If you want to promote your name and your company online, you have to begin by building your personal brand. You have to begin thinking of yourself and your name as a brand. If you start there, everything else is easy.
How do I know? I've spent years building my own brand, and I'm going to show you how to do it.
1. Do a little preliminary research.
Before you can build a positive personal profile online for yourself, you need to know what is already out there about you. Did you write a mean op-ed in college that has now made it into Google's cache? Do you have some unsavory photos floating out there in the world wide web?
Set up Google alerts using your name. Try to clean up any negative press or posts. You may even want to consider changing your name slightly -- such as by using your middle initial or dropping our your nickname to build your new profile. Get your name as clean and professional as possible before you begin building your brand online.
2. Get a website.
If you're going to make a name for your brand online, you need a site where your audience can visit so they can learn more about you. So, get a personal website with an "About me" page. There are lots of tools that you can use and websites you can visit to help you build your own website. Some of them are free. Some are paid, but remember, you get what you pay for.
If you want your website to be dynamic and professional-looking, make sure that you allot enough time, effort (and even money) into it. Use high-resolution photos of yourself and keep your copy short and engaging.
3. Think about your audience.
Who are you trying to reach? This is called your target audience.
If I've learned anything in my years of marketing, it's that you need to define your audience early on. Are you trying to direct people to your personal website so they can learn something from you? What do you have to offer them?
By answering these questions, you'll be able to get a better picture of your audience, and this will give you direction on how you communicate with them on your website and on social media.
4. Make friends with influential people online.
Influencers are some of your best assets as you build your personal brand. Over the years, I've made friends with people online who have big audiences in my industry. By building these relationships, my influencers are more willing to share or retweet my social posts to their audiences.
If you get free exposure to an audience that you are already trying to target, it's a win-win for both parties. Try out this technique to see if it works for you. If you have the right influencers in your circle, you'll get more traffic to your website and more engagement in your social posts.
5. The more people you meet, the better.
When you are building a personal brand, the people you know can help promote you. You can't limit these relationships to online. Perhaps you will reach out to some influencers online, and that is perfectly acceptable. I do that all the time, and it is rewarding to see these friendships form. But, you also need to do everything you can to meet influencers in other ways. Go to local events related to your industry. Network at happy hours.
Tell everyone what you do everywhere you go, from the waiter at your favorite restaurant to the people you sit beside at church. Expand your circles -- and your personal brand -- simply by being present with others.
6. Be you and only you.
I'm offering you this advice because I learned the hard way. When you are building a personal brand, you do want to put your best face forward. But you also don't want to create an online presence that isn't true to who you really are. Social users are savvy about honesty -- and they can tell when marketers are not being vulnerable and genuine.
So make sure you are putting forth an honest profile of who you are. When you do this, you’ll effortlessly build trust.
7. Capture information.
Once you have started building a relationship with your online audience, it will be time to collect some of their information. This will be useful in building an email list, for example, so you can communicate more directly with your target audience.
You can test this using creative ways. For example, once you have proven yourself as an established, trusted voice who offers valuable content, you can ask your audience to sign up for your monthly newsletter. You can also create videos to share your brand story. Incentivize this by offering a free giveaway or running a contest to generate excitement around free prizes. Make it fun for your target audience to participate.
It can feel overwhelming as you get start building your personal brand. But, it takes less than a week to try out these tips. It's easy to try one new strategy, and it won't be long before you have a great target audience listening to you and looking to you for advice. That's what a personal brand is all about.