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How to build a personal brand on social media

By Will Stevens - May 26, 2018

Social media is an excellent way to connect with potential customers and clients. But don’t expect people to pay attention to you just because you’ve got a Twitter account of Facebook profile. People are only going to pay attention to you if you provide something of value to them such as tips, advice or information that they can’t get from elsewhere.

This is where building a personal brand comes in. If you build your personal social media brand in the right way, you’ll become a recognised subject expert and people will interact with you as a result. Of course, this something that’s easy to aspire to, but hard to achieve. In this guide, we’ll look at how you can go about building a successful personal brand. But first, we’ll look at if building a personal brand is right for you.

A personal brand on social vs a business brand on social

Although we’ll mainly be focusing on personal branding, we also need to have a quick discussion about the difference between building a personal brand on social media and a business brand on social media.

The biggest difference is obvious – a personal brand is about you and a business brand is about your business. As straightforward as this may seem, the distinction has a significant impact on which form of branding building is going to be right for you.

Put simply, if you’re running an ecommerce business then you’re probably going to want to build a social media brand based around your business. Why? Well, in most cases, people won’t be doing business with you directly, so you want people to be familiar with things like your logo and your corporate tone of voice rather than what you look like and any tips you may have.

Conversely, if you’re running a consultancy business and you’ll be working with clients directly, then you’ll want to build a personal brand. That familiarity between you and potential customers will help you grow your business.

Of course, in reality, it’s not as simple as that. For example, someone selling handcrafted products through an ecommerce website might decide to focus on building a personal brand to help emphasise the bespoke nature of their goods.

You might even decide to have two separate social media presences – one that focuses on the business brand and one that focuses on your personal brand. Although there are many successful examples of this happening, bear in mind that it’s bigger companies with dedicated social media teams that tend to do it best. A social media team can focus on the business side of things, leaving high-profile individuals within the company to build their own personal brands.

So if you’re in the position of having to do everything yourself, focus on one or the other. If you try both at the same time, you’ll dilute your efforts and be less likely to succeed.


The benefits of a personal brand on social media

We’ve already hinted at the benefits in the previous section, but it makes sense to take a closer look at them.

Familiarity – One of the aims of branding is to “warm” people to a company or, in this case, you as a person. The idea is people will be more willing to do business with someone they’ve already heard of, especially if they’ve heard of that person in a positive way.

Reach – Your potential reach on social media is huge. In fact, if you get it right you can even extend your reach beyond social by gathering links and mentions on major websites.

Lead generation – This is probably the biggest benefit of a personal brand on social media, but it’s also the thing that takes most work to achieve. But yes, a personal brand can lead directly to sales.

None of these benefits will just happen overnight, but with work you can build something that will provide long-term benefits for you and your business.

Where should you build your personal brand?

Which social network you choose for building your personal brand will, in part, depend on the nature of your business. We have a comprehensive guide on how to choose the right social network for your business here, but we’ll cover the major networks briefly in this guide.

Note that you’ll probably only have the time to give one or two of these networks your full attention, and you’ll need to give them your full attention in order to succeed.

Facebook – Although it’s seen as something of an all-rounder, Facebook isn’t at the front of the pack when it comes to personal branding. This is perhaps because it lacks the focus of LinkedIn, and the ability to easily interact with key influencers offered by Twitter. Don’t dismiss it out of hand though. A successful Facebook page can be a great place to interact with potential customers.

Twitter – Another all-rounder, but the fact you can easily follow and engage with influencers in the same niche as you makes it a good place to build a personal brand. We’ll talk more about why influencers are important later in the guide.

LinkedIn – It may be more niche that Facebook and Twitter, but if you’re a consultant looking to build a personal brand then niche is what you want. On the downside, it’s hard to build connections through LinkedIn as that element is focused on real-world relationships.

Instagram – You can build a personal brand on Instagram but it’s not easy and it’s not for everyone. Consider it if you’re running a photography business, but for most people it won’t be worth the effort.

Pinterest – This will likely be the go-to social network for you if you want build a personal brand relating to craft, handmade products or similar items.

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How do you build your personal brand?

Once you’ve chosen the social network(s) you’ll be using and created your account/profile the real work can begin. Building a personal brand isn’t easy and there’s no magic formula for success, but these tips should guide you in the right direction.

1. Define your goals – What do you want to get out of your personal brand? The right goal can help you head in the right direction. Focus on things that matter for your business, such as leads generated, not vanity metrics, such as number of followers. Also remember to pick a realistic timescale for your goal. Once you understand what you want to achieve, you’ll be able to make sure you’re heading towards that goal.

