Personal branding is key if you want to build a bigger audience for your blog, find better career opportunities, support your corporate brand or truly achieve online visibility for almost any application.
Related: 5 Steps to Build Your Personal Brand
However, not all personal branding strategies will yield you the same value; it’s not enough to label your social media efforts as “personal branding” and expect to start reaping rewards.
As you’ve undoubtedly seen, some personal brands are compelling; they’re interesting, interactive and “alive” in the social world. Yet other personal brands are generic — that is, you can’t really tell them apart from their contemporaries.
Having a compelling personal brand comes with a ton of advantages:
- Differentiation. There are millions of personal brands out there, which means competition is fierce. If you want a chance at attracting more followers, you need to distinguish yourself — and having a compelling personal brand, rather than a generic one, is a good way to do it.
- Loyalty. Follower loyalty depends on how memorable your brand is. If you offer something dynamic, interesting and consistent, people will stick around indefinitely. If you’re stale and unoriginal, they’ll have no reason to stay with you.
- Perceived value. Being more compelling, charismatic and focused means that more people will see you as an authority — and they’ll value you more as an author or prospective business partner.
But, how can you tell if your personal brand is compelling? You can start by asking the following questions.
Who is your target audience?
Targeting a specific niche is a fundamental strategy for securing more interested followers, for several reasons. Targeting a specific audience differentiates you from generalists; for example, a marketer who specializes in PPC ads will be seen as a higher authority in that area than a marketer who does “everything.”
Related: 8 Tips for Building Your Personal Brand in 2017
It also helps you secure higher relevance, which could be important for attracting new people to your brand. So, ask yourself: Who is your target audience?
If your answer is something vague, like “business owners” or “marketers,” it’s time to rethink your niche. For example, you could target “college-aged entrepreneurs” or “marketers in retail.”
How different are your posts?
Take inventory of your last several dozen blog and social media posts. How unique were they? Do you find yourself posting about the same topics, in the same format, around the same time every day? Your social media accounts shouldn’t appear robotic; they should be lively and diverse.
For example, do you post only text-based blogs? Consider making a video insted. This year, they’re projected to account for 75 percent of all internet traffic.
What norms do you violate?
Compare yourself to some of your competitors, and the standards your industry has set. What norms do you violate? Do you post about taboo topics that no one wants to touch? Do you hold opinions that spark the ire of your contemporaries? Do you post quizzes and other interactive materials that are rare for your industry?
If you basically follow the same standards as the authorities that came before you, you can’t label yourself as a “compelling” brand.
How would your followers describe you?
This question is telling, so if you can’t come up with an honest answer on your own, consider asking some of your followers to do it for you. Would they describe you as a “hard-working professional with experience in sales and marketing?” If so, they’ve just described about 15 million people.
You should stand out in some way — for example, are you known for your in-depth analyses? Do your stick-figure doodles attract attention? Do you use your pets as examples to describe your main points? You need a hook to make yourself known, and it doesn’t have to be a gimmick. Something simple, like the way you format your posts or the types of topics you cover, could be enough to distinguish you.
How often do people debate with or criticize you?
Surprise is one of the most important emotions in marketing. Surprise makes you stand out, makes you more memorable and makes you more shareable. That’s why posting a surprising opinion, such as one in which you debate a standing authority, or posting a thought piece that opposes mainstream ideas, can be incredibly valuable for your brand.
If people are debating you or criticizing you (in addition to praising and agreeing with you), that’s a good sign that you’ve “stirred the pot,” and are differentiating yourself from the typical crowd.
Help! I’m boring!
Are you unsatisfied with the answers you were able to give for these questions? Don’t worry; there’s always time to change your personal brand. These are three of the best tips I can offer:
- Be yourself. Many newcomers to the personal branding world make the mistake of being overly professional, which makes their tone come off as robotic and impersonal. Instead, just be yourself! Show off the personality traits that your friends and family members love.
- Experiment. Don’t restrict yourself to following strategies and choosing topics that are proven to be successful. Step out of your comfort zone by experimenting with new mediums, new formats and new topics. Keep what seems to work, and discard what fails to generate interest.
- Argue. It sounds strange, but remember, debate is a sign that you’re distinguishing yourself. Plus, the attention you’ll get from the scuffle will likely earn you more followers. As long as you do so respectfully, arguing and going against the grain can be an easy way to make your personal brand more interesting.
Related: 8 Reasons a Powerful Personal Brand Will Make You Successful
Personal branding is a long-term strategy and a long-term process, so don’t panic if you don’t get it right immediately. Take your time, make small adjustments and eventually, you’ll get your brand to where you need it to be.