Why and How to Use Content to Create Your Personal Brand
Personal Branding Definition
Wikipedia says, “Personal branding is the practice of people marketing themselves and their careers as brands”. And as per a Forbes article, “The term branding has long been relegated to companies, but today almost every individual has a personal brand”. And as our online presence is more important than it was ever before, personal branding can also be the practice of presenting yourself online as well as offline. Personal branding is becoming just as important as it has been for brands. In this article, we will examine how powerful can personal branding be in an individual's professional journey. Also, we will talk about how powerful personal branding can be done through Content. In fact, we will learn how Content Marketing can not just help organizations but individuals as well in creating a robust brand. And then we will learn some of the ways we can deploy content marketing tactics for personal branding.
How Powerful Can Personal Branding be?
Several surveys have pointed out that people trust recommendations from other people more than they trust communications from brands. In fact, as per one survey, 90% of the respondents said that they would trust personal recommendations over a brand's communication. And just imagine if the personal recommendation comes from someone who is already a brand, the impact would be manifolds. Perhaps this is the reason people prefer to read expert reviews before making purchase decisions. Please remember, these expert reviewers have themselves established their own brands. They are considered experts. They are trusted. And people reach out to them when they need an expert opinion. And this is what makes personal brands so powerful.
Marrying Personal Branding to Content Marketing
It would now be important to understand how these individuals became personal brands. Most of these individuals had content. The content may be in the form of verbal communications, written communications or visuals. Whatever the form of content they had, they were able to express themselves effectively to their target audience with their content. A writer, a politician, a dancer, or even a stand-up comedian – they all have specialized content that helps them express themselves effectively to their niche audience. This is exactly what content marketing is. In the B2B scenario, the primary content format maybe a blog post, an article, a white paper, etc. The channel of communication may be email, professional networks such as LinkedIn, etc. And the target audience may be the head of a strategic business unit.
How Does Content Marketing Help in Building a Personal Brand?
1. You can Showcase Your Area of Expertise Through Content
The best way to show people your expertise is to create compelling content regularly and share them with the audience that might benefit from your content. As you keep sharing your knowledge by producing and sharing high-quality content, you would soon be spotted. With time, you should be able to write content around the most pressing pain points of your target audience. As you write more and more content on a subject, more and more people would visit your site and even share your content.
2. It Helps You Build Your Online Authority
Establishing yourself as an online authority is merely a by-product of your online visibility. As you write more content on the area of your expertise and as people start getting benefited, they start considering you an online authority on that given subject. Although this process takes time, a lot depends on your expertise. Therefore it is important to select an area you're really interested in. Active interest in your area of expertise will drive you constantly to learn more and more about the subject and consequently produce great content.
3. It's Always Easier to Connect with Others Through Content
Connecting with people in your niche is a very important part of successful personal branding. People would connect with you only if you have something great to offer to them in return. Professionals you need to connect with to expand your network are already hard-pressed for time. No one has time to entertain additional clutter – unless what you are offering is not clutter. And if you have something really meaningful to offer (great articles on a given subject for example), people would not just connect but they would love to subscribe to your updates so that they do not miss out on your posts. Just imagine if you didn't have content, how would you have tried to connect. Through cold emails? Or by sending random connection requests? These techniques are certainly not the best ones. Anything that doesn't add value won't work in the long run. If you have great content, connecting with others certainly becomes easier.
4. Premium Content Quality Makes You Trustworthy
Unfortunately, content is being used as a tool to enhance SEO, generate leads and showcase engagement statistics to higher management. This attitude dilutes the essence of the content. With such an attitude, content is being mass-produced. If the competitor is producing 3 blog posts per week, you try to produce 5 or 6 blog posts per week. Sometimes even great content pieces are deliberately made to hide behind long web forms. All such shady tricks of the so-called content marketing efforts lead to a deluge of poorly written content. And that is why the majority of content pieces on the web do not appear to be trustworthy. On the contrary, high-quality content always stands out. And, in a scenario where great content is hard to come by, consistently published high-quality content by you would very soon establish you as a trustworthy person that can be counted upon.
