We’ve already covered how to build a personal brand vision or plan and how to define your target audience. It’s high time we talk about making your plan actually work. Of course, we start from the basics – building the brand you envisioned.
Just like any other brand, you must acquire a number of things that will communicate your brand. They are called branding assets. These include various things like a website, a blog, a podcast, a Twitter handle, a LinkedIn profile, or even a simple but unique username you use across the world wide web. There are also traditional, tangible assets like business cards and newsletters.
In this third part of our seven-article series on personal branding, we will talk about how to secure, develop, and use these assets.
Building Your Social Circles
At this point, I would like to assume that you have already figured out who to target (those who pay you, those who influence those who pay you, and your supporters), and that you somehow have a clear vision of who and what they are – including their motivations and pains.
Now, what concerns you is probably this question: Aside from directly reaching out to them, what other ways can I explore to connect with them?
The answer to that, according to the big personalities of marketing and personal branding like James Schramko, Neil Patel, and Aaron Agius, is simple and challenging: by building your own social communities.
What are these communities exactly? For starters, you have Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and LinkedIn. These aren’t exactly “communities” until you create a following – a significant number of individuals who connect with and engage you.
Just like any other relationship, it’s built on value, trust, and reciprocity. Having said so, there are many ways to nurture communities. These include podcasting, blogging, email marketing, and regular updates on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, whatever the case may be.
In order for you to successfully build your social communities, you will need to think of a few basic things like your social identity – your username, your URLS, and other online assets that point to you and your personal brand.
Step 1: Choose a unique social username.
Your social username is like your fingerprint, it should be unique so it points to one direction only – you. For individuals with more common or popular names, securing a sui generis username will be difficult. Lucky me, I guess. How about you?
Anyway, there are tools that might help you check if the username you are thinking of using has already been taken or if someone else is using it already.
The first is knowem. You can use these to search for how your username is being used online. The tool will scour the internet for social media profiles, domain names, and even USPTO trademark database. The other one is NameChk. This tool is similar to KnowEm.
Your goal: Check if your full name and your desired username are available on the biggest social networking sites.
After checking for your username’s availability, claim it. Use a uniform full name and username across the biggest social networking sites – from your Facebook URL extension, Twitter handle, Instagram username, LinkedIn URL, and your personal website among others.
Tip: Keep your usernames short (when you can’t use your full regular name). Shorter names are easier to remember and to type. Keep it unique, too. Unique usernames stand out.
Step 2: Focus on the most important social profiles.
If you tried searching for your username in KnowEm and NameChk, you’ll notice that there are hundred of social networks and communities on the web. While you may secure ALL available usernames across all social networking profiles, it’s wiser to secure them individually starting with the most important first.
Again, revisit your brand vision and your target audience their respective persona outline. Know where they are most likely lurking.
For professionals, LinkedIn is a good place to start. It’s the biggest community of professionals at present, and it is growing pretty fast. If your branding mission is focused on improving job standing, or if you are looking for business clients, then LinkedIn is the best place to start.
Twitter and Facebook are amongst the biggest social media channels you can utilize. But depending on the kind of value you want to share, choose the best channel to use. Others prefer videos as the vehicle of their personal brand. For this, YouTube is your best option. Of course, you will use your Facebook and your Twitter, too, to promote whatever content you have in YouTube or in any other platform you use. Why? Well, everyone’s basically on Facebook and Twitter.
Your Digital Address: Your Professional Website
Your social communities are important, but your personal website is much much more important. With your own website, you own your content, and you control your platform. Your social communities will serve as your outlets, but your personal website will be the fountain of your value.
Think of your online personal brand strategy like a large tree. The trunk of the tree is the strongest. It’s the center of your entire strategy. The tree trunk is your personal website. You can control the tree. You can nurture it and make sure it’s strong for a long time. – Neil Patel
Building a professional website may sound intimidating. But it’s not really that complicated. We’ll walk you through the process.
