How to Build a Personal Brand
Welcome back to another episode with Erik Deckers. In the first episode, we discussed two ways to gain credibility through knowledge, Erik’s career, and the importance of checking our work and pricing ourselves appropriately. In today’s episode, we’ll discuss personal branding strategies from Erik’s book Branding Yourself.
Branding Yourself is about how to use social media to invent or reinvent ourselves. The book discusses how to use Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, blogging, public speaking, publishing, and networking to share information, build a social media presence, interact and engage with people, and measure how well we’re doing with each of these things.
Individuals and Branding
Many people don’t want to use their name as their brand because they think, “I’m not a brand; I’m a person.” This may be true, but often they are still seen as a brand regardless. “A brand, whether it’s a company or a person, is not the logo, it’s not the name, it’s not the tagline. It is the emotional response that people have when they see you or hear about you.”
If we think about McDonald’s or Coca-Cola, these brands have a feeling that comes with them, usually love or hate. Someone may hate Coke and immediately think, “Pepsi is better,” whenever they hear the name. There are brands like BP Oil that spark negative feelings because of what’s happened in the past.
Erik explained that brands inspire the “oh crap” and “oh good” response. “When you come and when you go, people say, ‘oh good,’ and ‘oh crap.’ Which time they say it is entirely dependent on you,” he said. “If you have a good brand, if you have a good reputation, . . . people say, ‘oh good’ when you show up and ‘oh crap’ when you leave. If you have not done a good job, it’s the other way around.”
Regardless of what we call our brand, we want to make people rejoice when we show up. We want them to have a positive response to us.
How to Not Brag as We Self-Promote
Often in our culture we are taught that if we talk about ourselves, we’re bragging. This just isn’t true. “If I say, ‘I wrote a book,’ that’s not bragging. That’s a fact. I wrote a book; you can go to the library or the bookstore, and you can get it because it exists in real time and space. If I say, ‘My book is better than yours,’ or ‘My book is so good, it won three awards,’ . . . if you talk about that kind of stuff and you’re making value judgments about how you are better than somebody else because you have a book, that’s bragging,” Erik said.
It’s okay to tell people about the things we have done. We can tell them about our books and where they can get them. “We have to get over the idea that just because you use the word ‘I’ that doesn’t mean you’re bragging about anything,” Erik said. He explained that we shouldn’t be a pest when promoting something like a book, but if we don’t ever talk about it, we won’t get many sales.
How do we share success stories without bragging? One way, that is also a great storytelling method, is to use this formula: problem, action, result. For example, we can say, we had a client who had a problem with A. We came in and did B, and the client saw result C. If we focus on the client’s problems and the results they saw, it doesn’t sound like bragging. We still get a mention in the story and our audience knows we helped, but the focus isn’t on us.
“The best way to do it is to just avoid value judgment statements,” Erik said. We shouldn’t say things like, “We came in with our award winning solution that was voted best in the nation.” We should stick to the facts and focus on the client.
How to Leverage LinkedIn
Erik said we should use LinkedIn like Facebook, except without the cat videos and politics. We should be on LinkedIn to talk about business. We can share business articles, inspirational sayings, or news about things happening in our industry.
“You’re going to share the things that your colleagues in your industry want to read about.
Then you’re going to have discussions with them and you’re going to like, thumbs up, and heart all of the things that they post . . . You’re going to build those friendly relationships, but you’re going to do it with a business mindset,” Erik said.
We shouldn’t share funny memes, controversial political opinions, or how our kid did at the soccer tournament. We should keep it strictly professional. “You would be surprised at what comes out of those kinds of discussions, the opportunities you find, the people that you form an acquaintanceship with or you reacquaint with,” Erik said.
How to Come Up with Blog Topics
Thinking of blog topics to write about may be difficult, but there is a strategy that can help us: answering questions. If we blog to answer questions, our topic is easily given to us, and our blogs will be easier to find on Google and more useful to our readers who likely want to know the answers to these questions about our business or industry.
“Know your audience. Your audience is not everybody,” Erik said. “Your audience is your niche that you work in. What are the things that they have an interest in?”
