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Why is Panera Bread on TikTok? Social media makes it easy for consumers to feel connected to the companies they love most. This means the idea of a faceless business is likely on the path to becoming obsolete. Panera understands something more people are beginning to realize: The increased importance of personal branding in modern marketing.
Personal branding has been a significant part of many marketing efforts for years now — ever since Facebook hit it big. However, personal branding has evolved along with the way we interact on the internet. As an entrepreneur who’s worked hard to build his own personal brand, I’ve experienced this evolution firsthand.
One of the biggest changes over the past decade is that personal branding is no longer reserved only for celebrities and household names. Nowadays, if you have access to the internet and a drive to get your name out, you can have a personal brand, which is perfect for intrepid entrepreneurs.
SEO is also no longer the end-all, be-all of marketing. Suppose you’re trying to build a brand around entertainment and multimedia, for example. Social media platforms such as Instagram, Discord, TikTok and Twitter have proven more effective for growing and keeping engaged followers. In other words, while building a successful personal brand is more accessible, it’s also more complex. It requires the right tools for the job and a more, well, personal approach.
Personal branding in action
To better understand what successful personal branding looks like in the entrepreneurial space, let’s look at two notable examples.
Gary Vaynerchuk is one of the first names that come to mind when people think about entrepreneurs who have turned themselves into successful brands. Nearly every entrepreneur knows his name, but not because of specific business dealings. In fact, many would be hard-pressed to name what businesses he’s involved with. His personal brand trumps everything else.
Vaynerchuk’s blunt style has captured people’s attention and provided him with a level of authenticity that’s hard to replicate. But this approach can also be a turnoff. His brand is a good reminder that what works for one person won’t necessarily work for you.
Simon Sinek is a good example of a different approach to the same strategy. He’s an entrepreneur who focuses on creating unique and inspiring content that informs and entertains people. His content comes in a variety of different forms, including podcasts, talks, articles and videos.
Rather than build a personal brand based on his personality, Sinek has chosen to base it on his content. Through the study of human behavior and psychology, Sinek seeks to help other entrepreneurs improve while concurrently amplifying his reputation as an expert in the field.
It’s important to understand that one approach is not necessarily better. But what does leaning into your unique self look like from a branding perspective? In a world where more and more people are crafting their own personal brands, how can you harness the power of your personality to stand out? Let’s look at six ways to do just that.
How to build a personal brand that stands out from the crowd
The truth is that most people start building their personal brands long before they realize that’s what they’re doing. Just the act of creating a LinkedIn profile is the beginning of creating a brand. That’s where I started. Only around the time I was launching my first startup and meeting with potential investors did I realize just how important a strong personal brand was.
So, I began in earnest to become more proactive in my branding. I worked to become a thought leader, which has helped me grow my success. Along the way, I learned some important lessons that I believe anyone can apply to their own approach to personal branding.
1. Settle on a consistent voice that showcases your passion
Feel free to play around with what your brand looks like before choosing a specific direction. But once you make that choice, own it. Decide what topics to position yourself as an authority on and ensure you’re passionate about them. This will let the authenticity flow naturally.
It’s easy when you start building your personal brand to jump on the bandwagon of trendy topics — artificial intelligence (AI), I’m looking at you — but doing so is a mistake. Focus on what you can add to the conversation, not on joining the conversation.
2. Be actionable
I’ve learned that actionable stories and advice perform the best. Everyone has an opinion, but if you share steps that achieve a result, you’ll have a better shot at getting noticed. One example of this is HubSpot. Hubspot offers service solutions for marketing, sales, content management and more. It offers free courses related to its services as part of its marketing strategy so that potential customers are better educated about the industry. This initiative has given HubSpot a lot of favorable brand awareness, and its courses have even become a part of some companies’ internal training curricula.
3. Involve yourself with groups of other thought leaders
I’ve learned that what I share touches some people deeper than expected. But to create things that touch people, I had to find people who could speak to me in the same way. Having great mentors or even just great people around you who are passionate about the same things will help inspire the content you create.
4. Don’t be on a social media platform just to be there
When social media became mainstream, the trend was creating a profile on every possible platform, even if you didn’t find any value in it. While building your personal brand across various channels can help you extend your reach, without a reason to be there, you’re just generating. If you choose to be on a platform, ensure you can deliver content that matches its intended use.
5. Find the time
As an entrepreneur, it can be difficult to fit another thing into your daily schedule. But you have to force yourself to make the time. One trick I use is maintaining an ongoing thought sheet that I add to throughout the month. These are thoughts I have that I may want to write about.
6. Track your reach
If you don’t measure your reach, you won’t know what’s resonating and what isn’t. A wide variety of tools are available to track your readership levels on what you author; make sure to take advantage of them. When tracking your reach, pay close attention to where audience overlap occurs. Avoiding this will help you reach a broader audience.
The scope of branding has transcended the corporate realm. We are entering a digital age where everything you post online mirrors your identity. Take advantage of the digital tools within your reach to tell a cohesive story about who you are, what you stand for, and why you do what you do. More and more consumers are looking for brands and personalities they resonate with — why not let that be you?