2. Develop a social media and content strategy – What will you be talking about via social media and when? You need to develop a coherent strategy focused on your areas of expertise and then put it into action. You’ll also need a content strategy for your website. Why? Well if the ultimate aim of your personal brand is to drive leads, you’re probably going to have to get them to visit your site sooner or later and one of the best ways to do that is by creating quality content that people want to read and share. Your social media strategy and content strategy should go hand in hand. You’ll also need to decide on a tone of voice and stick to it. Your social media presence might not have to be all business all the time, but oversharing or coming off as unprofessional will damage your reputation. Remember though, your big selling point when creating a personal brand will be what you have to offer as an individual. Your best content will be based on your experiences, your knowledge and your expertise. Draft your strategy with this in mind.

3. Develop a social media plan – Your social media strategy will detail what you should be doing, your social media plan will detail when you should be doing it. At the very least you’ll want a calendar detailing what you’ll be publishing on social media and when. This will be a mix of your own content and content from other authoritative sources. Also include dates of industry-specific events and occasions. You don’t have to plan every social media action word for word months in advance, but a plan will help you stick to your strategy. If you need help developing a social media strategy and plan we’ve linked to a webinar at the end of this article which covers this and a range of other topics.

4. Make sure you’re ready to reap the benefits – If a piece of content goes viral, do you have everything in place to capture leads? If not, all your hard work has been for nothing. At the very least, add an email capture form to your website’s content pages so you can keep in touch with people who are interested in what you do. You can take a free course to learn everything you need to know about email marketing here.

5. Start talking even though no one is listening – People are not going to engage with you on social media if there’s nothing to engage with, so start posting content even if your followers or friends count is zero. People want to see evidence that you’re worth engaging with before they engage.

6. Identify influencers – Influencers will play a key part in building a personal brand. Essentially, influencers are people who have already built up the audience you’re trying to reach. Build a list of people who hold this position and get ready to impress them.

7. Engage with influencers – This is probably easiest to do on a platform like Twitter as contacting strangers is not only simple, but part and parcel of the platform. If you’re focusing on LinkedIn, your efforts are probably going to have to be more real-world based and involve getting an introduction or meeting face to face at a conference. Overall though, your influencer engagement efforts should be focused on helping the people you want to engage with solve a problem they’re facing. If you help them, they’ll be more likely to help you. You can learn more about identifying and engaging influencers in this guide.

8. Experiment and refine – Like anything in business, you won’t stumble on the perfect way to build your social media strategy first time around. Keep returning to the key elements outlined above and try something new. Have you been creating the right kind of content? If not, experiment. Are you targeting the right influencers? If not, create a new list. Find out what works and what doesn’t. Keep refining your technique.

9. Don’t give up – Building a personal brand on social media takes time and effort. Yes, you might want to change direction at some point, but the key is to keep going.

More about content

We touched briefly on content in the section above, but it deserves a closer look. You’ll need to create content on your own website for two reasons – the first is that some social networks have limited space for you to get your message across, the second is that getting people to your website is the best place to generate leads. After all, leads are really the return you want from your personal branding efforts.

Exactly what content you create will depend on the nature of your business, but it will need to sit in the sweet spot between what’s interesting to your potential customers and what you’re an expert in. You’ll also need to ensure it offers something uniquely valuable. You can learn more about creating good content in these guides. This first one is focused on creating a quality blog, while this guide is focused on alternatives to blogging. You can also take a free course on blogging and content marketing here.


Building your brand through advertising

Although it’s still possible to build a social media presence organically, it’s a lot harder than it used to be. If you’re using Twitter or Facebook, then you’re probably going to have to spend a bit of money. On Twitter especially, a targeted ad campaign can help you get the attention of influencers. You can read about how to use Twitter advertising to grow your followers in this article by Larry Kim. But if you’re serious about social media advertising, we advise taking our free course on the subject.

Put simply though, the key to good social media advertising is targeting your best content at the right people.

Tracking and measuring success

You also need to track and monitor your success on social media. Although most social media platforms provide analytics that let you see how well you’re doing on the platform in question, you also need to know how many visitors each social network is sending to your site and how many leads are resulting from that. The best way to do that is through Google Analytics. You can read our guide to getting started with Google Analytics here.

Social media automation

Finally, you may find that you want to automate some parts of the social media process. Done correctly social media automation can help you stick to your social media plan, even if you’re too busy to post things yourself. You can learn more about social media automation in this guide.

Still need more?

There’s a lot to take in here, and if you’re still struggling with the concepts you might want to check out our webinar How to use social media in your marketing mix.