The web service BrandYourself (check it out!), correctly identifies the three pillars of successfully creating a personal brand:
- Building a brand
- Building credibility/audience
- Targeting opportunities
Thankfully, I have a background in marketing, public relations and strategic communication, so I know what I am talking about and can explain each of these pillars.
Building a brand
If you have come and seen me, you may have noticed that I usually begin student meetings with a simple prompt: Tell me about yourself. I meet with a lot of students, so this exercise isn’t just about trying to figure out who you are in a literal sense, but it is a way for me to see who you are in a broader sense. What do you do? What are you passionate about? What are some of your biggest accomplishments? What separates you from every other game designer who comes to see me? Your answer to this prompt is your brand.
Once you have an answer for this, you translate it online. Don’t like being online? Too bad. You need to develop your brand online. This happens through the creation and development of different social media platforms—LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Portfolios, GitHub, Twitch, YouTube, Instagram, etc. Aim to have two personal accounts and two professional-facing accounts.
If you already have accounts, clean them up. Make sure the messaging—the content in your posts—is the same across every platform. While each separate social media platform has a different target audience, it should still feel like it’s coming from a similar mindset or voice. For example, if I was to post about education initiatives on LinkedIn, I should also be using Twitter to engage with others working in higher education or perusing Medium to find the perfect articles to share on Facebook.
Let your skills, abilities and accomplishments do the talking. Do you know how I am credible? I taught Business and Professional Communication at Texas Tech University. I have won awards for research in persuasion. A national organization uses my research. I know what I am talking about, so I engage with other like-minded people in an authentic and respectful way, use my insights and add to the ongoing conversation. Maybe you aren’t credible in that same way yet. Find another way to stand out. Clearly, you’re passionate about something. Look at the current landscape and find something that hasn’t been done yet.
Building your audience can be difficult. There is no right way to go about it, but there is a wrong to do it. Do not, under any circumstance, buy followers! I will hunt you down and @ you until the cows come home. In the meantime, build your followers organically by adding comments, reaching out to influencers or gatekeepers and staying active online (post multiple times a week). The best thing to do? Watch how other people actively engage with others in a thoughtful way.
Once you have built up your profiles, capitalized on your credibility and found a target audience, you can proactively look for opportunities to increase your following. This will look different for everyone, but as an example, I will share with you something I did.
I was surfing the web one day and came across Beautiful.AI, a presentation software startup. I used their product and decided to tweet at them. After a few tweets back and forth, I shared their product with others. Along the way, I made sure to engage with them on a regular basis. This then turned into an opportunity to beta test new products and services. Boom. That’s all it is. I noticed a company that had a good product, and I engaged with them on social media. I now get retweeted by them regularly (helps my brand), and I share their product with others (helps their brand). Win-win.