You’re fabulous, just the way you are. So why do you need personal branding?
Personal branding has nothing to do with changing your essential you-ness. It’s the process of refining it and sharing it with others.
You are too fabulous to hide out in some cave. Developing your brand is more than an interesting idea — it’s your duty. It’s also good business.
Whether you’re an entrepreneur, a philanthropist, or a creative, a strong brand allows you to grow. Do more, earn more, say more. All you need are some tips, tricks, and social media marketing tools.
It’s time to stop hiding and say hello to your future fans!
What is personal branding?
Personal branding is the conscious crafting of a person’s public identity, which includes their image, their story, and their position within particular communities.
Branding is deliberate, but it doesn’t have to be inauthentic. In fact, personal brands best succeed when they’re perceived as genuine self-expressions.
Why is personal branding important?
So that’s what personal branding is. But why does it matter? And who needs it?
There are some obvious answers to that question, including influencers of all stamps:
- Business thought-leaders
- Public figures
- Social media personalities
Here’s the better answer. Everyone needs personal branding because everyone has a personal brand.
Your brand is the way that others perceive you and the expectations they form as a result.
Personal brands often evolve organically. You brand yourself every time you dress for a party, write a proposal, or post on social media. For most people, the total effect is muddy. It’s a patchwork of sometimes-contradicting impressions.
Within your most intimate circles, this collage is unavoidable and eventually disappears into a holistic picture. Think of those images created with thousands of tiny photographs. The number and variety don’t detract from the surface image. They create it. The artist never could have achieved that result from only four photographs.
In the same way, your friends and family come to see you as a nuanced whole. They see you as “Daniel” or “Kim,” and each new impression slots into a picture that’s simultaneously simple and complex. Only extreme, momentous outliers alter that picture.
With personal branding, you shape your persona for people outside your inner circles. You don’t allow it to form haphazardly. You craft it and use it, fostering a particular audience and achieving a particular impact.
Depending on what they want to accomplish, people create different brands for different arenas. Branding for artists will look different than branding for entrepreneurs. But both will benefit from developing a strong brand.
Creating a personal brand
So let’s get to work and figure out the right personal brand for you. It may take a little trial and error, so embrace the journey. After all, no one ever said “perfect” had to be part of your brand.
“Find yourself” sounds like the advice you’d give someone on a spiritual journey rather than a professional one.
But branding yourself requires a lot of self-awareness and thoughtful positioning. People who skip this step often wind up with bland, cookie-cutter brands. Or worse, they put out inappropriate or tone-deaf content.
Who are you? What perspective do you offer?
Your vantage point is unique. You consider particular issues and topics, work on particular projects, and come from a particular background. You also have that super-particular you-ness that encompasses your style, humor, intelligence, empathy, and more.
Take some time to brainstorm. Then write down everything that you bring to the table, everything that informs your point of view. Consider your:
- Cultural upbringing
- Affiliations and memberships
- Personal strengths
- Personal weaknesses
- Socioeconomic status
- Identity politics
A lot of people fail to recognize — and capitalize on — the things that make them interesting. It’s rarely an individual element on the list. It’s an unexpected combination. Put a little mark beside any items on the list that come together in dynamic or intriguing ways.
Your personal brand stems from your identity, but it’s a lot more targeted than that. Don’t try to be everything to everyone. Be one thing to a carefully cultivated group.
Start by defining your audience. What does success look like in terms of your sphere of influence?
What’s the demographic of your audience? Do you cross demographics? What are the interests of your ideal friends and fans? What are their insecurities or pain points?
These are the people to whom you’re talking. Never forget that.
You’ll also need to find your unique value proposition: the fundamental reason that people should and will pay attention.
While the Golden Circle Theory of branding was imagined for companies, it works just as well for people looking to refine their persona. The Golden Circle is made up of three concentric circles that help you focus and communicate all that you bring to the table.
- Why. The innermost circle. Why do you do what you do? What’s your mission or vision?
- How. The middle circle. How do you fulfill your why and provide your what?
- What. The outermost circle. What do you offer your audience or community?
Simon Sinek, who articulated the theory, suggests starting with the innermost circle and moving out from there.
You don’t absolutely need a tagline, but it’s a definite asset. By distilling your mission, you make it easy for people to remember. There’s a better chance it will come to mind when they need precisely what you offer.
Need some examples? Take a look at these:
- “Real life on a budget.” Jessi Fearon (Personal finance blogger)
- “Travel smarter, cheaper, longer.” Nomadic Matt (Budget travel blogger)
- “We think in stories. We want to create yours.” Sofia Crokos (Event planner)
- “Become a better student.” Thomas Frank (Creator of College Info Geek)
- “Writing that’s not afraid of the dark.” Mary Maddox (Mystery novelist)
- “Healing spirit art.” Teri Leigh Teed (Artist)
These taglines aren’t long or complicated. Just the opposite. They efficiently communicate exactly what that individual intends to offer their client or audience.
