In a previous article, I went through the what and why of personal branding and thought leadership. I explored why more and more businesses are turning to thought leadership to engage with their stakeholders and ultimately impact on their bottom lines, and explained how personal branding fits into this narrative. In this post, I provide an 8-step plan to galvanise your personal brand and help you prepare for, plan, set a few workable goals and get you started on your very own journey to becoming a thought leader in your field or profession.
Before you embark on your personal branding and thought leadership journey, it’s essential that you first identify your values and passions. Your values and passions are the elements of personal branding that make you unique and human. They’re what you get up for in the morning and what drive you through the day. These form the foundation that help you determine the vision and purpose of your personal brand.
It’s essential that you identify your passions and nail down a few that best speak to who you are—in both a personal and professional capacity. Ask yourself what you’d want to be known and remembered by; is it that you’re an incredible businessman or businesswoman in the corporate world, that you’re a world class accountant or that you’re a professional football player? What is it that makes you, you?
Step 1: Google yourself
Quick exercise: Take out your phone or open up Google on your laptop and search for your name. What do you see? If you click on the images tab, what images pop up?
Googling yourself empowers you to identify where you’re at—what surfaces online when people search for you (especially if you go incognito) and also how far you need to go in your personal branding journey to become that influential thought leader you want to be. Ultimately you want to make sure the information that a Google search brings up about you is accurate, updated, and reflects what your personal brand stands for.
Step 2: Define your personal brand
Next up is to start defining this brand of yours. You want to think about your defining characteristics and what makes you different from all the rest? What are your expertise? What do you want to be known for, and how do you want people to know you?
Start off by taking some professional headshots of yourself to use on LinkedIn and Twitter (see Step 3). You’ll then need to construct a short and medium bio of yourself that you can use across different platforms. This bio is a succinct version of what your personal brand is all about. It will highlight what you currently do (your profession), what you love to do (your passion), why you love to do it (your values) and mention one or two hobbies that you do when you’re not working.
Step 3: Construct your social profiles
You then want to either construct your social media profiles based on your personal brand or reconstruct your current profiles if they need updating. This phase requires you laying out the information you strategised in the previous step. Edit your profiles and add a new profile image, include a short bio for Twitter (with hashtags and tags) or a mid-length bio for LinkedIn. Update the header image with an appropriately sized banner. The current banner size dimensions are 1500px by 500px for Twitter and 1584px x 396px for LinkedIn (it’s also possible to use the same image for both platforms).
Twitter and LinkedIn are both great mediums through which you’re able to easily showcase your brand to the rest of the world—in different ways. Creating these accounts will cost you nothing, however they will give you the best exposure and ensure that you’re searchable. Remember that the key here is consistency. You’re basically starting your own Integrated Marketing campaign, and so you want your brand to be consistent throughout the various channels.
Step 5: Start following and connecting with others
And not in a stalker-kind-of-way. Follow and connect with like–minded people and industry experts. You can even use the search function on each platform and look up the key topics in your focus areas. You’ll quickly discover the key individuals and influencers in that field by paying attention to these conversations and engaging where appropriate.
It’s also important that you don’t just follow accounts on Twitter in the hope that they will follow back. Twitter identifies accounts who follow in mass and lists them as spam. This will negatively impact the reach you get on the platform. The best way to gain followers (who you don’t necessarily have to follow back) is to engage with, create and share good quality and relevant content.
Step 5: Commit to your own thought leadership content
Create a list of article ideas that you’d like to start producing and sharing as content from your personal brand. If writing is not your strong point or you have no time to create the content, you may have to consider commissioning a freelance writer to put the article together on your behalf. If you do get the article written by someone else, the idea is that you will own that article and maybe even help provide insight for that content as an industry/ topic expert. You’ll then be the face of that article or content as you take it to your network and share it—generating engagement and conversation.
Content such as blogs, articles, videos and images are all essential to add credibility to you and to give your brand a voice. Use a personal blog or website, a LinkedIn and Twitter account and maybe even a YouTube channel to talk about the things that matter to you. This helps shape your personal brand in a way that makes it specifically yours. There’s a bunch of information on how to build a strong content strategy and why it matters, so take advantage of it while you piece together yours. What’s more, even as part of an organisation, being able to manage and produce your own content is invaluable and makes you an important asset for the business.
Step 6: Create and share content relevant to your brand
You can also jot down on your own calendar when you’d like to post on each social platform and perhaps even state what the topic will be on that day. It could be based on your own thought leadership content, or even over and above this—where you share or engage in content that is pertinent to your area of expertise. You can also use a social media scheduler (such as Hootsuite—the free plan is fine) to plan posts and schedule them ahead of time. It’s recommended that you do this on a weekly basis.
Step 7: Maintain a posting cadence
Your posting cadence refers to how often you post (excluding the content your simply share without comment). This should be balanced—meaning you shouldn’t post too much (otherwise you run the risk of being flagged as spam) or too little (otherwise your relevancy fades on each platform and when you do post, it doesn’t get much reach). A good posting cadence falls between 2 – 4 times per platform, per week.
Step 8: Track your metrics and progress
Each social platform also gives you insights into how you’re doing. While LinkedIn offers you insights into how many people have viewed your posts, your profile and how many times you’ve appeared in a search, Twitter let’s you go a little deeper. It gives you the number of tweets you’ve made in a given period, how many impressions you received (this refers to the amount of times your content has been seen), how many times people have viewed your profile and how many times you’ve been mentioned by others. By tracking these, you can get a better idea of the progress you’re making and ensure that your posts and engagement is hitting the mark.
Ready. Set. Go! (but slowly)
Ready to get started on your journey to personal branding and thought leadership excellence? Remember that it will take time to build and establish your professional reputation, and so it’s important to stay patient and be consistent in the first few steps. However, as your reputation and network grows, so too will your confidence and enjoyment in sharing content and engaging with your audience. You’ll also build a more engaged audience if start out slowly. The people who are interested in what you have to say will follow you and get involved in your online conversations.
Here are a few final tips before you set out; always be authentic, continuously showcase and highlight your strengths, differentiate yourself and define what makes you unique, believe and trust in your own brand and finally, always remember that progress beats perfection in this game. Your personal brand will forever evolve as you progress through life, and so expecting perfection is unrealistic and would just be setting yourself up for disappointment.