In a previous post here on Marketing Pilgrim, I wrote about personal branding from the perspective of how social media can help (or hurt) in finding a job. That article focused on the basic tactics like setting up professional profiles and who to follow. In this post I’d like to get into the strategy behind personal branding a little more.
The basic tenet behind developing a strong personal brand – or any brand, for that matter – is providing your audience with something of value to them. Online, that’s largely about content, and just as businesses should have a solid content strategy, so should you as an individual.
Developing a Personal Brand Content Strategy
Step 1: What’s your goal?
A content strategy is simply a plan for effectively using content to reach your goals. Are you looking for a job? Trying to position yourself as a leader in your industry? Launching a new business? A student looking at potential opportunities down the road?
Step 2: Who can help you reach that goal?
Once you are clear about your objective, your content plan begins with understanding the audience you are trying to reach. If you’re a job-seeker, that may be others in your industry, recruiters, or industry veterans. If you’re a business owner, your target audience might be potential customers, vendors, other businesses in related industries, or even competitors. Give some serious thought to this step, but don’t get too hung up on it; building your base of connections will be an ongoing process.
Step 3: Get out – and stay out – of the Step 2 mindset.
Now, stop thinking about what’s in it for you, and start thinking about what you can provide that’s of value to your audience. The saying that it’s better to give than to receive is nowhere more true than in developing your personal brand.
Types of Content
There are several different ways you can share content online:
- Original content is anything you create yourself. Always be sure that it reflects well on the brand you want to be; everything you put online is part of the cultivation of your personal brand, from comments on a blog to a full-scale article. Make sure it’s written well and is informative. And please remember to proofread, edit and spell-check, no matter how small the exchange.
- Shared content is anything that you are willing to promote that was created by someone else. This can take many forms, from retweets to social media shares, likes and plus ones. Remember that everything you share, even if you didn’t create it, also reflects on you. Be judicious, and always consider the value to your audience.
- Curated content can include both original and shared content. It allows the ‘curator’ to pull together information in a way that may be valuable to the audience. It’s a big web out there, and sometimes having someone gather the best of the best for you is a big help in parsing all that information. Curation can be useful because, as Brian Solis said, the “…thoughts, words and ideas of others can be helpful to establish yourself as a value added resource and as a place or destination for information.” With curation, though, be careful not to just rehash things your audience has likely already seen. (For example, if you’re a marketer, don’t just share every single thing Seth Godin says; it may be smart, but your audience probably already sees it directly.)
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Which type of content works best? The answer depends on your goals, your positioning, and your skills. If you’re a student or breaking into a new industry, for example, 100% original content may not be the best choice, since you’re not (yet) able to speak from a place of experience. However, perhaps some content curation that exemplifies your interests and goals would also be of value to members of your audience.
Notwithstanding the comment above, you should consider creating at least some original content for a few reasons:
- It’s good practice, especially writing.
- Just sharing and curating content may not be enough to establish your credibility.
- Your audience could most likely get all the content you share from the original source.
It’s Not Just About Text Any Longer
Many people think of content as just textual, but that’s no longer the case. Here are just a few types of content you could create that might allow you to engage your audience effectively:
- Text – Text does remain the most widely distributed form of content online, from Tweets to full-scale multi-page articles in online journals. Other forms of text-based content include blog posts, social media entries, comments on blogs/forums, and even shares, likes, plus ones and retweets.
- Photos – A picture can be worth a thousand words, if done well. The important thing is that it provides value to your audience and moves you closer to your goal.
- Videos – For some, online videos are a quick and relatively painless way of creating content. They can showcase your personality even more than most other mediums because viewers get the experience of ‘almost being there.’
- Audio – Podcasts and other forms of audio can be used to share information in a medium that works well for some.
Anything you do to communicate with others online is content, and content should always be considered in the context of your goals. Developing a strategy allows you to be conscious in your choices and puts you in a better position to succeed.
Rob Croll is Department Chair for the Internet Marketing Bachelor’s and Master’s degree programs at Full Sail University, and the Course Director for Search Engine Optimization there. He also owns Marlannah Digital Marketing, a consulting firm that works with small- to medium-sized businesses and non-profits. Rob was named one of the Top 100 Marketing Professors on Twitter and has had numerous articles published both online and in print on a variety of Internet marketing topics. You can follow Rob on Twitter @rcroll.
The views and opinions expressed here are not necessarily those of Marketing Pilgrim.