In many areas of life, knowing what not to do can prove to be as or even more valuable than knowing what to do.
When it comes to building a personal brand, sure, you have built your profiles on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn. You engage with people and even occasionally share something. Yet, you feel like you are not getting any traction, your follower count is not increasing, and your engagement is nothing to rave about. And you are wondering when it will all pay off.
You are not alone. Many people are working towards building a personal brand, but they are still waiting to see it grow.
There is no shortage of information about how to build your brand on the web today, but you must understand that the personal branding process is not something that you decide to do and then are done with.
It is a lifelong journey that is always evolving with you.
Today, building the right online presence takes more than just sharing an article here and an insightful quote there. It takes commitment to consistently create high-value content and build a community of followers who share your vision, values, mission, and goals.
I want you to consider for a moment that you are likely doing all the “right” things.
I also want you to consider for a moment that you might be doing some things “wrong,” or some things in the “wrong” order. I know, because I have been building my brand for years, finding out along the way not only what to do but also what not to do.
I want to help you learn from my mistakes, to help accelerate the growth of your brand!
Make sure you are avoiding these six common self-branding mistakes, and you can be confident that you are building a brand you can be proud of.
1. Not Having a Clear Purpose
Ask yourself the most basic question—what problem do I solve? People part ways with their money to solve problems, so it is crucial that you know what problem you are solving. Be careful not to come across as the Jack of all trades and the master of none. If you highlight a very broad range of skills and competencies, you will come across as not focused. Someone will hire you because they think you can solve their problem. Whether you bake a wicked vanilla cake or create super-engaging makeup videos, realize that riches are in the niches.
For example, Dove is using its brand to help improve the self-esteem of girls worldwide. They’ve identified that low self-esteem is a huge problem for females, and they’re addressing it as a brand.
For me, my core message is to simplify your messaging and simply be you. One way that I communicate this from a personal branding standpoint is to try to keep my content simple. And what is more simple than stick figures?! If you look at any of my social media channels, you will notice that I integrate my stick figure drawings into most all of my content. People have learned to expect them, and that reinforces my brand of keeping things simple.
What problem do you want to solve?
Really think about it.
When you decide on the problem you want to be known for solving, then start promoting content that shows you know your stuff. When you create content, ask yourself, “Does this content support people learning more about the problem I solve or how I can help them solve it?” If the answer is yes, then you are on the right track.
If your content is all over the place, then people will see your brand as being all over the place.
Focus on focusing, and sharpen your core message around the problem you solve, then use that as a GPS for your content creation!
When you’re able to explain your specialty and demonstrate the experience for it, the right opportunities will start flowing in. If you need some help to refine your core messaging, then check out my 3-1-3 Challenge Podcast, where I put people in the branding hot seat and ask them to share what they do in terms of the problem that they solve. You will see that it is not easy, but well worth the effort of honing in on the core problem you want to solve.
2. You Don’t Have a Website
If you think your extraordinary social profiles will suffice, I’m here to tell you that they won’t. Building an exceptional website is absolutely necessary to build a successful personal brand. Everyone in the world should have their personal website that highlights who they are, the problem they solve, and captures their backstory and accomplishments.
It has never been easier to build a website, but before you build one, it really takes some time to think through your actual “URL.” That is the actual address of your website, and, if at all possible, you need your actual name to be part of your website address.
Because we are talking about your “personal brand,” so having your personal name on your website, will help people find you, especially when they are searching for your name in Google!
But the problem is that many of the .com domains have been taken for personal names. But don’t let that stop you from having a unique and exceptional website.
What I suggest doing, instead of choosing www.yourfullname.com, go for www.yourfullname.online or www.yourfirstname.online. Just by choosing a different, more unique domain extension, you can make a significant impact, and you have a better chance of getting your actual name in your domain. And it makes intuitive sense; it is “you” online. So why not have it be yourname.online?
Domain extensions such as .ONLINE help you shine and help build a more sustainable personal brand.
P.S. – I use ryan.online to share my content online.
Your overall website doesn’t necessarily need to have all the bells and whistles. But it needs to exist! Use this space to talk about who you are, share samples of your work, and highlight your story, experience, and accomplishments. Use it as a space that explains everything about you.
Like I share in my book, Ditch the Act, don’t just share the good. People don’t care as much about your story of success but instead care about how they see themselves in your story. Your website should be an authentic reflection of who you are.
