The secret is out: everyone and their mom is using the internet–which includes your competitors, target audience, and (hopefully) you.
With a whopping 71% of small businesses (source) already owning a website, 1.88 billion (source) websites in existence, and about 5.6 billion Google searches (source) being made per day, the internet marketing space easily appears oversaturated.
But the truth is, these numbers are easy to beat with consistency, practice, and a little something called personal branding.
Not only does personal branding help you instantly stand out from the sea of competition, but it also has the power to shape public perception of you and your brand, according to your vision for it.
So, if you want to learn how to harness the powers of such a marketing strategy, here are seven steps to nail personal branding (and a brief summary of what it is…in case you were wondering).
What Is Personal Branding?
According to PersonalBrand.com (Source) , the official definition of personal branding is “The conscious and intentional effort to create and influence public perception of an individual by positioning them as an authority in their industry, elevating their credibility, and differentiating themselves from the competition, to ultimately advance their career, increase their circle of influence, and have a larger impact.”
At its core, personal branding is the same as any other marketing technique. The goal is similar: increase brand awareness and establish authority to achieve specific goals.
But instead of marketing a product or service, you’re promoting yourself and/or your company as an entity rather than what you sell. (Which, consequently, usually leads to selling more.)
Personal branding boils down to the way you talk about and position yourself. This requires deep knowledge of your unique values, differentiation factors, target audience, etc.
7 Steps to Create Perfect Personal Branding
And now, onto the good stuff: the how.
1. Get Clear on Your Mission Statement and Vision
Personal branding is essentially your attempt to shape public opinion about you and/or your brand by telling your audience who you are, rather than letting them come to their own conclusions.
There’s no better way to do this than by creating a solid mission statement that can be easily found by your followers and/or website visitors.
Get clear on your goals, purpose, and vision. Do your best to consolidate it into a sentence or two, then proudly display it on your most-used or highest traffic platform (such as your website, social media pages, etc.). Or better yet, all of them.
Your mission statement isn’t just for your audience. It’s for you.
It’s your mantra, and it should seep into everything you do as a brand and/or public figure. Actions speak louder than words, and at the end of the day, your audience will see you as the person you live like rather than the one you claim to be. As a result, they should be in complete alliance.
2. Niche Down
A problem many brands and creators face is not wanting to leave anyone out. It’s easy to be a generalist, but building a solid community and forming industry authority is much easier as a specialist.
(Not to mention, you can usually charge more for your services/products!)
Because of this, it’s absolutely essential to niche down.
With a mission statement, narrowing down your target audience and areas of expertise shouldn’t be as daunting of a task as before. Think about your goals and future vision again, and then pinpoint from there who you’d have to serve to get there.
Let’s say you’re a psychologist who just opened up an online therapy practice and provides educational information about mental health on social media. Your goals are to increase your clientele, but to also become a well-known figure in your industry through your online presence.
You could take the generalist route and post content about all mental health issues, but a faster, easier way to gain a reputation and build a loyal, active community would be to choose a specific niche like personality disorders, eating disorders, or specific mental illnesses like Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) or childhood trauma.
3. Know Your Target Audience to a Tee
After getting clear on your mission and niching down, it’s time to do some homework and study your audience to a tee.
You should eventually know the demographics of your primary followers like the back of your hand, from gender and age to location and social status.
These metrics give insight into how you can better serve them, what they’re most interested in, and why they need your content, product, or service. It should also be your biggest guide when it comes to brand awareness efforts like content creation, marketing, networking, and more.
If you don’t know exactly who you’re talking to, you’ll easily slip into the generalist role you desperately need to avoid. And of course, without a clear understanding of your biggest fans, it would be nearly impossible to create an active and engaged community where they feel comfortable and understood.
(We’ll go into more depth about building a community in the last step!)
4. Identify Your Brand Differentiation Factor
What makes your brand different from the rest?
If you don’t have a clear-cut answer that you could give in 15-30 seconds, it’s time to start brainstorming.
Whether your brand just hatched less than 24 hours ago or it’s old enough to remember the days when newspaper ads were worthwhile marketing investments, establishing a “brand differentiation factor” and being able to pitch what makes you special before your audience falls asleep will make or break your personal branding efforts.
It’s easy as the person running the show to know subconsciously what sets you apart from the competition, but it almost never comes as clear to your audience.
Remember, the goal of personal branding is to shape public perception of your brand based on how you want it to be perceived. Thus, it’s counterintuitive to expect your audience to do enough digging to find out for themselves.
In short: never leave your audience to do their own comparing and contrasting. Always do it for them.
The distinction between you and your competitors should be documented somewhere that takes your audience just a few seconds to find, such as the homepage of your website and/or your social media bio.
