Why I Regret Not Building a Personal Brand Ten Years Earlier
Do you roll your eyes at social media influencers and think they are mostly pathetic, attention-grabbing fake people? While clearly, some are cringe-worthy, times are changing. Building a personal brand is becoming mandatory in the modern world for EVERYONE. People without one will regret it.
Now I am suspicious of anyone under fifty who says they don’t have social profiles. What are they hiding? Are they anti-social, in general? What is wrong with them?
Let me set it straight for the record: I am a Gen Xer. My generation did not grow up with the Internet. It may feel like a different time period altogether because it was. My parents had a rotary phone (Millennials, you can google that) and I listened to cassette tapes in my bedroom as a teenager. We learned DOS computer systems in school. When I entered the workforce, Google was in its’ infancy and Facebook and YouTube didn’t yet exist.
Business used to be based on a personal connection. You actually met people in-person. Your circles were smaller but more meaningful. Networking meant grabbing a beverage and working your way around a large room filled with people to introduce yourself. You handed out paper business cards. Then you waited a week and called people on the phone. You hoped they hadn’t thrown your business card away, which often happened. You mailed people brochures and faxed them quotes.
Those times are over. Today we still love in-person events but connections and follow-ups are all online. In the meantime, you google people to spy on them and check your social clout. Have you ever googled yourself? Everyone is doing it. If you apply for a job, you are warned that the recruiters and hiring managers definitely looked you up first. Having inappropriate social handles or unprofessional photos viewable by the public can severely hurt your job chances.
Your personal brand is your professional worth.
I waited too long to build my personal brand. I registered my name as a website years ago but left it under construction. I set up social profiles that I left unchanged for years, letting them get out-of-date and rarely visiting them. I did nothing to build a following or build a reputation as a thought leader.
In the meantime, I remember a good friend and fellow business owner about twelve years ago telling me that he tweeting 10+ times daily. I thought to myself “He really needs to focus on making money instead of wasting time on social media.” I couldn’t have been more wrong. Not only did he build a massive following on Twitter but he actually sold his company because of one tweet that drew attention from a CEO who made him an offer. It all happened because of Twitter!
When I sold my shares to my digital agency and went solo, I had a terrible personal brand. I had neglected it so many years that I basically needed to start over from scratch. With my skepticism of social media, the first place I headed was the most logical platform: Linkedin. After all, Linkedin is the place to make business connections. It is the “serious” social media platform.
I found that Linkedin had changed a lot. It wasn’t just for job seekers anymore. People were gaining followings by posting inspirational quotes, sharing viral videos, vlogging, live streaming, a beta feature that Linkedin introduced in early 2019, and newsletters members could build, another beta feature.
I jumped in and started posting content a few times a week then daily. My following quickly grew. After one year of doing this semi-regularly, I had built my network to over 50,000 subscribers. Now, so what? You don’t win a medal for gaining a following. Is there a way to monetize? Yesssss…..that’s exactly what happened. I started a B2B consultancy business for Marketing and around 80% of my business came from Linkedin alone. Now I’ve branched out to other social platforms to create an omnipresence, build more SEO, and drive traffic to my website (which finally is semi-built).
Not only can you make money from your personal brand but you also will gain attention from fellow content creators. That opens up the possibilities for collaborations and other business opportunities. It’s good to have the right friends. It feels a bit like in high school being part of the ‘in’ crowd. Building a brand will make you a ‘cool kid’ online but more importantly, this will translate into offline opportunities.
Are you convinced yet? Maybe you are in a full-time job and think “I don’t need a personal brand.” but is there even such a thing as job security anymore. Plus, future employers are looking for you online so impressing them will always put you ahead of the competition. Many unsolicited yet great job offers come from your personal brand since recruiters may see your profile and reach out. I would argue that you must always have a plan B.
If you are wondering now how to get started, I regularly write articles about this topic both on Linkedin and on Medium. I would be honored for you to read them, such as How to Build an Irresistible Brand.