page/profile and your Google+ profile.
There are a few things you can do to ensure you have a strong personal brand when people start checking out the top Google results for your name:
Complete Your LinkedIn Profile. When I search my name, the first result is usually my LinkedIn profile and the same happens when I search a lot of other people’s names as well. When someone lands on your LinkedIn profile, is it presenting the image/impression you’d like to be seen as? Complete Your Other Social Media Profiles. Make sure your Facebook, Twitter and Google+ profiles are especially compelling since they also show up high in the search results.
Visuals Are Everything. A study from 2006 revealed that website visitors judge websites they visit in just 50 milliseconds. Don’t underestimate the power of strong and professional design when creating cover photos for each social network.
Have Recommendations On Your LinkedIn Profile. Third party credibility gives you an enormous edge with prospects, especially when they can examine the profiles of those giving you recommendations. If you do great work for impressive people, you need to leverage that via LinkedIn recommendations.
Showcase Testimonials On Your Website. Going on the same idea as number four, the power of third party credibility is a proven concept in marketing that will likely never die. The best testimonials to showcase on your website are ones with any clients that also pass the Google test!
Let’s say a client Googles you and lands on an article you wrote, a video you created or, even better, an interview someone else conducted with you. The power of the credibility gained is so much greater because your prospect found it during their own search based on their intuition.
Is your personal brand strong enough online to withstand the scrutiny of any random prospect’s discovery process? You better hope so.
Crafting Your WHY Message
I believe one of the major missing elements that hold back businesses is not having a clear and well communicated WHY message. You should obviously be able to tell someone what your business does but can you tell them why you do it? What makes you want to get out of bed every day and do what you do?
The story behind your business is just as important as the business itself and the most wildly successful entrepreneurs will never discredit the value of storytelling.
The average person consumes over 5,000 marketing messages each day so make yours more memorable by telling your story.
Don’t Generalize, Specialize
The kiss of death in marketing is trying to attract everybody with your messaging. The highest paid experts are paid well because…well, they’re the experts.
An expert is always worth more than a generalist. To be good at many things usually means you aren’t great at any and great is where the money is. If you’re a corporate lawyer that thrives when working with startups, there is a lucrative niche in becoming the “go-to” lawyer for startups. My son pays the extra money it costs to have a professional luthier do maintenance work on his guitars because a luthier builds guitars for a living.
In a world where everyone wants to become a social media guru, I’ve made a career by promoting myself as a LinkedIn Expert even though the reality is that I often help my clients with all aspects of their online marketing, not just LinkedIn.
Ask yourself…are you a specialist or a generalist? Make sure your personal brand clearly communicates it, whichever way you decide to go.
Where’s The Value?
The money you make is equal to the value you create. Want to make more money? You need to be providing more value to more people. A corporate lawyer and a bus boy can both work for an hour but make two wildly different incomes from that time.
As a society, we’ve decided that time alone is worth minimum wage and the difference of every dollar is equal to the additional value you are able to provide within that time.
Yes, it’s important to establish value right away but there’s one problem…how do you demonstrate the value you can provide before a prospect hires you or buys your services/products? This is where content marketing comes into play online.
Entrepreneurs that have been in business since before the days of the Internet can often struggle with how marketing, branding and self-promotion today is so much different than what it was years ago. The customer of today needs more information that demonstrates your ability to provide value on that subject rather than vague promises and cliffhangers like, “Buy my product and you’ll see how amazing it is.”
It’s your job to demonstrate your ability to handle the job before you’re hired for it. If you make promises with your services, be prepared to back them up with compelling explanations on how and why your solution is the right one.
Refreshing Your Personal Brand
When is it necessary to update or rebrand? As a general rule of thumb, anytime something major changes professionally or personally, it’s worthwhile rethinking your approach to your personal brand.
For example, a successful real estate agent in Denver will want to adjust how they present themselves online if they decide to move to Chicago. On the personal side, if you determine that the direction you’re heading is not fulfilling you, you might decide to rebrand yourself to move in a direction that attracts the type of business you really want.
Whatever the case, your branding should clearly articulate the exact type of people that should connect with you so that they can self-identify themselves as your prospects.
Melonie Dodaro is founder of Top Dog Social Media that helps brands and businesses, use social media marketing and social selling to boost visibility, attract new customers and increase revenue. Melonie is also the author of The LinkedIn Code. To learn more visit www.TopDogSocialMedia.com