5. Choose Your Brand Style and Stick to It
When you’re busy planning marketing campaigns, forming your mission statement, identifying your brand differentiation factor(s), and studying your audience’s demographics, it can be easy to forsake the little things that go a long way.
A.K.A., your brand style and themes.
Choosing a color palette, deciding on a website theme, and sampling fonts might sound like minuscule tasks that should only be considered once you’ve built an audience, but that’s far from the truth.
Think of the previous four steps as beautiful beads and this step as the wire that connects them into a wearable necklace.
Without a specified style, your brand will be practically unrecognizable and maybe even unattractive. Plus, flip-flopping between different styles will just leave your audience confused.
Consistency is key when it comes to personal branding, and a huge part of how you communicate is through the styles, themes, colors, fonts, and more that you’ve made a part of who you are. It gives your audience a way to instantly recognize you.
Bottom line: don’t overlook or rush developing your brand’s overall aesthetic, from web design to your Instagram colors.
6. Create a Content Strategy
With your freshly chosen brand style, it’s time to put it to practice by creating and implementing a content strategy.
Research from HubSpot revealed that when it comes to content marketing, there are three roles businesses are prioritizing to hire in 2022: content creators, content marketing managers, and content strategists.
What’s more, 94% of said content marketers use social media as a channel for distributing content, according to SEMRush.
With such an enormous (and obvious) push by businesses of all kinds towards content marketing, it’s vital you jump on the bandwagon and do it better.
But, what does a content strategy entail?
Wikipedia defines (source) content strategy as “the planning, development, and management of content—written or in other media.”
It’s a form of inbound marketing, which strives to bring customers, clients, and followers to you by attracting them with valuable content. It’s the opposite of outbound marketing, which disrupts your target audience to get their attention and (hopefully) their sale (think ads and commercials).
A well-formed content strategy should detail where you’ll distribute content. This could be via an email blast to your list of email subscribers, through a website, or on various social media platforms.
The platform you dedicate most of your efforts to will depend on your industry and of course, those target audience demographics we researched earlier. However, one you certainly shouldn’t exclude is blogging.
Blogging might sound like an outdated term to you, but if the first thing that comes to mind is the mommy blog styles with recipes, life updates, and diary entries, you’re dead wrong.
The benefits to blogging–whether you’re a solopreneur, small business, or well-established B2B company–are endless.
For starters, Optinmonster reveals (source) that brands who make blogging an important part of their marketing strategy are 13x more likely to achieve a positive Return on Investment (ROI).
Second, Shareaholic research (source) found that organic search drove 34.8% of traffic in 2017, compared to 25.6% from social media, and has been since 2014.
It’s simple: to increase traffic from organic search, you need to be practicing Search Engine Optimization (SEO), which requires a content strategy that prioritizes blogging.
If you do not already own a website for your business, make sure you invest in a couple of things- web hosting that will keep your website fast and always available to visitors, design that will mirror your brand style (we talked about this earlier), a digital marketing strategy and relevant content to publish.
If you don’t know how to do SEO, there are two ways to start:
Hire someone who does (i.e. a content marketer or SEO content writer)
Learn yourself or train someone on your team
Believe it or not, learning SEO is pretty simple and straightforward. Not to mention extremely affordable. In fact, there’s a multitude of cheap (and even free) SEO courses available online that you can complete within a few days or weeks.
In summary, develop a content strategy and prioritize SEO. Content marketing is essential for keeping up with the times, but you’ll also be saving money compared to going the traditional outbound marketing route.
7. Turn Your Audience into a Community
I’ve mentioned community a few times already, but now I want to hammer down on the point.
Part of personal branding is turning your audience into a community–one that’s active, engaged and thriving.
A few valid indicators that point to such a community are metrics like social media engagement rates (i.e. likes to followers ratios, comments to followers ratios, etc.), how often people are talking about you online (such as through tags and mentions), and how many of your website visitors are returning visitors.
Creating a community out of followers requires a clear set of values that everyone in it aligns with (such as your mission statement), a specific, recognizable brand style, and a content strategy you consistently adhere to.
But perhaps the most essential of all is an active leader.
Your community won’t build itself. Just as you want your followers and/or website visitors to engage with your content, you absolutely must engage with them. It’s a two-way street, and followers who aren’t responded to or engaged with will always remain just followers (or even worse, become unfollows).
Take a few minutes out of your day to scroll through your social media pages, responding to and liking comments left by followers. Also be sure to check your DMs and notifications for tags and mentions, which you can then repost on your own pages.
Perfecting your personal branding efforts takes time and practice just like any other form of marketing, but with these seven steps, you’ll be well on your way to seeing results.
Freya is a personal finance expert and founder of the CollectingCents website that teaches readers how to grow their passive income, save money, improve their credit score, and manage debt. She has been featured in publications like Business Insider, Fox Business, the Huffington Post, and GoBankingRates.