You may not be a Hollywood celebrity or famous pop star, but you still want to become known within your target market, right? Just as companies spend their efforts on branding their products to generate more sales, you must establish your personal brand if you want to sell yourself in the professional world.
Take Mark Zuckerberg, for example. The young, successful Facebook founder says his signature gray T-shirt is all part of his brand — it’s a personal trademark that helps him stand out as an entrepreneur.
You may not achieve Zuckerberg’s level of national fame, but by following a few simple tips, you can create a unique brand, too. Check out these five helpful tricks for branding yourself like a pro.
1. Evaluate Your Goals
Goal setting should be the very first part of your personal branding campaign. What specifically are you looking to accomplish? Do you have ambitions of becoming the president of a company? Are you trying to design a new product? Writing down both your short- and long-term goals can give you a clearer picture of what you really want.
Make sure these goals are specific, measurable, attainable and realistic. Also, make sure you set a time frame for each goal. Without deadlines, you may not be motivated to get started on your plan.
2. Define Your Target Market
Once you’ve laid out your goals, it’s time to narrow down your target market. You know you want to make yourself memorable, but which people do you want to appeal to?
If your dream is to get ahead in the corporate world, your target might be future employers who have power in your chosen field. If, on the other hand, you’re an entrepreneur looking to sell a service or product, your target would be those people most likely to spend money on what you have to offer.
Once you know the market you’re trying to win over, you’ll be able to create a personal brand around this niche.
3. Analyze Your Competition
They say to keep your friends close and your enemies closer. How can you stand out from the crowd if you don’t know your competition? Once you understand your goals and your potential market, you should carefully research the competitors in your industry. How are they branding themselves? Are their strategies working? What can you learn from their personal brands?
You can use the internet to your advantage during this step. Specifically, social media profiles like LinkedIn can tell you a lot about a person professionally. Study the profiles of people who have attained success in your field. Read their bios, take a look at how often they’re engaging with their connections and analyze the content they post.
Twitter is a great resource, too. You can use tools like Followerwonk or Traackr to discover the biggest influencers in your market and study their tweets to see what they’re doing right — and how you can follow in their footsteps.
4. Create and Manage Your Presence
Now that you’ve identified your competition — and learned from your competitors — it’s time to do the grunt work. Your first step should be to design a killer LinkedIn profile.
Don’t just throw one together in an hour, because your profile says a lot about you to potential employers and customers. Craft a profile that highlights your greatest strengths. Express that you have something to offer that your competitors don’t.
Make sure you have a catchy headline that will draw attention to your content. Always have a clear, professional, up-to-date profile picture in which your style (e.g., your hair, your clothes, your facial expression, etc.) matches the message you want your brand to convey. You can also add media, such as video, images and documents, to your LinkedIn profile. Before you make your profile live, edit! Nothing reflects more poorly on your personal image than a page sprinkled with spelling and grammatical errors.
Facebook and Twitter are your next stops. Sure, you may already have a personal page on both platforms, but those are for posting pictures of food to your friends, right? Create a separate Facebook and Twitter page for your professional brand. As with your LinkedIn headline, make sure the title of your Facebook page and your Twitter handle would grab the attention of your niche market. They should also be easily searchable and simple to remember. Again, include a high-definition, professional profile picture that appropriately conveys your personal brand. Also, make sure you have quality content that is relevant to your message.
Most importantly for all three social media sites: post! Your page isn’t going to attract much of a following unless you update it regularly. Try to submit a status or tweet at least once a day on each of these platforms to keep your followers engaged and interested — and coming back for more.
Don’t forget about the steps you can take outside of the Internet to establish your personal brand. Creating a distinct look — as Zuckerberg did early in his career — is also essential to making you memorable and unique.
This includes everything from how you dress and how you wear your hair to both verbal and nonverbal behaviors. Want to be the boss? Dress like a boss. Selling a sleek new technology product? Make sure your attire is sleek as well. Trying to market yourself in the fashion industry? Your outfits and hair should be styled fashionably. Of course, your persona should match your online presence to keep your brand streamlined.
5. Network, Network, Network
Whether it’s on social media or in person, the only way to maintain your personal brand is to connect often—even with your competitors. The people in your target market will be way more impressed if you have hundreds of connections on LinkedIn or a thousand followers on Twitter than if they see you only have 50.
Invite friends, family members and co-workers to connect on LinkedIn, subscribe to your Twitter feed and “like” your professional page on Facebook. The larger the following you already have, the more likely your network is to expand via word-of-mouth. Don’t forget to interact often. Post to other people’s pages, reply to their own posts and always make sure you respond to anyone who leaves you a message on your own timeline.
If you’re a social butterfly, there are plenty of ways you can network offline, too. Search for Meetup groups in your area or consider starting your own. It’s a great way to meet new people and express your branding message. If you can afford it or you can get your company to subsidize it, consider attending or presenting at professional conferences in your field. Even your friend’s holiday party can be the perfect opportunity to network with people you haven’t met before. You never know — they could be future customers or your next employers.
Branding yourself sounds like a lot of work, and let’s face it — it is. If you invest a little time and effort now, you’ll be proud of yourself later when you receive that new promotion or get to show off the magazine write-up about how you’ve become the latest guru in the tech world.
About The Author
Eleanor Hecks is the Editor-in-Chief of Designerly Magazine, an online publication dedicated to providing in-depth content from the design and marketing industries. When she's not designing or writing code, you can find her re-reading the Harry Potter series, burning calories at a local Zumba class, or hanging out with her dog, Bear.