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In the past few years personal branding has been discussed exhaustively throughout the Net. The difference between today and over ten years ago when it was first mentioned by Tom Peters, is the rise of social technologies that have made branding not only more personal, but within reach.
From the corporate brand (BMW), to the product brand (BMW M3 Coupe) and down to the personal brand (car salesman), branding is a critical component to a customer’s purchasing decision. These days, customer complaints and opinions are online and viewable through a simple search, on either Google or through social networks. There is no hiding anymore and transparency and authenticity are the only means to survive and thrive in this new digital kingdom.
Many people think that personal branding is just for celebrities such as Paris Hilton or Britney Spears, yet each and every one of us is a brand. Personal branding, by definition, is the process by which we market ourselves to others. As a brand, we can leverage the same strategies that make these celebrities or corporate brands appeal to others. We can build brand equity just like them.
We can also have just as much presence as most startups and mid-size companies and products. Social media tools have leveled the playing ground and have enabled us to reach incredible heights, at the cost of our time. Today, I want to share the personal branding process, so you can start to think about what face you want to show to the world and how you want to position yourself for success!
The single biggest mistake people make is that they either brand themselves just for the sake of doing it or that they fail to invest time in learning about what’s in their best interests. The key to success, and this isn’t revolutionary, is to be compensated based on your passion. In order to find your passion, you need a lot of time to think, some luck and you need to do some research online to figure out what’s out there.
Brand discovery is about figuring out what you want to do for the rest of your life, setting goals, writing down a mission, vision and personal brand statement (what you do and who you serve), as well as creating a development plan. Have you ever been called intelligent or humorous by your peers or coworkers? That description is part of your brand, especially if you feel those attributed pertain to you. To know if you’ve discovered your brand, you need to make this equation equal:
Before you enter the next step in the personal branding process, you’ll want to select a niche, whereby you can be the master of your domain. For example, Joel Comm has mastered the Google Adsense niche and brands himself using his name, and Brian Solis owns the social media PR niche with his PR 2.0 blog (under his name). When I say domain, I mean an area where there aren’t many competitors and literally, your online domain name. Once you sort this all out, now it’s time to create your brand.
Now that you know what you want to do and have claimed a niche, at least in your mind, it’s time to get it on paper and online. The sum of all the marketing material you should develop for your brand is called a Personal Branding Toolkit. This kit consists of the following elements that you can use to highlight your brand and allow people to easily view what you’re about:
1. Business card: It doesn’t matter if you’re a college student, CEO, or a consultant, everyone should have their own business card. The card should contain your picture, your personal brand statement (such as Boston Financial Expert), as well as your *preferred* contact information and corporate logo if necessary.
You can create your own business card and share it through your mobile phone using mydropcard.com or rmbrme.com. On the web, BusinessCard2.com is a great social network for creating and distributing your person business card.
2. Resume/cover letter/references document: These are typical documents that you need for applying for jobs and when you go on interviews (something over 2 million job seekers will be doing as we speak). Be sure to prioritize each document with information custom to the target position. Take your resume online and add social features to it to make the ultimate social media resume, promoting your personal brand to the world and making it shareable.
3. Portfolio: Whether you use a CD, web or print portfolio, it’s a great way to showcase the work you’ve done in the past, which can convince someone of your ability to accomplish the same results for the future. Figdig.com and carbonmade.com are social networks for people who want to show off their creative skills to the world.
4. Blog/website: You need to own yourname.com or a website that aligns with your name in some fashion. Depending on who you are, how much time you have on your hands and if you can accept criticism, you should either start a blog or stick with a static homepage. Those who blog will have a stronger asset than those who don’t because blogs rank higher in search engines and lend more to your expertise and interest areas over time.
5. LinkedIn profile: A LinkedIn profile is a combination of a resume, cover letter, references document and a moving and living database of your network. Use it to create your own personal advertising, to search for jobs or meet new people.
6. Facebook profile: Over 160 million people have profiles, but almost none of them have branded themselves properly using this medium. Be sure to include a Facebook picture of just you, without any obscene gestures or unnecessary vodka bottles. Also, input your work experience and fill out your profile, while turning on the privacy options that disable the ability for people to tag you in pictures and videos (allowing people to see the ones tagged of you).
7. Twitter profile: Your Twitter profile should have an avatar that is carved out of your Facebook picture and used in your LinkedIn profile. You need to use a distinct background, fill out your profile and include a link to either your blog or LinkedIn profile. Twitterbacks.com, developed by internet mogul Jim Kukral, has templates you can use to sculpt your very own Twitter background (Photoshop skills not included). Twitbacks.com is another solution that also lets you promote your Twitter profile.
8. Video resume: A video resume is a short video of you talking about why you are the best for a specific job opportunity. You get about a minute or so to communicate your brand and are able to send the link, once you upload it to YouTube, to hiring managers.
9. Wardrobe: Your personal style is tangible and is extremely important for standing out from the crowd. Select clothing that best represents you because it will be viewable through your pictures/avatars online, as well as when you meet people in reality.
10. Email address: Don’t overlook your email address as not being a significant part of your toolkit. Most people use email over all social networks and when you connect with someone on a social network, you are notified via email, so get used to it. Your email address poses a great opportunity for your brand. I recommend using gmail because of the acceptance of Google and since GTalk allows you to form tighter relationships with others. For your address, use “firstname.lastname@example.org.”
After you spend the time on these parts of your personal branding toolkit, it’s time to showcase it to the world, especially your target audience. Don’t be fooled by the myth that if you build it, they will come. Unless you’re the luckiest person on earth, you’ll have to actually communicate everything you’ve created to others.
In the next post, I will discuss how you can take the personal branding toolkit you’ve developed and communicate it to your audience. I’ll give you tips on how to market your personal brand to become known in your niche. Then, I’ll finish by explaining how you should monitor and update your brand over your lifetime.