If you are still not convinced, know this, you don’t own your social media channels. Your website is the only place online that you can “own,” and it allows you to have a dedicated space where you can control 100% of the information, and give people a chance to get to know you.
3. You’re Not Sharing the Right Content
You’ve engaged with groups on Facebook, you have followed and engaged in conversations on LinkedIn, and you have been doing your best on Twitter, but there’s no incremental momentum in your following.
Are you committing any of these content sharing faux pas?
- Over-promoting – Not every update should be about how you nailed the pitch or won an award. Share content that is beneficial to those who are following you, something that would be of value to them. Share lessons from things that went wrong and how you would have done things differently. How you are feeling throughout the week. And then, every once in a while, share your achievements too.
- Under-promoting – So you’re a bit modest. Good for you, because not everyone wants to know what you ate for lunch. But be careful to not hold yourself back thinking you might come across as pompous or worry about privacy. People won’t know you until you tell them. Find a platform and medium that you are comfortable with and start there. In Ditch the Act, we outline some easy ways to start opening up online, and it’s easier than you might think.
For example, Moz does a phenomenal job of building a huge community around its brand by sharing cheat sheets, guides, and whiteboard Fridays.
For me, I find that some of the most engaged tweets are when I am a bit vulnerable and share something that didn’t go as planned. I recently showed up for a talk to 400 teens. When I got there, I was told that there was some confusion and that they didn’t think I was coming. I had prepared a lot for this talk and was really excited.
Needless to say, I was disappointed. My first instinct was to not share this. I mean, how embarrassing. Here I am, someone who is building a professional speaking business, and somehow, with this gig, one I thought I had booked, something in our communication made them think I was not able to.
Instead of pretending like it didn’t happen, I decided to Tweet about it.
I got some replies, and people appreciated me being real about what happened. They also planted the idea, that I could still give that talk somewhere else.
Then, on the same day, I got a DM from someone who saw my tweet.
It was the founder of a non-profit, who suggested that I do the talk that I prepared for teens in over 20 countries.
Do you see what just happened there?
A mistake, something that was not good, turned into something great. I showed up for a talk and though I had confirmed the event, and somehow they didn’t think I had confirmed, and they hired another speaker.
Because I ditched the act and shared what really happened, including the real lessons learned. The talk that I prepared for 400 teens, will now be seen around the world!
How cool is that! All from going against my instincts to hide that embarrassing moment.
The social media sweet spot is a mix of career accomplishments, failures, interesting articles, original thoughts, and a frequent splash of your cool personality. When in doubt, offer value in the form of useful links, opportunities, or point people to helpful resources.
4. You’re Caught Up With What You Have, Not What You Want
It is easy to look at other people in your space and compare where you are at to where they are. But that is a big mistake. You are you, and you can’t start to compare you to someone who has years of a head start in building their brand. Your personal branding efforts should always be about where you’re going, and not in relation to others.
Instead of holding a pity party and reminding yourself of all that you don’t have. Stop, take stock, and unpack what you already have. Look at your life experiences and stories that you have not shared yet. There are lots of lessons from your past, and lessons that you are learning on current projects.
Showcase projects and experience that you’d like to have more of. If you want to be the country’s best wedding cake chef, highlight all the cakes you’ve baked for other events. Including some fun stories of when cake baking didn’t go right, and what you learned from it. Remember that your experience is the root of your expertise. And we learn when things go wrong.
If you’re looking to get the position of a content marketing manager, highlight the successful campaigns, and strategies you’ve devised for someone else. Or find the company you want to work for, create a strategy for them, and share it with them to show your competency.
Once people know what you’re good at and what you’re seeking, they’ll direct you in the right direction.
My finish line is giving inspiring and educational keynotes around the world! So, in order to support this goal through the content that I create, I make sure to share my expertise through my experiences. And I especially do so when I am speaking internationally.
When I spoke in Ghana this past year at the Ghana Tech Summit, I made sure to document my travels on my social media and made one big tweetstorm that showed much more than just my keynote.
Make sure to create content about what you are doing and where you want to be going. If you don’t share with your followers where you are going, how can they follow your journey?
When you share content that supports a clear path, then people will start to think of you as a “top of mind” choice.
So stop comparing yourself to where other people are on their journey, and own your own story and your own journey. And do that by sharing along the way!
