While most business minds recognise the importance of marketing for their company, many people struggle to realise the significance of creating their own brand online.
Employees at companies, from entry level through to the C-Suite, can use online personal branding for building a career or increasing personal engagement with a business.
The benefits of building your personal brand online are wide-ranging and can include: being able to tell your company’s (or your) story as you want it to be told; establishing yourself as a thought leader in your industry (and being one of the first people journalists want to speak to); and to engage personally with your company’s fans by providing real value.
For junior employees, building a personal brand online can be a great way to develop your career and provide extensive insights into your skill sets. For independent consultants and freelancers, building a brand online is a business imperative. Prospective employers need a highly visible catalog of skills, experience and industry expertise in order to hire a freelancer.
For this reason, independent consultants tend to be some of the best people at building online brands. With that in mind, we asked some of Expert360’s consultants for their five most important online brand building techniques.
1. Create and outline your personal story
Before you can tell people your story, you need to define exactly what that story is. For Expert360’s well-branded consultants, their stories are multifaceted and give an idea of who they are and what they are doing. It’s important to answer (to yourself at least):
- What do you want to be known for?
- What are your core strengths and skills?
- How are you unique?
- How do you stand out among the crowd?
An example of this is Expert360 consultant, Sam, who shared his story on our blog a number of months ago. Sam’s branding is simple and clear: He’s an ex-top management consultant who is chasing his lifelong dream of becoming an entrepreneur and the skills that he has learnt along throughout his career have allowed him to consult nine months of the year to support this dream. Try to get your story down to a simple 1-2 sentence elevator pitch, as above.
2. Use content outreach to extend your brand
Typically, in articles about how to build your personal brand online, content outreach comes near the bottom of the list. However, publishing articles through third-party sources is probably the best way to extend your reach beyond your own means. Sharing content widely allows you to leverage pre-existing channels of distribution. But hold on, let’s take a step back – what do we mean by content outreach? Put simply (without the marketing mumbo jumbo) content outreach is submitting your articles, videos and photos to websites that might be interested in publishing them. It’s important to find people/websites that want to publish what you are submitting. This may sound obvious, but receiving a story pitch that isn’t tailored to suit the publication’s audience happens often and is the bane of all editors’ existence. There are a number of great tools for finding influencers and blogs that are in line with your key content areas, including BuzzSumo and Renoun (see some similar programs here). Alternatively, it might be worth searching closer to home in order to outreach content. Your company, an associated company or someone in your networks might be in charge of a blog. Connecting with people you already know is usually more productive than reaching out cold, according to feedback from Expert360’s consultants. By leveraging third party channels with greater reach, you are able to share your skills with a wider audience and build inbound links to your own website. Fortunately for Expert360's consultants, we provide a platform to share ideas and experiences. We're always willing to read content contributions and pitches from our consultants.
3. Improve (or start) your social media presence
Social media is regularly professed as an amazing way to bootstrap marketing for a business, but it is even better for building a personal brand. LinkedIn is the first obvious social network you need to be using, if you aren’t already. Make sure your profile is up date, with a clear profile picture, concise summary, complete job history and awards. Importantly, share ‘updates’ regularly with details about new blogs you have written or with content that supports your personal story. Similarly, LinkedIn provides their own ‘Pulse’ platform which can be a great way of sharing your articles without having to outreach content. Make sure you don’t fall into the trap of sharing all of your content on Pulse as your reach will be largely limited to those in your LinkedIn network. Ensure you expand your outreach and post to a range of publications. Twitter and Facebook are regularly considered the second most important platforms for Expert360’s consultants to build their personal brand. While many people claim that Twitter is dying, there have been positive signs in recent months with Jack Dorsey being reinstated as CEO and their very minor directional change from a ‘social network’ to a ‘news’ site. By using apps like Crowdfire and Followerwonk, and posting regularly (at least 5 times per day) with the help of an app like Buffer or Hootsuite you will increase your followers and reach in no time. Similarly, content outreach isn’t limited to blog posts – you can also use social media as an outreach channel. By including @handles of people who might be interested in your content in your tweets, you can greatly increase your reach. In opposition to this, Facebook doesn’t have many hacks and quick tricks. Just make sure your profile is professional and relevant. If you have your own business as an independent consultant or freelancer, make a business page on Facebook and share your latest articles and news.
4. Create your personal website
A personal website is a nice touch for anyone who wants to build their personal brand online. While not absolutely necessary, a website can be a great place to direct people when you have published new content. If you’re really serious, you can even get people to sign up to your newsletter and start your own email list to distribute your articles. A website like Squarespace or Wordpress is a great place to start if you're looking to build an easy to use, visually appealing website that works. These platforms thrive because of their user friendliness and are a great resource for building a personal brand.
5. Audit your online presence
It’s important to make sure that your existing online presence aligns with the story that you are now trying to tell (refer to point 1), according to Expert360's consultants. Google yourself (as much of a faux-pas as that is) and make sure that everything you have written is something that you’re proud of. If you can find something that you don’t think represents you accurately, you can usually ask the moderator to take it down. Lastly, make sure your social media is as professional as possible. No prospective employer of contractors wants to see the state you were in last Saturday night.
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