My Twitter profile will tell you that I joined rank in January of 2015; but I’ve been using the platform since 2009.
Why the discrepancy?
Because for many, many years I focused on building other brands in lieu of building my own. And I know I’m not alone.
Let’s back up a decade or so.
In 2004 I was a freshman in college and Facebook had just appeared on the scene, then only available to select higher education institutions.
In the early days, it was peer to peer interaction, text only, and not nearly as dynamic or user-friendly as it is today. There were no businesses building brands. There were no people building brands – as far as I knew.
Social Media Was Just Beginning
And I continued to believe that social media was for my personal life only as I graduated and started my career (PS. There was no college counselor warning us that employers would soon be looking at our accounts!).
I landed in DC in the spring of 2008, working for a financial services trade association.
A Seismic Shift Occurred
The financial crisis hit shortly after, and communication changed.
Large banks were in desperate need of trying to restore trust – and connect with their customers on a more personal level than ever before; social media provided that tool.
Twitter was still in its infancy (2006), blogging had not been widely embraced and our ability to capture content like video was nothing like it is today.
I would spend years establishing new accounts, growing audiences and creating and sharing content for these organizations – and I really enjoyed it.
But, a funny thing happened when I started my own business…I realized that I didn’t have any professional social media accounts myself.
Part of this problem is situational, many companies are now just getting comfortable with allowing employees to have social media accounts that might link to their professional personas.
Nonetheless, I found myself playing catch up as I worked to also maintain an active client roster.
Besides doing my actual paying work, I was now also trying to establish a Twitter account, finding time to blog, and tie it all back together with a campaign building strategy. I was building my brand. It was not easy, and I wasn’t doing it well.
Building a Personal Brand: Things Have Changed
Today, I help many clients with the same issues I myself first struggled with – how to build a brand for YOU not THEM.
It’s shocking how resistant we are to promote our own work – but luckily there is a smart way to do so.
Here are my tips:
- Produce something. Maybe not every day or every week, but consider what thought-leadership you can share with your community and industry. Write, create videos, explore all content streams available to you.
- Know your value. Almost everyone is scared to put their work out into the ether, primed for consumption, and perhaps ridicule. Don’t worry so much. Write one day, edit the next two, and press send. Done is better than perfect.
- Read. Reading every day is not only good for you, but reading articles from different authors and outlets can also help you develop new approaches for your own writing skills.
- Pick one social media platform to dip your toes in. I like Twitter overall, but if you are a creative type like a photographer, try Instagram. If you host a DIY blog, try Pinterest. You can always expand your reach, but don’t overwhelm yourself to start. Create one account, and follow some people you know, and some you don’t. Over time you may find that scheduling your content (with services like Hootsuite or Post Planner) is helpful to managing your community. But, don’t go there yet.
- Give the people what they want. What is your audience interested in? Try polling them (via email, Twitter, etc.) and then give them what they’ve asked for (tutorials, reviews, tips). This will help you determine what you should be producing, and give you a good indicator as to if people will be interested in consuming it.
- Talk TO people, not AT them. Social media was meant to be social. Don’t make it a one-way street by only sharing your work or opinions. Try engaging in Twitter chats to meet new people (I just posted a few to get you started with), share their work, and learn new things yourself.
- Share! Same principle – employ a mix of sharing your own content with that of sharing others. It’s the equitable way to lend a hand to people whom you admire, and those who are working hard to build brands like you are.
Brand building is tough work, and it takes time – but its never too late.
In the next years, new platforms will emerge that we haven’t yet dreamed of. A few years ago did we ever think that an app where photos disappeared in seconds would be of any value? And yet – here is Snapchat serving up 9,000 snaps per second with over 100 million daily active users.
We never know what’s around the corner, and that should not stop us from starting to work on our brand today.
There is always time to become the next early adopter.
What are you doing to build your brand?
Image Credit: Pixabay