5. You’re Not Putting Yourself out There…in Person
Your online persona is a replica of your real self. Don’t forget about that person when building an online brand. There is no substitute for meeting people in the flesh. It develops deeper, more personal connections—the impact cannot be explained in words. It is one of the best things you can do to progress towards your goals.
I love meeting people in person, especially if I first meet them online. One great example of the power of this is in how I met Peter Goral through Twitter and eventually met him IRL (In real life). I enjoyed his content on branding and had him on my radio show. Then we kept in touch and kept supporting each other online, sharing content, and making introductions. When I had my book launch, he actually flew out to Los Angeles from Canada, and we met in person. It was such a great chance to get to know him better, and we really had a fun time. And we were able to spend some quality time, just talking.
As a result, we learned more ways to help each other, and as a result, we have been able to refer business to each other. In fact, he is helping me to get traction as a professional speaker in Canada, which helps me with my overall goals in life!
Don’t underestimate closing your computer, putting your phone down, and getting ready to hit the town to meet people in real life.
So, keep your business card ready. Go to networking events, conferences, offer to speak at events, and set up coffee/meals with people who share similar interests and professional goals. Be more active in your industry events and parties. The more face-to-face you can get, the stronger will be the impact of your brand than any Facebook live or Periscope.
But, do take some selfies, and share your offline experience with your online community!
6. You’re Not Taking Your Social Profiles Seriously
Work gets hectic, life gets busy, and it gets difficult to take care of your online appearance. So, you let it sit for so long that it goes stale. Meanwhile, that potential client sniffing around your web presence is wondering why you haven’t shared anything in a while. Are you alive? Changed careers? Are you on a sabbatical?
If you’ve fallen off with your regular digital up-keep, now’s the time to pick it up. Write a wonderful post highlighting all the things that happened when you were away. It’s not compulsory to share every single day but avoid leaving your accounts and profiles sitting too long unused. Set aside time to check-in because if you’re not out there, then someone else will be.
For example, Netflix does a brilliant job of maintaining its social media profiles. The brand has a clear idea of what they are doing on social media. Their main strategy is to be the biggest fan of entertainment and they communicate that effectively. And they create content consistently, delivering value to their followers all year round.
I often have people reach out to me, asking me how I create so much content. Let me share a little more on exactly what started it all so that it might help you.
But first, let me share with you a story from when I met Tony Robbins at one of his events. He told me (and 10,000) others who were attending to do two things when it comes to creating content. First, think of something that you can create every day. Something simple, that maybe takes 10-15 minutes, that you can create every day. And second, start working towards a larger content project that will take you years to finish.
I thought a lot about what I could do for the first idea of daily content, and then all of a sudden it hit me! Stick figures! Yes, I could draw a stick figure every day. And so I started to do that. It’s been 5 years, and I now have thousands of stick figures. And they have become a big part of my brand!
For the larger piece of content, I started working on some ideas for a book. And with a little bit of work over a long period of time, I wrote that book, and it’s now published! This has created a cornerstone piece of content that is also part of my brand. It is a piece of content that I have created keynotes off of, and the topic of authenticity is something that I now talk about across the globe.
What type of content can you start to create daily? What is a big project you can get excited about and work towards over a few years? Once you figure out the answers to these questions, you will then have content to start sharing. And when you share it over long periods of time, people will start to associate your personal brand with that content. And bingo, bango, this is how you are building your personal brand.
When it comes to building a personal brand, make sure you are sharing your most authentic self, and be human. Share things that have to do with the problem you want to solve, be active, help people, provide value, and highlight your failures along with your accomplishments. Above all, be yourself, and enjoy the journey. Because it is a journey, and you can’t build a personal brand overnight.
If you have any more things to add, I’d love to hear as comments.
Ryan Foland is a master communicator. He coaches leaders worldwide on the art of simplifying spoken and written messaging for greater impact. He is the inventor of 3-1-3 Theory, a process whereby pitches begin as three sentences, condense into one sentence and then boil down to three words. Ryan is the co-founder of InfluenceTree.com, a personal brand accelerator and writes for Influencive. He has appeared in Inc., Entrepreneur, HuffPost, TEDx and more. An entertaining speaker and emcee, he serves as a public speaking mentor for a variety of thought leaders. Learn more at www.RyanFoland.com.