TECH, BUSINESS AND CAREER INSIGHTS

Using Social Media to Build a Personal Brand and Stand Out from the Crowd

By: Chris Skaggs | @chrislskaggs

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We live in an increasingly transparent world, with access to people like we’ve never had before. Don’t believe me? Go ahead and login to Twitter and send a tweet to Sir Richard Branson, Cristiano Ronaldo or Lady Gaga herself. Social media removes many of the access barriers we’ve traditionally dealt with in previous years.

As an employee, if your CEO is active on social media (which they all should be), you can reach him or her in an instant. That great idea you wanted to share or important business connection you’ve wanted to make may have taken months of work to initiate in the past, can now be accomplished quickly through a tweet, status post, video or GIF.

Like it or not, social media is here to stay. It also happens to be the best place to build your personal brand. I know that’s easy for me to say — I live and breathe social as part of my job daily — but I truly believe it. Truth is, the sooner you realize you can, and should, have a personal brand, the better.

The term “personal branding” was first thought to be used and discussed in a 1997 article by Tom Peters. Just as a business uses branding to create a unique name or image for a product or service, you too can use branding to position yourself as a thought leader and move ahead in your career.

The trick is getting people to pay attention to your content and making your profile stand out among all the digital noise. Here are a few of my personal tips, strategies and suggestions I use when working with individuals or organizations on their social media and brand presence, it’s as easy as remembering: Decide > Curate > Create > Engage

DECIDE
So, you see the value in social media and want to dedicate your time here to build your personal brand — great! Now what? Do you create an account on every social media platform? Wrong! A sure-fire way to fail on this social journey is to start too broadly on too many platforms. Instead, I recommend starting small and deciding on one or two platforms to become proficient with before adding another one. Doing social media well takes some effort, and if you’re spread too thin, it can be discouraging to see people not engaging with your content immediately.

Do yourself a favor and conduct some research to learn all the tips and tricks to effectively utilizing the social platform of your choice. This is also the perfect time to ask yourself what, where, when and how.

  • What does your target audience value and look for in content?
  • Where (which social media network) does your target audience naturally reside?
  • When and how do they consume content?

For example, if you’re a blogger, you might consider Twitter as your first social media network to tackle. On the other hand, I’d recommend a photographer start with an Instagram account. Answering some of tough questions up front can save you some heartache later.

CURATE
You’ve heeded my advice and conducted some research to determine the best social media networks to start small with. The next step is clear: begin posting regular content to build out your social profile. However, what’s not so clear is deciding what you want to post, but it doesn’t have to be. Curating content, defined as “the act of sorting through large amounts of content on the web and presenting the best posts in a meaningful and organized way,” is a simple strategy to start building your personal brand.

To find this great content, you can follow other thought leaders in your space or subscribe to industry blogs and newsletters. There’s vast amounts of content being created and published every day. By sharing with others what you find valuable and interesting, you can start defining your voice, building your personal brand and showing others that you know what’s happening in your industry.

CREATE
When I first started out using my social media presence for more than cute pictures of my children (and trust me, they’re cute), I had no idea what to write or, maybe more importantly, why anyone would care. However, after I had a good grasp on curated content, I was inspired to create some original content. It was time to join in on the digital conversation by sharing my own thoughts and ideas.

Digital marketing and social media pioneer Gary Vaynerchuk has built a hugely successful empire by creating valuable content. In his best-selling book Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook, he says, “Creating content that allows us to share our experiences, thoughts, and ideas in real time is becoming an intrinsic part of life in the twenty-first century.”

When creating original content, determine what naturally excites you and just start. Writing is like any muscle, it needs to be exercised to grow strong. Remember, the key to successful content is authenticity.

ENGAGE
Finally, you’ve decided what social media network to focus on, curated content and even started creating your own original content. Some stop here, but the real experts realize the work is done after you click “post.” The final, and maybe most crucial step, is to engage with your audience. If you’ve built a following, that means you have a group of people who have virtually raised their hand and said they’re interested in what you have to say. Never take that for granted — don’t let them down. After all, the first term in social media is social!

When people share your content, thank them. When they comment on your content, start a conversation with them. Today, most social media networks have the functionality to like a comment. Never underestimate the power of clicking that heart or like button.

There you have it, my secret sauce to social media: decide > curate > create > engage. A robust social media presence and authentic personal brand won’t happen overnight. However, with a little persistence and a developed game plan, you too can use social media to build your personal brand and stand out from the crowd.

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