Personal branding is often misunderstood.
I recently attended a social media conference featuring the who’s who of A-lister social media personalities. These are all, without exception, smart marketers and savvy self-promoters.
That’s why I was a bit taken aback when I approached one of the A-listers for whom I had great respect and asked why “personal branding” – which he so obviously excels at – was absent from his remarks about social media strategy.
“I don’t want to look like a jerk,” he responded.
Personal branding is not shameless self-promotion
Here’s the first problem that needs to be overcome: Personal branding is often misunderstood as self-promotion.
But personal branding done well is not self-promotion – and certainly not self-promotion done shamelessly.
There is a way to do personal branding that is effective and professional. All the social media A-listers do it, but for some reason they don’t want to talk openly about it. Perhaps that’s because the concept of “personal branding” has been muddied by folks that are not doing it well, people that are shameless self-promoters and nothing more.
Personal branding is about building trust
Old marketing strategies and messaging no longer resonates in this highly personal world of social networks and relationships. It’s not about blasting one message to many recipients through mass media advertising any more. Marketing is now about publishing information that people will want to share among their friends and business connections – person to person – within their social networks.
And this is where personal branding comes in. Of course, people want products and services that work well and address their needs and they expect a service experience that is exceptional. Effective branding and social media won’t magically sell a product or service that does not deliver.
But, assuming two products/services are of comparable quality, people become far more interested in “who” and “why” than they are in “what” and “how”. We make purchasing decisions based on emotional responses and personal connections. The person behind the company that we choose to do business with matters to us. It matters why that person is in this business – is it just to make money or do they have some sort of mission? As Simon Sinek says, “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.”
Personal branding is what practice professionals already do
Practice professionals have very similar businesses, no matter whether they are financial advisors, insurance advisors, accountants, lawyers, management consultants, or executive talent recruiters.
The building block of the practice professional’s business is a person with a subject matter expertise and a network of relationships. The hub at the centre is the professional and the relationships that drive the business are spokes radiating from the hub.
If there is more than one person in the firm, this hub and spoke model is replicated for each “partner”. Some partners may excel at one area of expertise while another may be a better business driver, so adjustments are made for who sells work and who delivers it.
If you’re a practice professional, you are probably already doing personal branding by another name – networking. That’s how you’ve built your business in the first place.
You’ve built a reputation for subject matter expertise by sharing your knowledge with people around you. You’ve built trust by being consistent and transparent in your dealings with people – and by showing your human side. You’ve made close friends out of your best clients because you realize that you reap what you sow in business, as in life.
A thoughtful personal branding effort is one of the best ways you can use social media to promote your professional services business.
Whether you are a one-person shop or a large enterprise, you are missing opportunities to “humanize your brand” if you are not promoting some of the personal brands within your organization.
How to build your personal brand
This recent post by Inc Magazine offers 8 good steps to follow to create your personal brand. That a start.
The Grande Guide to Personal Branding outlines in greater detail some of the reasons why and the basics of how personal branding translates into an effective social media marketing strategy.
So…what experience have you had with personal branding. Does it work or does it make you look like a jerk?