The next step is to decide how you’re going to present yourself to your adoring public. You want to develop a style that complements your perspective and/or highlights your value.
A coherent brand requires a strong, consistent personality.
Pretend that your best friend has to describe you to someone you’ve never met but want to impress. The catch? They only have three words to do it.
Maybe you’re a travel blogger who’s impulsive, fearless, and self-sufficient. Or you’re an entrepreneur who’s challenging, intense, and straightforward.
Again, a little bit of disjunction or tension can be a good thing, a quality that helps you stand out. Maybe you’re an activist who’s diplomatic but decisive. Or an academic who’s intellectual but grounded.
If you pick the right words to define your brand personality, you’ll find that your look and voice naturally evolve from there.
Your look can include personal fashion choices, but it doesn’t stop there. Whether it’s your website, your Facebook page, or your welcome email, consistency is key.
- Colors. Specify the exact shades, using RGB values or Hex codes.
- Fonts. Limit yourself to around three, and prioritize clarity over personality. Your typography should be easy to read in all sizes.
- Imagery. Set the tone and type of the images you’ll publish under your brand. Follow the conventions of your industry as well as your personal inclinations.
- Logo. Design your logo with care. It’ll show up across your platforms and instantly identify you to your fans.
Pro-tip: Develop a visual style guide. Even if you are the only person creating on behalf of your personal brand, a guide will help with consistency. It’ll also save you time down the road. You’ll have made a number of design decisions in advance, and they’ll be thoughtful on-brand decisions.
Even if the only thing you ever intend to write is Instagram captions, your voice is a crucial part of your brand.
What do you want to say, and how do you want to say it? What voice best matches the personality of your brand?
The Nielson-Norman Group researched online branding and tone of voice. They reviewed websites across the internet and determined that there were four essential dimensions of tone of voice:
- Funny vs. serious
- Formal vs. casual
- Respectful vs. irreverent
- Enthusiastic vs. matter-of-fact
If you’re struggling to define your voice, start there. Where would you be with respect to each dimension?
Stay true to yourself
This can’t be emphasized enough. Personal branding isn’t a form of deception. This is your image, your story, your life. Be genuine. Consistency in personal branding is key, and the more authentic your brand is, the easier you’ll find it to stay true to — both to yourself and to your brand.
Your personal brand is something you live. It needs to fit, and you need to feel comfortable in it.
That doesn’t mean that you need to — or should — force every aspect of your private life into a mold and then share it with the world. You can have private as well as public email or social media accounts.
You’re also entitled to your secrets. No one really needs to know about the mild case of food poisoning that came as a side to your burrito.
Building a personal brand
Once you’ve created the brand, it’s time to build it into the force it can be. You need to grow your audience and establish your brand as a dependable and known quantity.
Put that song on repeat
It can be tempting to endlessly re-create yourself. Resist. Repetition and consistency are the hallmarks of a successful brand.
In addition to standardizing your voice and design, you want to repeat your successes. If a certain form of content performs well, use it as a blueprint for other pieces.
A certain amount of variety is good. You want your product to feel fresh. But you also want to create and meet expectations.
Pick the right platforms
Where are you going to promote this brand? How are you going to connect with people?
These days you have an almost overwhelming number of options, but it’s always better to do a few things well than to do many things poorly.
These days, social media is at the heart of most personal branding. You may already have a private account on platforms. For your brand, you’ll need to go public and curate your content.
Pick a couple of the most popular social media platforms, and build up your following. You’ll want to pick the right venues according to your industry and the demographics of your audience. You should also consider your natural strengths. Creating content takes time and energy. Do something you enjoy.
There’s no single right answer, just the best answer for you. For example, social media for writers most often focuses on Facebook, Twitter, and/or Instagram. But if you’re an author who writes young-adult or new-adult fiction and enjoys making videos, then TikTok may be the best place to engage old readers and find new ones.
Entrepreneurs and people in B2B industries might prefer something a little more professional and career-focused. You could join the number of individuals who have built successful personal brands on LinkedIn.
Want to connect with your public in a more direct and personal manner? Of course you do. After all, the statistics on email marketing routinely prove that it’s the most cost-effective channel.
Use email-marketing tools to develop a list and then send them regular updates or a newsletter.
No matter what else you do, creating a personal website adds value to your brand. It gives you an online home and a portfolio where you can display your best work. You can also use it to link to social accounts and to develop your email list.
If you add a blog, you’ll also have a forum for long-form content.
Stick to a schedule
This point (and the next one) is where those social media tools really pay off. If consistency and repetition are key, then you’ll need to get on a regular posting schedule.
Use tools to integrate your social accounts, design ads, and plan content. Even better, you can monitor and respond to conversations from one central place.