5. Content Can Be a Powerful Emotional Tool
Content Speaks. Your tone, your deep emotions, etc can be very effectively communicated with great pieces of content. Content, unlike numbers, bars and graphs; express emotions. Even a carefully written email content has the power to win business. There have been classic articles that have led to mass movements. Marketing, to a great extent, is an art of storytelling. A great story can help you win a million hearts. It is often said that people do not care what you do. What they care about is why you do it. If you can win your audience at an emotional level, you have almost achieved your goal. And your content, in whatever format you choose, helps you to a great extent in achieving this goal. Emotion is undoubtedly the number one persuasion tool.
How to Build Your Personal Brand with Content Marketing
1. Define Your Personal Brand's Value Proposition
This is the first step of your journey towards your personal brand-building through content. Google says value proposition (in marketing) is an innovation, service, or feature intended to make a company or product attractive to customers. Before you start building your brand through content marketing, ask yourself what makes you or your content attractive to your target audience. And there can always be more than one trait that makes your content attractive. It can be your deep knowledge of the subject, your ability to express complex concepts or maybe the lucidity of your language. Of course, it can be "all the three". Identify a couple of traits that make your content stand out and define your personal brand's value proposition.
2. Define and document your personal brand goals
Strategy means analyzing the current state, envisioning the future state and setting smart goals. So, just like any other strategy, the content strategy must have a set of smart goals. Every individual would have a different set of goals. For example, you may be interested in building your personal brand for increasing authority, trust or likability, building influence or even generating leads. Whatever your goals are, please ensure that you define your goals very clearly and write it down. Although we are talking about defining and documenting personal branding goals, the reality is that even many established brands do not have a well defined and documented content goals. Once you have defined your brand's value proposition and documented personal goals, you have to drill down further and break down the larger goals into smaller objectives. For example, if your larger personal branding goal is to enhance your online authority, your smaller objective can be writing regular blog posts or writing ebooks, participating in online communities, etc.
3. Write an eBook
Authoring a book has always been one of the best ways to do personal branding. In the early days, authoring a book was not as easy as it is today. Now you do not need publishers to get your book published and distributed. Self-publishing a book is very much possible now. You can then distribute it sell it through massive online channels. Publishing a book instantaneously boosts your visibility, credibility, and authority at the same time. Usually, even if we have a lot to share and we do have command over a niche still when we find it overwhelming when it comes to booking publishing. If you are hard-pressed for time, you can simply record your content and ask a good writer to convert your verbal content to a written one. And if you do not have a great command over your English (if you want to publish your book in English), like most of us, then hire an editor. If you have been blogging constantly, you can simply compile your blog posts and create an ebook in no time.
4. Blog Consistently
By blogging constantly about your niche, you build an authority over your subject. As soon as people start considering you to be an authority, they start following you. And very soon a large number of people start subscribing to your blog. And in no time, you build a community just by blogging consistently. Ideally, you should be producing one good blog post every week. If you're able to produce two or three posts per week, it would be great. However, do not do this at the expense of quality. Blogging has been considered the most popular content marketing tool. Most marketers, particularly in the B2B space, have included blogging in their marketing mix. In fact, in one of the surveys, 96% of the respondents (B2B Buyers) said that they look for content from thought leaders before making purchases. Just like most content pieces, ensure that your blog posts are able to add significant value to your target audience. Last but not the least, ensure that your blog posts are engaging, entertaining and motivating. And while blogging, you need to keep in mind that it will take time for you to reap the real benefits of blogging. Therefore, it is important that you keep blogging consistently over a period of time.
5. Answer Questions
There are several platforms where people ask questions. Quora, for example, is one such popular platform. You can also find discussions on the topic of your interest by searching through hashtags. Give genuine and unbiased answers to those looking for help. Never try to pitch your products or services in the discussion unless you are extremely sure that your products and services can really add value. Always remember that a lot of individuals try to answer questions simply to get an opportunity to pitch their products or services. Such responses can easily be identified and rejected. Hence, such an attempt at personal branding might have the opposite and a detrimental effect on your personal brand very soon. Most importantly, always ensure that you answer relevant direct messages sent to you from various platforms. And never forget to answer questions posted on your own website or blog. When someone reads your blog post, he or she also reads the comments and answers.