Step 1: Getting Domain and A Host
Your domain is your address on the world wide web. If your house is at 297 Valdemoro Street, Las Pinas City, Philippines, your www.yourawesomename.com is your address online. It’s where internet users can find you.
Tip: Hosting service providers like BlueHost and HostGator also offer domain registration on top of their hosting services. You can register your domain and host your website through a single service provider.
Your host, on the other hand, is the keeper or server of all the data you put on your website – think of them as your car park or a storage apartment. BlueHost and HostGator are amongst the popular web hosting providers.
When choosing a domain, choose a domain closest to your full name. People trust professional websites with domains similar to your full name more. Go with a .com as it is the most recognized top-level domain or domain suffix.
If your preferred domain name is already taken, you can try to use different suffixes like .co or .net (or .ph if you are here in the Philippines). You may try to buy out the domain name you desire from the original owner. This won’t be difficult if the domain is not being used and is only parked on a server without any website information.
Tip: Secure domain names similar to your primary domain. For example, you may secure slyejoyserrano.net, and redirect it to slyejoyserrano.com. This will help you secure your brand especially if your name is a popular name.
Step 2: Choose a Content Management System
You don’t have to build a website from scratch (like code your way up ‘till you’re satisfied with how it looks). You can use content management systems like Drupal, WordPress.org, and Joomla among others. These are user-friendly content management systems and require no-to-basic coding skills.
Step 3: Download and Install Your CMS (WordPress)
Of all the CMS I mentioned, WordPress is the most popular, most used content management system (CMS) in the world. It’s a vast community of developers and users. A number of top sites now use WordPress. It’s the best CMS for a professional or personal website like the one we intend to build.
So here’s what you need to do: Once you’ve secured your domain and website host, download WordPress and install it on your website host. Most web hosts have a 1-click setup for WordPress, so installing it requires no coding skills or knowledge – basically not a rocket science. You can download WordPress for free. Your domain, however, will cost you around 12 dollars per year. Your hosting will cost about 100 dollars per year, too.
Step 4: Customizing Your WordPress Website
Content may be King, but the design of your website is the Queen. Most of the time, we judge the credibility of a website just by the way it looks and how convenient it is to navigate the site. So, plan the information architecture of your website and what goes on it.
You can hire a professional copywriter to write a compelling copy for you, or if you are confident you can do it yourself, then do so.
Basically, there are three levels that you can choose from for the design of your website:
- Free Theme
- Paid Theme
- Custom Design/Theme
As said, WordPress is a vast community of developers and WordPress users. This vast community provides a good number of free themes you can use to customize your website.
With a free theme, the options to customize your website is limited but it will work just fine – you get all the basic functionalities. You can customize a free theme with professional photos of yourself.
Paid themes generally cost around $50 to $100. They are more flexible, with more functionality and customization options. They are upgraded periodically by its providers or developers to enhance their security features and other things. Paid themes are easy to use. If you have limited coding knowledge or skills, paid themes also come with free assistance from their developers.
A custom theme, on the other hand, is a theme made for you by a professional website designer and developer. They will build your website from scratch. With a custom theme, you have all the control in regard to your website’s design and information architecture. Of course, that will require close coordination with your website designer and perhaps, your copywriter.
A custom theme is the most desirable way to go. But it might be a little costly. Most people use the free themes for a while, then invest in more custom designs as time goes by.
Step 5: Add Content
Before drafting your website copy (the content of your homepage, and the other pages), think about your brand vision once again. What do you want a brand new visitor to the homepage of your website know about you? Think of your target audience – their motivation, their pains, their wants. Now, think about what you want them to know once to land on your website in just a second or so.
Remember that you are using your professional website to communicate your brand and broadcast your value to a target audience. So, the following are the essential contents every new visitor should see in your homepage (the most important part of your website):
Your professional photo. People need to see your face in your professional website. The purpose of a personal brand is for people to associate something (whatever value proposition you intend to get across) to you – and your face is the best representation of yourself. By professional, you know this means you have to wear something nice. Go with standard colors and styles with the basics.
