Be Authentic when building your personal brand
I have one of the most unique job descriptions of anyone I know. At work, I’m in charge of helping employees build their personal brand. I talk to them about their social media accounts and how to leverage those. I talk about the importance of creating meaningful content on topics they know a lot about. Most importantly though, I stress the importance of being human. Authentic is a popular buzzword these days, but I feel that “being human” makes more sense.
Be yourself before anything else
Remaining authentic and human is one of the biggest struggles to building your brand that many of us miss when we start building a strategy. When I ask folks what they want to be known for, their mind instantly flashes to one of their favorite social media accounts.
A good analogy for this would be asking someone who loves to sing what they want the world to remember them for. If they’re a folk-type artist, they might flash an image of Johnny Cash standing in Folsom Prison singing the story A Boy Named Sue. They might answer that question, “I want to inspire people with the stories I sing about”.
The problem with thinking this way is you limit yourself. If you let inspiration become imitation, you lose who you are in the process. You start using their words instead of your own. It’s a very short-term plan that leads to feeling lonely. If you’re imitating what someone else is doing, you place all of your success in the hands of a made up character on the stage of social media. Before long, you’re swimming in self-doubt and imposter syndrome.
Tips for staying true to yourself
Know what you stand for.
It’s more than a catchy song title. Knowing what you’re truly passionate about and giving yourself permission to be you is the most important part of building your brand.
When I started really thinking about what my brand would be, one of the topics I was passionate about was Jeeps. I owned a Jeep, I spent lots of time replacing stuff on it and just tinkering. I would share articles about new parts and updates I was making to my Jeep.
The problem was when someone would ask me detailed questions about the modifications I was making, I couldn’t give them an answer. I had no idea what gear ratio I ran, I just liked adding lights and burly brushguards to my Jeep. Well, once I added a few parts, I didn’t have any new content to keep me active in the Jeep community. I realized. I’m not an expert in Jeeps. I just like Jeeps. To steal a word from my 7th grade self – I was a poser.
I looked at my brand topics and decided to talk about pop culture instead, specifically life-long love for a movie called Star Wars. That was a topic I could blog about for years. I could talk about the movies, the cartoon series, the comics, video games, costumes, toys, you get the idea. The world might know me from a viral video where you assume I’m the heavily-tattooed dad talking to his son. I’m a big guy with tattoos from my neck down. Would the world accept me as the basic dad that loves talking about small business, my family, and my love of a 30 year old movie?
Yes, they would.
The best advice I can give you about building your brand is to be consistent. Pick two or three things you’re passionate about and more importantly, topics you are already an expert in. Then, share articles about those topics and tell your followers why you’re sharing it. Give an example of why you agree or disagree with an article you’re sharing.
When you’re building your brand, it’s a great idea to find other people in the same community and read their articles. If those articles inspired you, share them. Tag the author in your tweet and tell your followers why you’re sharing it.
This aligns you with an established expert in your community and gives you instant credibility or authority. Be consistent and share a few times a week. When someone comments, likes, or follows you – engage with them.
This is that human part we talked about before. Like and reply to comments on your posts and use a conversational tone when you do it. If you try to act too professional, you’ll sound coached and robotic. Basically, the opposite of human. So be yourself and that means simply, reply with your heart.
What’s better than sharing articles to build your brand? Writing your own so others can share them. This is where being real with yourself about your brand comes into play. If you want to propel your brand forward, than sharing your own long-form content is your best play.
Sit down with a piece of paper and start listing off article ideas that you’re confident sharing. I started off my first blog post telling my personal Star Wars story. I shared how my mom took me to see the movie in theaters when I was five years old. I talked about how scared I was sitting in the movie theater, (I’d never been to a movie before and this was 1977 so the movie screen was behind a curtain). I shared how I went home and started drawing space ships and robots, and how 30 years later, I still love the memories of growing up a Star Wars kid.
I wrote about how I felt, what it smelled like in the theater (again, 1977 so adults smoked cigarettes in the theater back then), and the feeling of absolute wonder when the curtains pulled back and that 20th Century logo appeared on the screen and those drums started playing.
I could write about those things because I experienced it. The other thing that blog post did was help others who grew up in the 70s & 80s reminisce about their own experience and made my article more meaningful to them. By sharing my story, I was showing a community that I was part of the gang.
So, regardless of what your personal brand topics are, share from the heart and you’ll go from feeling like an outsider to an active contributor to a topic you’re legitimately passionate about.