6. Do Guest Blogging
Usually, guest bloggers write for others' blogs and platforms (usually within the same industry) to contribute quality articles and to get backlinks to their own websites or blogs. Getting a backlink from a domain that has very good domain authority helps build your own blog’s domain authority. And, domain authority is a major criterion used by Google to rank websites. If you do not have much idea about domain authority, please look it up on Google. While doing guest blogging, be very sure about the reputation of the platform for which you are writing. Just like a website with good domain authority positively impacts your SEO, backlinks from websites with a poor reputation or bad domain authority score would adversely impact your SEO. Try to get your posts published on sites such as Forbes, Fortune, etc. If you do not have a lot of time to write content especially for these platforms, post your articles on LinkedIn and Medium. They allow you to republish your content.
7. Post Consistently on Social Media
When we post consistently, people in our network start identifying us soon. And if your content is really good, your audience would anticipate your content. This is the best that can happen for your personal brand. Your audience is everywhere. There is a possibility that a group of people follows you on more than one platform. Hence, it is important for you to develop and maintain a consistent tone across all platforms. By engaging with your followers, you would know what makes your audience love you. Keep doing more of that. You do not need new articles every day. You can share some reports or some articles from authoritative domains in your industry. For example, you may share a McKinsey report on the impact of AI on Marketing and give your genuine inputs. Your audience would love something like this. Very soon, they would start remembering you for the wealth of quality information you keep sharing. As always, never post things to promote your products and services. Always remember that social media is full of clutter. Your content would stand out only if it is genuine, original and have elements that either educates, entertains or motivates your audience. Also, try to have some innovative pictures and titles to attract eyeballs. You would need to spend some time to come up with innovative titles. And you would get tons of free images on platforms such as Pixabay, etc.
8. Incorporate Video into Your Strategy
People do not have a lot of patience to read your stuff unless it is too educating or entertaining. In most cases, people do not have the patience to read. I like to read but now I have moved to YouTube. I can just close my eyes and listen to the audio. Video is expensive content. But there is no need to be too fancy with videos. Use your smartphone and make your own videos. People love original content. If you have great things to share, simple videos would do wonders. When people see you in person, they remember you more. For personal branding, videos should be a very important component of the overall mix.
9. Start a Podcast
For many of us, showing our face on camera becomes too unnerving. For such individuals, Podcasts can be a good idea. Organizing Podcasts can be slightly technical for some of us. In that case, you can at least create a free account on SoundCloud and post your audio files. If your content has the power, your Podcast series will be super successful. Irrespective of the channel, Video and audio content (such as Podcast or SoundCloud file) help you establish a better connection with your audience than a piece of an article or a verbose blog post.
Quick Reminders About Building Your Personal Brand with Content
1. Make Your Content Original and Distinctive
Do not spend a lot of time discussing what has already been discussed several times. Find something new. Find something interesting. Have your own writing style. Do not copy either the idea or the style.
2. Be Authentic
Have your own point of view. If you are too influenced by others’ views then you may not be considered too authentic. Always have strong reasons for your statements. Back your statements with numbers.
3. Create Relevant, Valuable, and Educational Content
Think about it. I like Cats. But they are not relevant to my business. Why would I bother to read about cats unless I have nothing else to do? Similarly, there may be an article on Content Marketing. I love to read about this subject. But, let's say, that the article talks about why not to use Content Marketing. And it has no real-life examples or statistics to support this hypothesis. Although this article is “relevant” for me, this is neither valuable nor educational. I wouldn’t really like to spend a lot of time reading this content. And, of course, there would be no reason for me to either like or share the content in my network.
4. Be Consistent
You wrote great content - highly engaging, relevant, educational, motivational and valuable. People loved it. They shared it. They liked it. And then, you are gone for a month. In today’s content clutter, frequency is as important as the quality. If your audience doesn’t hear from you for a long, it forgets you soon. They may not even forget you but you certainly go out of their top of the mind recall or their active radar. Sometimes, a few of us post articles every day and then they just disappear. If you post average articles every day, there are strong chances that your followers might un-follow you soon. So, be consistent. Post something interesting every few days. Try to write a great article every week. Whatever frequency works for you, be consistent. Always remember that personal branding is a long-term effort. It requires consistency as it is all about building trust and recognition.