Personal branding is a strategy with tons of potential applications; you can use it as a kind of modern resume building to help you find a new job, use it as a platform for an independent business or consulting career, or even use it as an extension of a corporate brand. But no matter how you use it, there are certain strategies you’ll need to adopt, and best practices you’ll need to follow. Making a critical mistake can compromise the effectiveness of your entire campaign, so just one oversight can set you back weeks or months of work.
As you work to develop your personal brand, be sure to avoid these disruptive mistakes:
Too many new personal branders go in thinking they need to target everybody and everything. They don’t have a goal, per say, but know that the more connections they have, the better. This mentality is counterproductive because it spreads your efforts too thin over too wide a range. It’s far better to have a specific goal in mind—such as finding X number of new clients—and a specific audience to target—such as marketing professionals between the ages of 20 and 30. Only then will you be able to tailor your posts, networking targets, and time in a way that leads you to favorable results.
Personal branding has enjoyed a great revolution thanks to the ubiquity and utility of social media. Sites like LinkedIn and Twitter have made it easy for almost anyone to get involved with a personal brand. However, relying only on social media can severely limit your potential audience. As a quick example, some people have sworn off social media entirely and only network at professional events. Others only use social media as a tool to engage with people who they’ve already met in real life. Going to live events and meeting people in real life is a good—and I would argue essential—compliment to your social strategy.
Personal branding is a professional strategy meant to get you new clients or a new job. Accordingly, many networkers put on their “professional face” to engage with this audience. There’s nothing wrong with adding a layer of formality to your written posts and requests for engagement, but don’t take this to the extreme. If you start loading your social media networks with buzzwords and bureaucratic nonsense, you’ll come off looking like a robot. People want to see you for who you are, and see what makes you unique. Give it to them by showing off your true personality, whenever you can.
By “blacking out,” I don’t mean literally blacking out. I’m referring to succumbing to a period of limited content and interaction. If you’re committed to your personal brand, you should be posting, engaging, and participating in your chosen community on a near-constant basis—at least once a day. Blacking out in this context refers to going several days without posting anything or checking your notifications. Doing so can cause a hiccup in your content stream, and might alienate the people who have grown used to seeing you regularly.
It’s good to pick sides as a thought leader in a given industry, so don’t be afraid to make bold predictions, make strong claims, and align yourself with one side of an especially heated debate. Even though it might irritate or push away a handful of your followers, the vast majority will respect you for choosing a side. However, one of the worst things you can do in personal branding is switch sides once you’ve already chosen one or the other. If you pick a side, remain consistent with it unless significant information changes the game.
The “personal” part of personal branding implies that you are at the center of all your efforts. You’re the one making the posts, you’re the one doing the interacting, and you’re the one building the reputation. However, if you want to be successful, you need to remember that other people are involved. If you want a dedicated follower, you have to make them interested in you. If you want a strong new connection, you have to give them something valuable (even if it’s only advice). In this way, personal branding is as much about others as it is about you.
Building a personal brand is about more than just updating your Facebook page every once in a while. It’s a full-fledged marketing strategy, and if you want to find lasting success, you’ll have to treat it that way. That means you’ll have to take careful measurements throughout the entirety of your strategy, including inbound traffic, new connections, and engagements, and see how these measurements change as you implement new strategies and tactics. Only then will you be able to see if all your efforts are worth it.
Fortunately, when it comes to personal branding, no mistake is truly fatal. You’ll always have a chance to readjust your strategy, overcome a temporary weakness, and forge a path to a better future. But making up for those mistakes takes time, and the less time you spend covering old ground, the better. Learn from these mistakes before you make them, and you’ll keep yourself more consistent, more productive, and more successful in the long run.