If there is a new regulation that will affect our industry, we can write an analysis of that. If we are struggling to come up with a topic like that, we can find the questions our audience is interested in through other ways. We can go to Twitter and look for the questions people are asking there, then write a blog post about it and share it with them. We can search our emails for the phrases “how do I” or “why should I”. Chances are someone has emailed us questions like these and we wrote a response. We can flesh out that response and turn it into a blog post. Since these kinds of blogs are answering questions they will rank higher on Google.
We can also look at the themes of past blog posts to see if we can tweak them to create a new blog post. Erik helped a client create many different blog posts like “Five Reasons Your ___ Needs Mystery Shopping” or “What to Expect When Mystery Shopping Comes to Your ___”, and they would switch out the blank for the different target industries they were going for.
How to Accelerate Growing a Brand
Growing a brand takes a long time and effort. We can’t skip it, but we can make it easier and a little faster.
One way to do this is to follow people with our same interests. In Erik’s Twitter bio, he has the things that he does. He used to work in crisis communications, so if he wants to follow people in that field, he’ll change his bio to say, “former crisis communications guy.” Then he’ll search for anybody who has “crisis communication” or “emergency response” in their bio and follow those people. Many of these people will see his bio and follow him back.
Erik cautioned that we shouldn’t follow hundreds of people at once, but we can follow a few dozen daily. Step two, however, is to engage with these people. Erik makes private Twitter lists to organize the people he follows. He can make one for crisis communication people, places he wants to work, marketers, personal branding experts, etc. He puts these lists on TweetDeck, which helps him organize and engage with his lists and the people in them.
“As people in your list tweet things, you engage with them. Just have conversations with them, talk with them, answer their questions, ask them questions,” Erik said. “That engagement then increases your relationship with them. You’re not going to be best friends, but you might be Twitter buddies.” When we have Twitter buddies, we can help each other out by supporting each other, sharing each other’s posts, buying each other’s books, etc.
Lastly, to accelerate growing our brand, we should share interesting information we come across. We want to become a curation expert in our particular niche by sharing content we’ve created and content others have created about topics in our niche. Curation provides value because we’re making deposits in the emotional bank accounts of our followers by making it easier for them to find valuable content, which then makes us a credible expert.
Tools for Personal Branding
Earlier we mentioned TweetDeck, which can be a great tool for personal branding. However, it only works for Twitter. If we want to use other platforms, we might consider using something like HootSuite, which works with Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, YouTube, and Twitter.
There is also Buffer, which allows us to schedule posts on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Instagram Stories, Pinterest, and LinkedIn. With Buffer we can analyze the results of these posts and engage with the community on the different platforms.
We can use tools like these to schedule all our posts for the week at once. They can help us save time and make it a little easier to manage our personal brand.
Social Networking Mistakes
One of the biggest mistakes brands make with social media is treating it like advertising. “These are not advertising channels. These are conversation channels,” Erik said. “Social media is called social media for a reason.”
People go on social media to connect with people, not to see ads. We shouldn’t use our platforms to say, “Hey, everyone, go buy this product of mine.” We should authentically engage with people, listen to them, and earn the right to tell them about our products.
Another mistake brands often make is being too general. We shouldn’t say, “I’m going to follow everybody because I want everybody to follow me.” Or some people try to buy followers. Either way, the followers we gain from these methods won’t last long term and they won’t do our business any good. “Those followers aren’t real; they’re not listening to you in the first place. If I just try to appeal to everybody, nobody will be interested in what I have,” Erik said.
Buying followers can hurt us a lot because our engagement per user score is a lot lower and our content won’t be shown to as many people. In addition, for those who want to be influencers and do influencer marketing, there is technology that can tell us how many of our followers are fake bot accounts. Companies don’t want to work with influencers who have a lot of fake bots as followers.
Thank you so much Erik for sharing your stories and insights with us today. Here are some of my key takeaways from this episode:
- A brand is the emotional response that people have when they see or hear about us. We want them to have a positive response to us.
- When self-promoting, we can avoid bragging by stating facts, avoiding value judgements, and focusing on our client’s success.
- We should treat LinkedIn like Facebook for business, only sharing professional posts and making business connections.
- We can come up with blog topics by answering questions our readers and people in our industry have.
- We can accelerate growing our brand by following people with similar interests, engaging with them, and sharing interesting information related to our niche.
- We can use tools like TweetDeck, Hootsuite, or Buffer to help us manage our social media accounts.
- We shouldn’t treat social media like advertising, follow everyone, or buy followers.
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