Your name, your title, your description, and your tagline. For obvious reasons, you need to indicate your name. Also, you have to include what you do, and you can be creative in stating that which you do. One note with titles, description, and taglines: you can get creative, but be aware of the fact that you don’t want to confuse people. Keep it short and simple.
Your “About Me” or “About” Page or Section. There are two basic ways by which you can organize content on your website: the page-less and the paged website. A pageless website is a single page website, and this one page contains all the information (divided into sections in a single page) a visitor needs to know. They just have to scroll up and down the page. A paged design, on the other hand, includes a number of pages a visitor can only access if they click on these pages respective links in the navigation menu usually located at the top ribbon of the website.
For both kind of setup, be sure to include an “About” page where you can tell your story in a more comprehensive manner. Here’s an example of a pageless website with a simple yet compelling “About Me” page or section:
A “Contact Page”. A contact form on the homepage is key. Once you lure people in, your goal is to interest them and get them to contact you with potential opportunities. So, have it in your website. Include a professional email address in the contact list, and if you are maintaining a private office, you may want to include your address.
Build Your Thought Leadership Through A Blog
WordPress as a content management system (CMS) also has a blogging functionality. It’s easy to compose a blog post and customize it. But what’s the use of a blog exactly?
A blog is your outlet for fresh, relevant content that might appeal to your target audience. Through a blog, you can address your target audience’s motivations, pains, and needs – the best way to establish a connection. You can talk about many topics such as your take on recent industry trends, your comment on a relevant article, or you can publish a case study on how you’ve helped people in the past (and send a message of how you will help others in the future).
You can promote your blog in your other social communities (e.g. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google Plus among others).
Step 1: Build a Blogging Strategy
Your blogging or content strategy should address simple questions – questions like “what are my target audience’s problems?”, “what can I do to help?”, and “what are my target audience’s questions?”
Research on what troubles your target audience. Think about what pains them, and the questions they are asking (Quora is a good place to start looking for questions your target audience might be asking). So, on your blog, you provide the answers to these questions.
Opinionated or insightful blog posts are more powerful and tend to attract more visitors. Keep yourself abreast with the latest news in your industry and provide some insight into current industry events. You can also interview industry influencers. Most people are open to being interviewed for blogs especially if they have their own blog. Reach out to other bloggers and reach out to influencers (i.e. established industry writers, consultants, journalists, and executives among others).
Step 2: Promoting Your Content
There are various ways to promote your content – thru social media, thru email, or thru other means of content marketing, such as content syndication and guest posting.
There are high-profile websites that allow contributors to syndicate their blog posts. You may write a simple summary of your original blog post and include a link back to your website, or you may share your blog post in full – this approach is called content syndication.
Editors and social media managers of this high-profiles websites would share your post in their own social media communities, too. An example of this kind of website is Business2Community.
Content syndication is mostly about bringing traffic back to the original source of the content, and, for purposes of personal branding, about influencing other influencers to take your message and get to know you and your value. You are providing information right where your target audience is spending time.
You and Your Other Offline Assets
People in the olden days don’t have the convenience of the internet and the world wide web. Personal branding back then requires a lot of legwork and “offline” assets. But it doesn’t mean that the old ways will not work today.
A business card is a traditional personal branding asset that still works today. You will never know when and where the next opportunity to expand your network will come so better be ready than sorry when it comes. Having a business card handy proves beneficial when you unexpectedly meet someone of value to your career or business.
And lastly, you yourself is the ultimate vehicle of your personal brand. So, stay healthy and stay personable. You have to always look credible, approachable and healthy.
Body language expert Mark Bowden says that according to evolutionary psychology, there are basically three things that come to mind when we meet a new individual and this happens subconsciously: Is this person a possible sex partner, an enemy, or a friend? So, be sure to send the right signals to let people know you fit the “friend” category.
Next week, we will talk about to reaching more audiences for your brand. So, stay tuned. Ciao!