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April 2, 2008

Are You Building Your Personal Brand?

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The buzzword for today is personal branding and how the brand you build today will be even more powerful in the future. Marshall Sponder says Personal Branding Pays Off – At Least, It Will In 5 or 10 Years, while John Battelle is talking about The Rise of Independent Media Brands Online. This whole personal branding thing also ties into birthday boy Andy Beal’s (happy birthday, Andy and Jordan!) post on I Believe Children Are Our (Social Media) Future and how they’re building their own brands and equity via social networks.

The importance of personal branding really is nothing new, but it’s something marketers should be more concerned with thanks to the rise of social media and our need to constantly monitor our online reputations.

Simply put, your personal brand is you. It’s who you are. It’s your skills, the way you carry yourself, your individuality, your traits, your persona. It’s what you can do and what void you fill that no one else can. You can’t fake it. Personal brands are built on being genuine and letting people see you as you really are.

The risks to exposing yourself to your customers and community (figuratively speaking, of course) aren’t nearly as severe as you may think; and the rewards are huge. By creating a powerful personal brand you’ll be differentiating yourself from others in your organization and industry, it will encourage more interesting job opportunities, you’ll be compensated more by an employer afraid to lose you, you’ll increase your visibility, and in time you’ll be able to understand yourself better and will be more confident.

How do you go about creating a personal brand? [The Lisa is giving you advice on how to personally brand yourself. Pay attention, people. –Virginia] Aw, she’s new. She thinks people actually find me credible. They’re so cute when they’re this age.

  • Identify Your Strengths and Capitalize: What are you better at than anyone else in your industry? If you’re a blogger, perhaps you can write a rant post like no one else (holla!). If you’re an SEO, maybe you understand patents like Bill Slawski. If you’re a search reporter, maybe you have a clone and therefore can be up 27 hours a day covering the news. Or maybe you hate on Google a bit harsher than everyone else, are the CEO who can make hires like nobody’s business or you look good in a color no one else will touch. Whatever it is, there’s something that you do that no one else can compete with. Figure out what it is and squeeze every bit of equity out of it that you can.
  • Help Others: Now that you’ve got all that figured out, stop thinking about yourself and give back. There’s an old saying that "givers gain" and I stand by that. Use your strengths to give back to the community and help those who have helped you. Whether it be volunteering your time or speaking at conferences, looking beyond yourself is a good way to increase the value of your personal brand and also grow your network. If we’re looking at giving back from a less than altruistic angle, it’s also a good way to get people to talk about you…
  • Get Other People To Sing Your Praises: You’re not going to build your brand by talking about yourself. You walking up to me in a bar and launching into a pitch about how you’re the greatest SEO that has ever lived isn’t going to help you build your brand with me. It’s going to make me roll my eyes at you and start eyeing the room for someone who will buy me another drink. However, if someone I trust comes up to me and tells me that you are by far the greatest SEO on the planet, well…then I’m going to buy YOU a drink. See the difference. Your personal brand isn’t dependent on what you’re saying about yourself, it’s the combination of what everyone else is saying about you.
  • Be Visible: You’re not going to get people talking about you if you’re in a corner. (Well, at least not taking about you in a positive light.) Be blogging, mark your territory and be active on the social networks like Facebook and Twitter, and be a top contributor on sites that are your industry’s equivalent to Sphinn or Digg. And when you create accounts on these sites, use the same username and upload your photo or company logo to keep your brand in users’ minds. This way when your boss catches you Twittering all afternoon you can explain to him that you’re not goofing off. You’re helping to brand yourself and his company as dominant industry forces. Exactly.
  • Be Yourself & Take a Stance: Your brand is strengthened every time you speak out and let your opinions be known. Those who don’t stand up for themselves will allow others to walk all over them. People are attracted to others who are confident, intelligent and charismatic. Take a stance on issues that are important to you and show people what you’re really about. Do you think paid links are the greatest thing since link bait? Fine. Speak out on it, regardless of whether Matt Cutts is in the room or not. Politics aside, people would much rather associate themselves and work with people that they like and trust to be honest with them than someone who follows the herd. Personal brands are rooted in your ability to be authentic. In order to build your brand, you have to be you.

Remember: A personal brand is what you are, not how you act. Start building it today and watch the benefits accumulate over time.

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13 responses to “Are You Building Your Personal Brand?”

  1. Adam Audette writes:

    Fantastic post Lisa!

  2. TheMadHat writes:

    Great post!! Another bullet point I would add.
    * Be consistent. Stick with the same avatar, tagline, message, etc throughout the intertubes.

  3. Shama Hyder writes:

    I really enjoyed this post Lisa.

    I would add:

    Be Authentic.

    You can’t fake a personal brand.

  4. Jaan Kanellis writes:

    Love the post, they more you give the more you get. I have been living by that for sometime now on the SEO forum and blogsphere.

  5. Dan Schawbel writes:

    You will find that when others “sing your praises,” that actually counts more than what you say.

  6. Adam Audette writes:

    @Shama – I don’t mean to pick on you… but did you read the post?
    You added “Be Authentic,” and Lisa wrote, “Personal brands are rooted in your ability to be authentic.”
    I wouldn’t normally point out something like this, but the idea of being authentic and sincere is central to Lisa’s thesis here.

  7. cougarmark writes:

    I recently learned the real power of Linked In.

    I was not using it right until about a month ago -since that time I have had much success resulting from a few minutes a day in keeping up connections etc.

    Personal Branding is vital to my job and now easily accomplished through Linked In and other social networks.

    Click on my profile and check out my page – I am following tips and advice from Jason Alba founder of JibberJobber.com – he has also discovered the power of LinkedIn and written one of the first books about it.

  8. Derrick Wheeler writes:

    Great article. I need to work on my personal brand. The Be Visible, and Take a Stance focus areas are where I get hung up. I’ll try harder.

  9. Malte Landwehr writes:

    I agree with you. Building ons Online Brand will pay off at some point in the future. And currently a blog is probably the best platform to influence ones reputation.

  10. Maria Elena Duron writes:

    Lisa,
    Great post! Especially like the “squeeze every ounce of equity” out of what makes you unique – what you’re best at.
    Look forward to reading more!

  11. Jeff Swanson writes:

    These are helpful tips and we are building a personal brand for ourselves with the up rise of social networking. Unfortunately, not everyone has figures that out and they’re not always careful of their personal brand image.

  12. Joe Halliwell writes:

    I guess it amounts to doing things, doing them well and being seen to do them. But that’s still great advice.

  13. Olivia writes:

    All the bullet points are spot on, especially the one about having others sing your praises. No one wants to hear about how great and wonderful you are. They want to see it. If others recognize this, that’s what’s important. I have recently found a site personavita.com where essentially you create your brand, have all your work on the site and then have it validated by others. Its a great checks and balance system because people know what you did and did not contribute to various projects and thus can praise you, or not.



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