A man with text on his shirt that says, "You are your own brand"
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Some folks don’t like the term personal brand, as it can sound "salesly" and maybe even a little disingenuous. But in actuality, you already have a personal brand, and your company relies on the personal brands within it far more than you realize.

What Is A Personal Brand?

The traditional definition of "personal branding" goes a little something like this: the act of marketing yourself and your career as a brand. And yet, personal branding is so much more than just marketing yourself. In order to free the phrase from its semantic shackles, let’s give it another name, Your reputation or online presence.

Nobody would object to the notion of improving his or her reputation in the industry they want to thrive in. And indeed, your personal brand is exactly, that. Your reputation.

As Nicolas Cole, Founder and Editor-In-Chief of Digital Press recently remarked in an Inc. publication, “By 2020, if you don't have a personal brand online, people aren't going to work with you.” While that may be slightly hyperbolic, the essence of what Cole says is undoubtedly true. In fact, when brand messages are shared by employees on social media, they get 561 percent more reach than the same messages shared by the brand’s social media channels.

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Personal Brand Examples

Some notable personal brands in the digital marketing scene include Neil Patel, the digital marketing expert with a blog, regular LinkedIn and YouTube videos, as well as a daily podcast. Richard Branson, the Founder of Virgin Group, is another, albeit extreme example of a personal brand. He regularly appears in interviews, partakes in TV advertising shoots, refreshes his social media accounts and makes public appearances — all to bolster his own personal brand, as well as his company’s.

And yet, despite these high-flying examples, you don’t have to go to such lengths to create a strong personal brand. “Your personal brand is more important now than it ever was before — but that’s not to say that this means you have to aim to become an influencer, or whatever the latest buzzword on social media happens to be,” says Rob Mead, Head of Marketing at London-based Gnatta.

In other words, you don’t have to become famous, or even micro-famous within your niche, to become a personal brand. Your personal brand just has to exist and it in the technology sector it probably does, all you need to do is polish it. Here are a few ways, our experts offer, for employees and founders alike to sharpen and manage their personal brands.

1. Get Your Social Media Profiles In Order

While this often seems like a no-brainer, you may be surprised by the things you find attached to your profile. You’ll want to ensure that you get your LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter pages in order. Plus any other social networks you’re using to promote your yourself or your content. This includes deleting unprofessional images and videos from your Facebook profile, cleaning up distasteful comments on Instagram and keeping an updated and active LinkedIn profile. “Be cautious about posts that showcase partying, [or the like]. It will only work against you. We are living in a very sensitive climate and online tone can easily be misinterpreted.,” says Adam Alson, Founder of NYC-based DoubleDown.Digital

2. Understand Your Niche and Audience

Part of building your personal brand involves knowing what you do well and who you want to engage with. With these two items in hand, you can begin to understand how what you share and what you comment on can help the people in your niche. Now combine this insight with what you do well and there is an opportunity to help inform and build your online presence in a positive way. "Define your target audience — and arm yourself with intelligence about what drives them to take action," says Stacey Cohen, President & CEO at Co-Communications, Inc.

3. Post Content Consistently

Your personal brand is essentially made up of the content you create and share, from your LinkedIn updates to your website’s blog posts. According to Alson, you should share content regularly, but only when it aligns with your personality and company. “Social media handles have replaced business cards, so your accounts should reflect the personal brand you hope to project to your target audience. Are you artsy? Are you funny? What are you passionate about? Your posts should reflect your personality,” says Alson.

Another solid tactic offered is finding content that aligns with your communities needs and share and discuss it. “Think about your audience and what interests them and then provide content they would actually want to see,” says Alson.

Consistency is a must, as it helps ensure you're top-of-mind for everybody in your niche. "The key to your personal brand is consistency,” says Mead.

4. Embrace Video Content

Video content — particularly live video content — is arguably the best medium for conveying your messaging around building your career or company as a personal brand. It's also a great way to let your personality and passion shine,  “Video is emerging as an extremely popular posting format,” says Alson. He advises taking short snippets of video for Instagram stories which can provide a window into who you are and what makes you stand out from the toher people in your niche. "That allows you to experiment to see what connects with your audience. Your clothing, food choices, tone of your voice, and physical setting all sets the tone for your brand,” he says.

5. Network, Network, Network

You don’t just want followers on Twitter or connections on LinkedIn. You want acquaintances who are engaged and informed about your professional journey. Alson once again chimed in with his advice on how to attain such acquaintances to boost your personal brand. “Be sure to engage on posts of other accounts with likes and comments.  Ask questions that reflect you are an out-of-the-box thinker who pays attention to what is happening with their accounts,” he says. There are also LinkedIn and Google Groups, as well as forums every where you go. Add your two cents, help solve a problem, provide interesting research or data, these are all great ways to build engagement.

Alson added that, over time, people in your niche will start to recognize your account and your name, which is again, why consistency is so important.

6. Be Authentic

Last but certainly not least, is authenticity. Your personal brand shouldn’t be fun or exciting by design — it should be real. It should just be you, in your normal setting, talking about what’s important to you and your development. Sure, you should present that content in a friendly and approachable way, but you should never deviate from being authentically you. Otherwise, you risk looking fake and "salesly" says Mead. “At the end of the day, your personal brand is the most important thing you own. If you are not comfortable with it, you’ll never achieve the sincerity and self-awareness which is still a key factor in every relationship, both personal and professional,” he says.

How are you planning on boosting your personal brand in 2018?