Everyone wants to be an influencer, but very few stop to think how they can actually be influential.
Social media has led to a much wider understanding of personal branding and how it can be leveraged. Unfortunately, this means a lot of people fall into the trap of hyperfocusing on their personal brand without thinking about what they’re actually putting out into the world. It’s asking for a lot without giving much in return.
This is why I believe in losing money on my personal brand.
I don’t monetize my social media presence or ask my followers to click on a bunch of links for me to get paid. I just try to show them what I’m excited about and provide genuine content that adds some sort of positive value to their lives. My Twitter and Instagram accounts aren’t for making money—which means, when I do ask for something, people pay attention.
I first noticed that my followers (which I treat like friends) were willing to reciprocate when I launched Influencive—an online publication that targets millennials and Gen Z. I had already built a reputation as someone who only talked about things I was really excited about. So when I started posting about Influencive, I saw an overwhelming amount of support. And fast. People knew I wouldn’t be talking about it if it wasn’t worth their time.
I was able to rally my audience because I hadn’t been overly transactional in the past.
This is a lesson I share with people all the time: stop trying to make money off every relationship you have.
Because of how prevalent internet branding and marketing is, people think every interaction has to be part of a funnel. They figure the best way to acquire customers is to make a post and get people to engage with their Call To Action. But this can be extremely short-sighted thinking, and you shouldn’t get wrapped up in pushing your audience to buy your online course or the most recent product you’re representing, all the time.
If you think about the top personal brands, they aren’t constantly asking people to do things, especially big or costly tasks. They’re providing content that’s actually exciting or helpful to followers, more than anything. These brands give value endlessly and relentlessly.
And that’s where the real opportunities arise.
What this boils down to is long game versus short game. The short game is posting to a social platform with the intent to monetize. But the long game is about building a community that will rally around who you are and what you believe in—which will make it easier to get them to rally behind your next idea, your next venture. You’ve already gotten them to believe in you, so once your company launches, people will trust it’s worth checking out. And they will.
This is why I’m willing to lose money in the short term for the long-term gain.
Most people working on their personal brand make the mistake of focusing only on the short game.
They’re constantly trying to monetize everything they do. To audiences, this comes across as desperate. People can smell desperation on your posts, which is only going to drive them away.
In my experience, I’ve found by posting without asking for anything in return—giving endlessly and relentlessly—that months down the line, I’ll get asked to do a speaking opportunity or consult with a company.
But it wasn’t until I launched Influencive that I truly saw how valuable it had been for me to forgo all those short-term wins for a much longer-term payoff. I had spent years building my network and online presence, invested a lot of time, energy, and resources into making sure I was using my voice to share insights I truly believed in. And when I did finally promote something, people rallied and wanted to help spread the word. I’ve noticed this trend in other successful personal brands as well, and it has always served me well even with other companies and brands that I’ve had or worked with.
Their attention helped Influencive grow into what it is today. Because they knew I wouldn’t be talking about it in the first place if I wasn’t genuinely excited about it. And that’s the most important reputation you can build for yourself.
It may sound simplistic, but the best way to build a genuine brand is to be genuine.
Don’t post things just because you believe they’ll get clicks or likes. Don’t post things that are only there to make you money. You have to share what you truly love, and what you believe will leave an imprint on someone reading, following, listening, or watching.
Brian is an Inc. 500 Entrepreneur, who built the 25th fastest growth marketing and advertising agency in America. Brian is an advisor to many startups and mentor to many entrepreneurs. He is a columnist at the world’s top publications. Brian is the Founder of Influencive and the Founder at BDE Ventures.