In 2006, TIME magazine declared “You” their Person of the Year. TIME’s selection was based on the rise of YouTube and other social web sites that allowed individuals to become publishers. TIME’s cover concluded, “You control the Information Age. Welcome to your world.”
Some six years later, we have even more tools to publish, interact and discover. Facebook is approaching 1 billion global users, while the past 12 months has seen the rise of Instagram and Pinterest, to name a few.
In the midst of your status updates, posts, blog comments and photo uploads, I think there’s a larger meaning (and value) that you can achieve: migrating from simply “You” to “Your Personal Brand.” Let me explain.
Brand Around Your Passions
When I speak about personal branding, people often ask, “just where do I start?” I encourage people to identify their passions. For me, it’s sports, social media and virtual events! For others, it might be food, wine or art. Your personal brand has the highest potential when it’s based around your passions.
Personal Brand Benefits: PASSION
Now, let’s consider the benefits of your personal brand. I use the acronym PASSION. Let’s take them one by one.
Whether you’ve been at your current job for 20 years or 20 months, as an “at will employee,” you can be asked to leave tomorrow. Your personal brand, however, has guaranteed possession. No one can take it away from you – it’s your’s for the rest of your life.
An annuity is defined as “a specified income payable at stated intervals for a fixed or a contingent period, often for the recipient’s life.” As you manage and grow your personal brand, it routinely “pays you income” in the form of recognition, authority, presence and “real” income (if you so desire).
It’s important to realize, however, that while your personal brand’s annuity pays out over time, it’s an investment that must be actively managed to guarantee continued payout. It’s a bit more involved than a conventional annuity: it’s more like a mortgage, in the sense that you need to “pay back” (contribute) each month (or each day!).
I love the part about “for the recipient’s life” in the definition, because it ties back to Possession: the annuity, like your personal brand, is your’s for life.
Most businesses think and talk a great deal about “Search Engine Optimization” (SEO). It’s critical for your web site(s) to “get found” when potential customers are searching online. As you construct and develop your personal brand, a natural benefit is “searchability,” or the ability to “get found.”
In a 2008 blog post titled “Downsized? Fired? Here are the new rules of finding a job,” David Meerman Scott (@dmscott) tells us about Heather Hamilton, who describes herself as “Microsoft Employee Evangelist, Quasi-Marketer and Truth-Teller.” Hamilton performs an inverse of the typical job search process. Instead of posting a job description and receiving resumes, she proactively searches the web. As Meerman Scott writes, “So if you’re not publishing, you won’t be found by Microsoft.”
[As a side note, the above blog post by Meerman Scott is singularly responsible for the start of my own personal brand.]
As you join new social networks, it’s critical that you fully populate your profile there. This is a critical first step in establishing your personal brand. On LinkedIn, for instance, ensure that your profile is 100% complete. Don’t settle for 95%, make sure it’s a full 100%.
As you gain a presence across different parts of the web, be sure to “cross link” your presences within your social profiles. For instance, on my Twitter profile page, I link to this blog and to my book on Amazon. You’ll also notice that on this blog, I cross-link to many other “personally branded presences” on the right side of the page.
Now, let’s return to Heather Hamilton. If you’ve published content related to Hamilton’s search terms, then the following may appear in Hamilton’s search results:
- Your blog.
- Your LinkedIn profile.
- Your Twitter profile or a recent tweet.
- Your answer on Quora or Focus.com
- An eBook that you published on your blog.
- An article in which you were quoted.
So in conclusion, the more you invest in your personal brand, the more visible you can be. And with more visibility comes more chances of others finding you.
Sense of Self
By “sense of self,” what I mean is that you learn about yourself as you build your personal brand! I’ve been blogging since 2008. It’s helped highlight (for me) my passions, my strengths and my weaknesses. In a post about her own blogging journey, Amber Naslund (@AmberCadabra) writes, “One of my favorite quotes is from the writer Joan Didion, who once said ‘I write to discover what I think.’”
As I became active on Twitter and LinkedIn, I discovered something about myself that otherwise wouldn’t have been obvious: I love to find, meet and connect with others. Twitter has been amazing in its ability to find and follow others, share thoughts and ideas and get to thoroughly know (in my mind) someone I’ve never met in person. This discovery has led me to consider ways in which I can continue this “connecting” in offline settings, as well.
While your personal brand should align with your passions, going niche (vs. broad) gives you a lot of advantages. Building a personal brand around “technology” is challenging. Go a step deeper, based on what interests you. Consider “social web technology” or better yet, “social and mobile web technology.”
My personal brand focuses on virtual events and social media. The social media part is challenging, in the sense that many, many others are more knowledgeable than me. The virtual events realm is smaller and more focused, so there’s more of an opportunity to build an identity around it.
By “identity,” I mean that your personal brand comes to be known for something. My personal brand is closely tied to virtual events – I suppose the name of this blog says it all.
Having a personal brand helps you set objectives around it. For some, it can be as basic as “continue to grow the brand.” For others, it might revolve around Twitter followers, a Klout score or page views on your blog. Yet others may seek to parlay their personal brand into a new job in a new industry. Your personal brand will evolve over time and objectives are there to help guide you.
Based on your employment history (or your small business), many of you have amassed a “network” of connections on LinkedIn. A personal brand allows you to significantly extend that network. Via social networks, your blog, comments on other blogs, guest posts on other blogs and articles submitted to publications, you can meet and engage with new people.
It can all start with a single Twitter hash tag. On Twitter, there’s a vibrant community of event professionals who gather around the hash tag #eventprofs. By simply reading, responding and re-tweeting (via this hash tag) over the years, I’ve gotten to know lots of event professionals that I otherwise would not have “met.”
Many #eventprofs are sole practitioners or run a small event business. So personal branding is critical to them, as their personal brand and their business’ brand are one and the same. In addition to the “#eventprofs network, I’m part of many others, including the networks on Quora, Focus.com, Instagram and Pinterest.
Actively engaging in networks helps raise the visibility of your personal brand and brings with it annuity, searchability and many other benefits.
Got a passion? Then put some PASSION around your passion. Developing your personal brand can lead to business opportunities, speaking gigs, fame and fortune. Why not get started today?
- Blog Post: 7 Tips for Building Your Personal Brand Online
- Slides: How to Build Your Personal Brand and Advance Your Career with Social Media
Note: I invite you to connect with me on Google+.