We’ve all seen how powerful branding is — it can make us associate the color red with a certain soda maker or a swoosh with a specific shoe company. Crafting your own personal brand is your ticket to achieving a similar level of recognition (albeit on a smaller scale).
Whether you’re a business owner trying to reach more clients or a professional hoping to further your career, a personal brand can help your name and face be associated with certain ideas, enabling you to tap into more opportunities or earn more business. But building and maintaining one is no easy task.
There are a few different ways to go about this, but here are three of the most powerful.
1. Social media
If you’re serious about developing a brand for yourself, you’ve almost certainly considered social media — it’s the go-to place to spread the word about your ideas. But if you’re new to that world, you probably don’t even know where to start.
While Twitter or Instagram can be useful for individuals with certain audiences, LinkedIn is the best choice for most people. The platform has more than 774 million active users — and the best part is that they’re not just any old users. They’re executives, professionals and business owners. In other words, precisely the type of people you want to be reaching.
Fortunately, LinkedIn is very straightforward and intuitive to sign up for. Think of your profile like an expanded resume — you’re using it to show your most relevant work history and qualifications, along with a summary. Notice we said most relevant — some users make the mistake of entering every part-time job they’ve had since school. Don’t be like them; highlight the positions that reflect your personal brand the best.
We also recommend putting some serious thought into your headline, summary and photo. Choose a high-quality photo that shows your face, get creative with your headline (don’t just state your job title) and keep your summary short, sweet and engaging.
Of course, to really make the most of LinkedIn, you’ll have to do more than just create a profile and sit back. Time to get connecting and posting some content!
Luckily for you, we’ll be expanding on two of the most effective ways to grow your profile on the site: testimonials and thought leadership.
According to Aristotle, you can use three modes of persuasion to appeal to your audience: ethos, logos and pathos. Ethos is about appealing to emotions, logos concerns logic and pathos is all about credibility. And few strategies are better for boosting your credibility than testimonials.
Your next question is probably: where should you display them?
The obvious choice is a personal website, and that’s certainly a great option if you have one (they’re useful but not essential). But since you’re already planning on creating and developing a LinkedIn profile, it makes sense to use this as the central point for your testimonials.
LinkedIn has a handy feature that allows you to request a testimonial from any of your connections, making the process as smooth and un-awkward as possible. Then, your testimonials will be displayed on your profile like badges of honor. And you can also add them to your website if you’d like (and the person who gave the testimonial doesn’t mind).
When and how to ask for testimonials
Most people don’t take much convincing to see the importance of testimonials, but persuading them to actually ask for them is a whole other ball game.
But trust us, you might be surprised at how willing people are to help — especially if you offer to give them a testimonial in return (for colleagues) or ask just after they’ve praised you for helping them (for clients).
Compile a list of all the past colleagues or clients you’ve worked with over the last few years and respectfully reach out to everyone you’re still in contact with. What do you have to lose?
3. Thought leadership
Once you’ve started your social media profile and used testimonials to make yourself as credible as possible, you can finally move on to the serious stuff: thought leadership.
Thought leadership is essentially a way of connecting with your audience by discussing the kinds of topics and questions they care about. By sharing your thoughts, you establish yourself as a leader.
This can take a few different forms. Some thought leaders closely follow the news related to their industry and comment on the latest developments, while others focus more on their experiences.
You’ve probably seen the type of content we’re referring to. On LinkedIn, users often write various one-line sentences to discuss a topic and end the post by asking their audience to share their own thoughts.
Of course, you’re not restricted to LinkedIn — you could also consider an email newsletter or blog posts on Medium or your personal website. But LinkedIn is undoubtedly one of the most productive places to take this approach. If you do go for it, make sure you’re strategic about when and how often to post.
Get the recognition you deserve
You’ve probably heard the phrase, it’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon. When it comes to the world of personal brand development, you need to get very comfortable with that idea. Nobody becomes a thought leader overnight, and it takes a long time for anyone to care about your brand.
But if you persist, you might just be surprised at how quickly things can snowball — eventually, you might find yourself getting recommended by people you’ve never even met. There’s no time like the present to get started!