Personal Branding 101: How to Create Your Personal Brand

In the past few years personal branding has been discussed exhaustively throughout the Net. The difference between today and over ten years ago, is the rise of social technologies that have made branding not only more personal, but within reach.

From the corporate brand (BMW), to the product brand (BMW M3 Coupe) and down to the personal brand (real estate agent), branding is a critical component to a customer’s purchasing decision. These days, customer complaints and opinions are online and viewable through a simple search, on either Google or through social networks. There is no hiding anymore and transparency and authenticity are the only means to survive and thrive in this new digital kingdom.

Many people think that personal branding is just for celebrities like Kim Kardashian, yet each and every one of us is a brand. Personal branding, by definition, is the process by which we market ourselves to others. As a brand, we can leverage the same strategies that make these celebrities or corporate brands appeal to others. We can build brand equity just like them.

We can also have just as much presence as a startup and small and mid-sized companies. Social media tools have leveled the playing field and have enabled us to reach incredible heights.

In this post we’ll cover the personal branding process and how you can start to think about what face you want to show to the world and how you want to position yourself for success!

1. Discover your brand

The single biggest mistake people make is that they either brand themselves just for the sake of doing it or that they fail to invest time in learning about what's in their best interests. The key to success, and this isn't revolutionary, is to be compensated based on your passion. In order to find your passion, you need a lot of time to think, some luck and you need to do some research online to figure out what's out there.

Brand discovery is about figuring out what you want to do for the rest of your life, setting goals, writing down a mission, vision and personal brand statement (what you do and who you serve), as well as creating a development plan. Have you ever been called intelligent or humorous by your peers or coworkers? That description is part of your brand, especially if you feel those attributes pertain to you. To know if you've discovered your brand, you need to make this equation equal:

Your self-impression = How people perceive you

Before you enter the next step in the personal branding process, you'll want to select a niche, whereby you can be the master of your domain. For example, Joel Comm has mastered the Google Adsense niche and brands himself using his name, and Brian Solis owns the social media PR niche with his PR 2.0 blog (under his name). When I say domain, I mean an area where there aren't many competitors and literally, your online domain name.

Once you sort this all out, now it's time to create your brand...

2. Create your brand

Now that you know what you want to do and have claimed a niche, at least in your mind, it's time to get it on paper and online. The sum of all the marketing material you should develop for your brand is called a Personal Branding Toolkit.

This kit consists of the following elements that you can use to highlight your brand and allow people to easily view what you're about:

Business Card It doesn't matter if you're a small business owner or CEO; everyone should have their own business card. The card should contain your logo, your personal brand statement (such as Real Estate Expertise by The Shore), as well as your *preferred* contact information.

You can create your own business card and share it through your mobile phone using mydropcard.com or rmbrme.com. On the web, BusinessCard2.com is a great social network for creating and distributing your person business card.

Resume/Cover Letter/References Adjacent These are typical documents that you need for applying for jobs and when you go on interviews (something over 2 million job seekers will be doing as we speak). Just as a job seeker, your Personal Branding Toolkit should consist of documents like these; be it a brochure, tri-fold or branded USB drive, this information is critical to putting your best foot forward.

Be sure to prioritize each document with information custom to the target position. Take your materials online and add social features to make the ultimate social media resume, promoting your personal brand to the world and making it shareable.

A great way for entrepreneurs and small and mid-sized businesses to gather references is to request recommendations on LinkedIn.

RELATED: View Sample Personal Branding Presentation created by PHANTOM POWER Marketing

Portfolio Whether you use a CD, USB, web or print portfolio, it's a great way to showcase the work you've done in the past, which can convince someone of your ability to accomplish the same results for the future. Ideally you’re using your website to showcase your work; but increasingly social networks are incorporating apps that allow you to present samples of your work to those viewing your profile. A great example of this would be to integrate Slideshare into your LinkedIn profile.

RELATED: How to Add Your Slideshares to Your LinkedIn Profile

Blog/Website You need a website and you need to own your businessname.com or yourname.com or a website that aligns with your name in some fashion. Depending on who you are, how much time you have on your hands and if you can accept criticism, you should either start a blog or stick with a static homepage. Those who blog will have a stronger asset than those who don’t because blogs rank higher in search engines and lend more to your expertise and interest areas over time.

RELATED: A Step-by-Step Guide to Building A Successful Blog

LinkedIn Profile A LinkedIn profile is a combination of a resume, cover letter, references document and a moving and living database of your network. Use it to create your own personal advertising, to search for jobs or meet new people.

Facebook Profile Over 2 Billion people have profiles, but almost none of them have branded themselves properly using this medium. Be sure to include a Facebook picture of just you, without any obscene gestures or unnecessary vodka bottles. Also, input your work experience and fill out your profile, while turning on the privacy options that disable the ability for people to tag you in pictures and videos (allowing people to see the ones tagged of you).

RELATED: How to Build Your Own Personal Brand on Facebook

Twitter Profile Your Twitter profile should be consistent with both your Facebook page and LinkedIn profile and company page. You need to use a distinct background, fill out your profile and include a link to either your blog or LinkedIn profile. You can download templates for your Twitter Header image courtesy of our friends at HubSpot (Photoshop skills not included).

Video Resume Adjacent A video resume is similar in concept to "Resume/Cover Letter/References Adjacent" above. While conducting business it may not take the exact form of your standard resume, you should still create a short video should talking about why you are the best to provide a specific service or product. You get about a minute or so to communicate your brand, and once you upload your video to YouTube, you can share the link in a host of ways; you can email it, share it to your social networks, even embed your YouTube video on your website or blog.

RELATED: How to Create a Great YouTube Video

Wardrobe Your personal style is tangible and is extremely important for standing out from the crowd. Select clothing that best represents you because it will be viewable through your pictures/avatars online, as well as when you meet people in reality.

Email Address Don’t overlook your email address as not being a significant part of your toolkit. Most people use email over all social networks and when you connect with someone on a social network, you are notified via email, so get used to it. Your email address poses a great opportunity for your brand.

Beward that free email service providers are often looked down on. It is a first impression that says “I’m not willing to invest in my brand.” The website hosting service you use will offer you a branded email address. “first.last@companyname.com” is always a good naming convention; particularly over info@ or contact@. If your website address is your full name it is ok to use “first@firstlast.com.” If you must go with a free email service provider we recommend you sign up for a gmail account because of the acceptance of Google across the web. For your address, use “businessname@gmail.com” or “firstname.lastname@gmail.com.”

What's next?

After you spend the time on these parts of your personal branding toolkit, it’s time to showcase it to the world, especially your target audience.

RELATED: Creating A Brand Strategy for Your Audience

Don’t be fooled by the myth that if you build it, they will come. Unless you’re the luckiest person on earth, you’ll have to begin marketing your brand.

RELATED: Top 10 Reasons to Outsource Your Marketing

Your Turn

How have you met with success when developing your personal brand? What challenges have you faced? Add to the discussion in the Comments section below.

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