These days, when clients or employers are looking to fill a role or contract your services, it’s important to have a strong personal brand. The world depends on you making an impact long ahead of ever meeting with clients or employers. In such cases, prospective clients and managers turn to platforms like Instagram, LinkedIn, Fiverr, TikTok, Twitter, or a constellation of other online platforms to get a sense of who you are. Building such a deep presence can seem like a challenge; however, it’s not as daunting of a journey as it might seem. That said, what platforms do you need to invest in to reach people and let them understand you or your services? How can you turn your personal story into a virtuous circle?
The first step is creating a website. It doesn’t have to be a complicated affair, either, just a few pages will do. It may seem blindingly obvious, but having a website with a blog that you regularly update really is the first step in defining yourself—before the internet defines who you are to the world. Writing regular blog posts (or uploading videos to YouTube) is an excellent means of exposing your interests and skills as a subject matter expert. Admittedly, it can be hard to keep yourself honest about committing to doing regular posts, but creating a communication schedule of articles, posts, emails, and links to your external social media accounts is the best way to ensure consistency, and consistency is success here.
That accomplished, there’s an old aphorism that “knowing 10,000 things isn’t as valuable as knowing 10,000 people.” As you are trying to build a virtuous circle, you should consider that both are equally important to you right now. You want to eventually become what’s called a ‘domain authority,’ a subject matter expert, a trusted source. As you schedule and build out your content plan, you can continually generate topics that your viewers want to learn more about. Pay attention to your analytics. You will want to optimize for SEO. Look for the keywords your users are entering into their searches and how they arrived at your site. This will be important later when you create blog posts, special landing pages, or email campaigns appealing to the type of reader you want to attract.
So, where are those readers? No surprise here, but even if you build it, they may not come…at least not right away. If you want to appeal to a large number of potential followers, you need to have your lures dangling in the water. If you’re a graphic artist, photographer, or hairstylist, you need to be on Instagram, for example, because what you do is visual and that platform strongly aligns with visual storytelling opportunities. Taking the example further, consider also doing TikTok videos of you doing your work in a 30 second to a minute-long video format. Keep the content popping and make sure that in your bio, you point viewers to your personal website for more info on how to get in touch.
It might be worth taking a moment to discuss platform identity. What social media platform you choose to utilize can seriously impact how well you perform in building a serious online presence. Take Facebook, for example: Facebook has been colonized by the Geritol generation. Grandmas, cat memes, and Russian troll-bots abound. It’s like an intellectual Zombieland. Posting here is pointless. Avoid. Likewise, Twitter is home to about a half-a-dozen blue-checked journalists, millions of Edge-lords doxxing each other and screaming into the inky black digital void, and oh yeah, like, a billion more fake Russian troll-bots. Again pointless. See a pattern emerging?
This is not to dissuade you from going social, but as Chairman Mao said, “take the countryside first.” As you start out, building up your brand equity matters more than where you post. Facebook or Google ads are expensive for a startup brand-building operation. Instead, take the smaller, easier targets first. LinkedIn, if you’re so inclined, can drive traffic to your operation by cross-posting articles between LI and your website. If you have been putting in the work (as mentioned above), a blog that you regularly post to, set up a keyword-rich target dense SEO intro, with an eye-catching photo, and then, link back to your own site can be quite fruitful. Once there, give the reader something useful and point them towards signing up for your daily, weekly, or monthly newsletter. You get a new user and an opportunity to advance your personal brand with this person.
Another low-barrier-to-entry platform (for now) is TikTok. Alex Fasulo is an oft-cited Tik-Toker, who has gained publicity for having made $1+million dollars on the Fiverr platform. She began promoting her own personal brand online via TikTok and regularly posts short videos giving freelancing tips. Recently, again reinforcing her own personal brand identity, she’s broken into podcasting, public speaking, and YouTube. She drives her listeners and viewers to her website where they can get more information about her story and her writing services, along with her own series of tutorial videos on how to break out in the freelancing marketplace. A virtuous circle indeed.
Engage in guerilla marketing whenever you can. Magazines and newspapers are ravenous for content…so why not give it to them? For example, Forbes has a link on its website encouraging people with interesting stories, people with expert knowledge, informed people to serve as quotable experts on a set of given topics. You don’t have to be an expert in the microeconomic trends of Tanzanian mining policy, but you can just be a quotable expert advisor of a small business sector. And there are dozens of publications looking for quotable people, among them are The New York Times, Newsweek, Modern Professional (that’s us), and many others. It’s a great way to attract eyeballs, drive traffic to your content, and enhance your personal brand.
To succeed in building a strong personal brand, you’ll need to be as clever as you are smart. Build your web presence to be informative, not just as a showpiece of technology, but as a solid platform, you can easily expand when you need to. Give your readers a reason to show up and engage with regular, high-quality, keyword-dense, SEO-optimized content. Create a regular posting schedule, hire a writer if you need to, and make sure you’re paying attention to what people are reading and reacting to. Push your boundaries outwards to encompass new digital platforms, but be wary at the notion of paying for clicks. Global platforms like Facebook and Twitter are neither cheap, nor easy to set up, and they deliver subpar results without expert assistance. Moreover, you can attract negative attention. Instead, focus on small social media platforms and mainstream media that you can control and drive your narrative forward.