There is a new type of business today: standalone micro-enterprises that imbue the same characteristics as their larger counterparts. They barrage us with “marketing” to “sell” their products by establishing “brands.” These so-called, loosely-defined enterprises are none other than everyday individuals moonlighting as economic entities. And the product they are “selling” is themselves.
To “sell” yourself, you need to open yourself up to an audience and as marketing 101 will teach you, the best way to sell is to build a “brand” with its own set of distinguishing elements. Thus, a personal brand is your unique identity in the eyes of your target audience.
Your brand could be one of a “beauty blogger,” or a “luxury real-estate broker,” or even a “up-and-coming theatre actor.” No matter who you are or what field of work you are in, it is becoming more and more pressing to develop your own personal brand. So now, the question arises, “why do we all need a personal brand and how do we build one?”
Use Your Story to Stand-Out
First, the why. Naturally, an individual will want to market themselves when he or she is in the business of producing a tangible product or service, i.e., when they are entrepreneurs. In this case, one could argue that entrepreneurs do not necessarily need to intertwine their personal selves with the identity of their businesses.
They could keep their business branding separate from their personal brand, but nowadays, everybody wants to relate to and connect with one another. It is not enough to hide behind your business’ austere and one-dimensional website, instead, you need to show people the behind-the-scenes action so that you can get them engaged and make yourself and your business “stand out.”
This brings me to reason number two: the importance of standing out in the age of too-much information. Information is cheap and easily accessible, thus there are more applicants for every job, competition, etc. Very rarely will you find yourself knowing something that the person sitting across from you does not. So the logical thing to do is to carve out a niche for yourself to shine in the haze of a crowd.
Showcase Your Transferable Skills
Having a personal brand is also a great way to divert the attention away from your deficiencies if for example, you are competing for something and you are up against people who are better connected than you, more qualified than you, or better informed than you.
Those are the metrics that weigh in heavily today, and if you are lagging in any of them, then there is a good chance that through your personal branding efforts, you can make your brand’s stakeholders latch onto your unique selling point or your “x factor.” Building a brand is like building a business, so if you can tame information and technology to your benefit, then that can showcases your business-savvy.
The Plight of Millennials
The third reason for building a brand arises from circumstance. It is a well-documented phenomenon today that millennials face many problems. These include higher tuition fees, skyrocketing rent, and fewer high-quality entry-level jobs, which empties their pockets and forces them back to their parents’ homes.
Thus, it is always a good idea to master a “side business hustle” today, and building a personal brand will give you a leg-up. You can still work as a Customer Service Rep from 9 to 5, but it won’t pay your rent in Manhattan. So if you started making and monetizing YouTube videos as a loquacious story-teller admonishing life in the Big Apple, then you have yourself a side hustle, and you are on your way to building a brand.
Sell Influence, Not Products
Finally, this brings me to reason number four. As discussed earlier, it is a natural progression as a self-employed entrepreneur to market items you sell in exchange for money. But what if you weren’t producing anything, and you didn’t have anything to “sell?” Would that mean that you don’t need to build a personal brand and engage an audience? The answer is a resounding “no,” because nowadays, “selling” can take on various forms.
“Selling” can either be in the traditional sense, i.e., in exchange for money or in the form of “views” or “influence.” The “influencer marketing” tactic is a clever way of generating moolah, which is akin to a celebrity endorsement. Once you wield the attention of a large-enough relevant audience, companies are prone to reach out to you to get you to endorse their products. If your brand is centered upon being a beauty blogger, then you can carve lucrative endorsement deals with cosmetic companies. Cha-ching!
This now brings to the how. The building-a-brand method is simpler today than ever before. To build an online presence and a “followership,” the first step can be as easy as opening your social media profiles to the public and engaging in the “broadcast phenomenon” portrayed in the recent big-budget Hollywood release, The Circle, starring Emma Watson. This “transparent living” mantra caught on since the advent of Snapchat, and has since been integrated on all other social media.
Going “live” is a great way to build a follower base. No matter what you do, if you broadcast it, someone will tune in. It is as though we are all mini stars of our own “Truman Show” scenarios. As I had mentioned earlier, because people today seek out “relatable” content, quotidian activities captivate us. It appears we all crave a voyeuristic insight into each other’s daily lives.
Thus, to be an effective brand, you need to have a compelling story. You need to be relatable, and you need to engage with your audience on a regular basis. To rank high on news feeds or to stay relevant, you must be a prolific content creator.
Another very important thing to do is to maintain a consistent tone of voice throughout all your communications and to do so, you must outline your core beliefs. These are the things, topics, or people you want to be associated with. For example, if you are a conservative, then you should adhere to those views, and target that audience. This will help you understand your niche and find your targeted audience. You have stakeholders just like any other firm, which is why you should never alienate them by detracting from your brand’s core values.
Other miscellaneous how-to’s of building a brand include: building your own website, a blog, or an about.me site that you can add to your business card, your email signature, etc. Lastly, you should leave your inhibitions aside and adopt unabashed salesmanship. You need to tell people what you’re doing and what you could be doing for them without being gregarious. Simply put, open yourself up to the public and to opportunities. Good luck!