Engage industry peers and conversations
Social media is social. Not everything should be about you — as fabulous as you are. Reach out to people at similar places in their careers, follow known successes, and track the hashtags trending for your followers.
Take advantage of other branding opportunities
If you’re wondering how far you should take your branding, the answer is pretty far. That doesn’t mean slapping your logo on everything in sight or living an inauthentic, market-driven life.
But individual people have a lot of the same branding opportunities that businesses do. In addition to all of your digital content, you can develop business cards, a branded email signature, and even swag.
When it comes to swag, that catchphrase or slogan can come in handy. People may not want a notebook with your name on it, but if you have a great motto, you can stick that on physical items that you sell or give away.
Learning from personal branding examples
While you’re creating and growing your brand, take a look at people who’ve mastered the art of personal branding. Top industry experts and influencers often have a lot to teach you. You can start by checking out the following five very different brands.
The lesson: be bold.
Not everyone can build a hugely successful personal brand by throwing down the gauntlet, but Tim Ferriss did. He challenges people to redefine success and adopt practices that fit this new, improved vision. Ferriss hosts a podcast, writes books, and has been listed as one of Fortune’s “40 under 40.”
He’s an innovative businessman and an engaging stylist, but his real secret to success lies in the signature boldness that underpins concepts such as the “four-hour workweek.”
The lesson: keep it real.
Author, actress, producer, and all-around mega-star Mindy Kaling has become as well known for her personal brand as for her impressive body of work. She’s one of Hollywood’s major powers, but her brand is the approachable girl next door — the one you might have teased as a kid who now makes more than you ever will.
Kaling always comes off as authentic and relatable, no matter what the project is. She doesn’t hide her insecurities. She capitalizes on them, turning them into bestselling books and hit shows. Her social media accounts contain as much about everyday peeves and triumphs as they do Hollywood glamor.
The lesson: provide value.
Australian fitness guru Kayla Itsines has used social media platforms to build a fitness empire. She uses her accounts to connect with her fans and promote her subscription-based online services.
But Itsines became popular enough to charge for her ebooks, apps, and fitness channel by creating tons of free content. People started to follow her in order to access her Bikini Body Guides. Not even ten years later, she sold her fitness platform to iFit for $400M.
The lesson: build your community.
In March of 2022, fantasy writer Brandon Sanderson shattered Kickstarter records. Throughout the month, he raised over $41M, more than twice the previous record and 41 times his goal. How? He (somehow) wrote four novels in secret (in addition to an already-heavy publishing schedule).
But his success relies on the years spent building his brand as a storyteller. In addition to his novels, Sanderson interacts with his fans on social media platforms, at conventions and other fan events, and through his YouTube channel. When he announced his Kickstarter on YouTube, the video instantly went viral.
And while we’re on the subject of Sanderson and branding, he’s also one of the hosts of the writing podcast Writing Excuses, which has a great tagline: “Fifteen minutes long. Because you’re in a hurry, and we’re not that smart.”
The lesson: put the message first.
Leonardo DiCaprio is one of the highest-paid actors in Hollywood. He earned $25M for 2021’s Don’t Look Up alone.
You’d never know it from his social media accounts. DiCaprio’s personal brand has become inseparable from his work as an environmentalist.
Whether or not you’re an activist, you can take a cue from DiCaprio. Keep your message front and center as you make content decisions and build a coherent brand.
Changing a personal brand
There may come a time when you realize you’ve outgrown your personal brand. Or maybe it never quite fit. It’s okay to change it.
While you don’t want to continually and impulsively change your brand, there’s nothing wrong with intentional, goal-driven rebranding. In fact, not long ago, Constant Contact rebranded to better reflect the way the company’s services have expanded to meet client needs and today, they’re still refining their brand as the marketing platform continues to evolve.
After you’ve created and built a successful brand, take stock every few years. Does it still reflect where you are and what you hope to accomplish? If not, why not? What’s missing?
Ask people familiar with your work to help you audit your brand. When you live in the middle of something, it can be hard to achieve the distance necessary to evaluate it.
Getting started with personal branding
Personal branding doesn’t have to be complicated or intimidating. You already do a lot of it intuitively — you just need to make it more intentional.
Figure out whom you want to influence and the effect you want to have. Craft a consistent style that reuses design elements to build a recognizable brand. Choose a limited number of platforms, and start producing branded content.
As Shakespeare would say, “This above all: to thine own self be true.”
In fact, start being true to yourself right now, this minute. Grab a piece of paper and start listing everything that goes into the delightful whole that is you. Your brand will ignore most of these items, but give yourself some time and space to explore the possibilities. And be a brand, not a bland!
Ready to show off your personal brand? Make it easy. With Constant Contact you can reach out to your admirers, track your campaigns, and launch events. All from one marketing platform. You can also explore small business lessons that can help you expand your reach and boost your business growth.