Social Media 101 – Personal Branding

Personal Branding

Two words that can strike fear into the strongest of people. This is the adult version of the “What I want to be when I grow up” essay you wrote in middle school, and the “where do I see myself in 10 years” essays you wrote in high school, or college.

Personal Brand Comment Cloud

A quick Google search for “Personal Brand Statement” returns over 100 million results! It seems that everyone has an idea of what Personal Branding means, and how to write the “perfect” brand statement for your career.

How important is your Personal Brand? Management expert, and prolific author Tom Peters, wrote this about Personal Branding:

“Regardless of age, regardless of position, regardless of the business we happen to be in, all of us need to understand the importance of branding. We are CEOs of our own companies: Me Inc. To be in business today, our most important job is to be head marketer for the brand called You.”

“…When everybody has email and anybody can send you email, how do you decide whose message you’re going to read and respond to first and whose you’re going to send to the trash unread? The answer is personal branding.”

This was written back in 1997! Today, in a world where everyone and their dog has a blog, your Personal Brand is the most important thing you can create online!

What IS a Personal Brand?

Simply, it is what you’re known for. What can people expect from you? Your brand can be positive, or it can be negative.  Your brand is your reputation, your influence. Consider this:

Brand quote from Jeff Bezos

Your brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room.

Ultimately, you are in control of your brand. Your actions and behaviors online define it. Everyone has a personal brand. How you manage your brand will determine how successful you are online.

But David, how do I create MY personal brand?

You don’t “create” your personal brand. As I just said, you manage it. You can lay the foundations, but your actions, and people’s reactions, will build the brand. What do you want to accomplish online?  What do you want to be known for online? If you just want to post random memes and haphazard stuff all over the place, your personal brand won’t matter much. However, if you want to be a thought leader in something, then it is vitally important.

Your Personal Brand is not the same as your Bio. Your Personal Brand is YOU. However, the bio that you write for the various social media platforms should reflect your Personal Brand. That sounds so simple, right?  It doesn’t have to be complicated, but it needs to reflect you, and your brand. Oh, and it needs to fit into the space provided.

Why is nailing your bio so important? Courtney Seiter (@courtneyseiter), in a Buffer Blog article on how to write a Professional Bio, addresses the problem:

“Yes, a bio on social media needs to be brief – and that can be tricky. But instead of lamenting the bio’s space constraints, treat it as an opportunity – after all, writing short has its rewards in social media. Think of the bio like a copywriting exercise or a six-word memoir.

“A professional bio on a social network is an introduction – a foot in the door so your potential audience can evaluate you and decide if you’re worth their time.

“In that way, it’s a lot like a headline you’re deciding whether or not to click – a small window to make a big impression.”

Quote by Thoreau

Hat Tip to Buffer for the appropriate poetic reference.

I recommend sitting down in front of the computer, and writing out ONE main bio. You can spend time to make it concise and easy to read. And, you can make sure it reflects what you want your Personal Brand to be.  Check out the Buffer article that I linked in the previous paragraph. Buffer delves into the science behind what they write about.  They give you detailed reasons for the Whys and Hows of what you need to write.

Ok, I have my Personal Brand Statement. Now What?

Now you need to work it into your Social Media platforms. The mechanics of structuring your personal brand are similar across all of the social media platforms.  It’s the theory that takes some thought. Consistency in presentation is the key to success.

Take a look at your online footprint. Your webpage, social media profiles, and blog. Is there a consistency to them? Do you have the same background picture on all of your social media profiles?  Or portions of the same picture?

If I look at the main page of your website, and then look at your bio/profile page on each of your social media platforms, would I be able to tell it was the same person/business? What is your theme?  What do you want to project online?  That is part of your brand.

As a Travel Agent, I like to use destination photographs as the backgrounds for my business profiles. I don’t normally use the same picture on every profile, unless it’s a great picture, but I do use the same types of photos. Right now I’m transitioning to Disneyland pictures. Every few months, I change them. Sometimes it’s portions of the same big picture, if I have one that will work that way. However, the header of our travel blog will always match the header on the business website. Why? Consistency.

Is your profile picture the same on each platform?  Good (more on this in Part 2).

If you’ve written out a “main bio” you want to use, you can copy/paste it all over the place as needed.  However, you will need to edit it to fit the parameters of each social media platform (hashtags, space limitations, etc). Also, it’s consider poor form to have the exact same bio on all of your Social Media profiles.  So edit each one a little bit.

Remember that your bio/tagline is possibly the only chance you have to make an impression on someone, and get them to follow/like/friend you.

An Example?

Twitter is a really easy example for us to use.  There are not that many variables. You are given 160 characters for your statement. However, on my personal Twitter account, instead of writing what I’m about, I posted what people could expect to see from me on Twitter. I also utilized the background graphic, and added my web address and Social Media landing page address to it.

DMCrandall Twitter Profile Background

My Current Twitter Profile Background. Main image was taken at Knott’s Berry Farm, CA.

Feel free to use a couple of images in your profile picture, if it tells your Brand story, or increases the chances that someone will follow you. However, don’t lie about what you are. If you let them know what to expect when they follow you, you stand a better chance of retaining them as a follower. Otherwise, they may follow you today, and unfollow you tomorrow. My current Twitter Bio:

“David French usually tweets #SMtips, #HamRadio items, #SMEM stuff, #SMtravel ideas, and the occasional LOLCat, meme & family picture. #LESM #HAMR”

If you are a good wordsmith, you should be able to craft your 160 character bio so that you communicate both your personal brand, and what people can expect to see when they follow you.

Does this make any sense?  This post is not meant to be a step-by-step guide to Personal Branding. Instead, I hope that I’ve inspired you to think about what your profiles say about you.

As you work on adapting your Personal Brand into your bio, I’ll leave you with this handy little cheat sheet, courtesy of Unbounce:

Unbounce Social Media Bio Best Practices Guide

Courtesy of Unbounce.com

While you cannot create your Personal Brand, you are it’s chief architect. What do you want to be know for?  Always keep that in mind as you explore Social Media. Oh, and remember that 1 “On Shoot” erases 20 “Well Dones” in an instant. What happens on social media, stays on social media…FOREVER!

I told you it would be almost as bad as a middle school essay.

Oh, and one quick reminder. Please don’t ever link your Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn accounts together to autopost across platforms. It’s not worth it.

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