A few years ago, Talent Economy’s parent company, Human Capital Media, had a consultant come in and give us a crash course in personal branding. This was not the first time I had heard the term personal branding. At Northwestern, my classmates and I were often lectured on the importance of creating an individual brand for ourselves as reporters, often through social media platforms like LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter.
My professors’ logic at the time went that the more you elevated your authority, credibility and image on these platforms, the more readers would come to trust you and want to read your stories, furthering the success and impact of your work. It made sense. As a young man I’d become accustomed to following individual reporters and writers on social media whom I felt were smart, entertaining and successful, and therefore worthy of my time and attention.
The consultant giving the talk to us at HCM conveyed a similar message. As professionals, building a brand image, especially on social media, is an effective way to grab people’s attention, get noticed and grow awareness about you and your work. These efforts give way to a more profitable and successful career — and, because your work is typically a reflection of the work you’re doing at your company, it helps raise your company’s prospects for success as well.
The benefits of personal branding apply far and wide; almost everyone, from business professionals to hobbyists, has discovered the fruits of personal branding online. And these past few years have represented a boom in the idea that establishing a personal brand is a must in business.
There’s no doubt that personal branding will continue to play a huge role in the talent economy for years to come. But it’s important to remember that building one isn’t just about social media; it’s not about the cleverness of your tweets or the quantity of the blogs or content you create.
Personal branding is about authenticity; it’s about you being you, not going out of your way to convey an image of what you think people want to see and hear. Before jumping into the personal branding world on social media, establish an authentic set of values and behaviors in real, everyday life among the people you are in contact with inside and outside of work.
It’s important to remember this, because I think all too often when people hear the term personal branding and think about how it applies to them they think about the artificial images and personas they need to create to ensure that they’re representing themselves appropriately. This applies to every facet of life, but I think it most often applies in the context of social media, because, for better or for worse, that is the arena where most personal branding interactions take place.
If you’re not the type of person who is into constantly updating social media with blogs you’ve written, photos you’ve taken or witty commentary on others’ content, and the thought of doing so sounds overly exhausting, then don’t force it. Personal branding isn’t about blindly pushing out content on social media.
Creating a personal brand needs to start with a deep exploration of who you are and what you value as a person; it’s about conveying purpose and how that applies to your work. Simply being active on social media won’t yield desirable results unless there’s authenticity and purpose behind your contributions. Most importantly, any branding effort you make through social media will fall flat if you don’t live that purpose every day
Take me as an example. Not that I should be considered the poster boy for personal branding, but I think I’ve done a decent job of setting up a presence on social media to the point that my posts are reaching a substantial audience. Some friends have also told me that I have a good LinkedIn profile. Take that for what it’s worth.
If you follow me, you’ll quickly notice I’m not posting constantly. In fact, I often have to remind myself that participating in social media is something I have to engage in. For me, social media is something to consume; I’m not constantly compelled to post and create on these platforms.
Once I finally decided to post more, it took me some time to find my voice. And when I discovered my purpose and voice, I realized my brand wasn’t of someone who needed to say a lot on social media; the few posts I do make are enough.
So take your time with personal branding, and don’t force conveying your brand on social media. Just be yourself. The rest will follow naturally.
Frank Kalman is Talent Economy’s Managing Editor. To comment, email email@example.com.