A Personal Brand is the process of obtaining and maintaining a reputation or impression that convey a message about you, your career, your services, products and mission. In Be Your Own Brand, first published in 1999, marketers David McNally and Karl Speak wrote: "Your brand is a perception or emotion, maintained by somebody other than you, that describes the total experience of having a relationship with you.” Your Personal Brand is a Public Persona you present that places relationships with you in a positive, beneficial light. Your Personal Brand exists in the real world, but in this day and age is most often communicated, discovered or implied by your online digital presence. This is actually great news and presents a unique opportunity for those savvy enough to take control of their online brand and drive the conversation to reach a greater audience, build relationships and boost engagement.
Wondering where to start? Read below for a beginners guide on digitally building your personal brand.
Associate Your Brand with a Website
A personal website is the building block you need to develop your Personal Brand. Your website is your brand headquarters for your contact information, project portfolio, services, products and all of the information that goes into building your credibility. It is the digital space where you control your image and the message you want to communicate with the outside world. It represents a great opportunity to distance yourself from your competition in professionalism and appearance, globalize your reach to a worldwide audience, create mutual connections with like-minded people and create a calling card that works much better than a physical business card or paper resume.
8 Ways to Strengthen Your Personal Brand on Your Website
Establish Domain—Your domain name is your website’s address. Your domain name needs to emphasize the experience of fostering a relationship with your brand. It should be concise, emphasize professionalism and reliability in order to establish your credibility in an easy-to-remember format. A personal website is no good if no one can find it. Choose a domain name that represents you, your name, mission or raison d’etre. See a complete domain name checklist here.
Make a Plan—Knowing where you’re going before you start working on your site will do wonders for smoothing the whole process. Keep in mind that all objectives need to hit on the same goal: what is your personal brand. Think about what you want to communicate. What is the main message or takeaway? Is there something specific on your site you want to direct attention to? Create wireframes of the different pages or sections you want to develop. This helps you think through page elements ahead of time, eliminating any unforeseen obstacles or roadblock for getting your site up and launched. This is your chance to put as much thought into how you want your brand to come across to digital audiences.
Smart Start Strategy—With your targets now in sight, it’s time to go to launch phase. Depending on how adept you may be at website development, there are beautiful DIY templates available from sites such as Squarespace and GoDaddy or if you’re familiar with HTML and coding you can design and customize your site to your liking. Looking for a middle ground? This is a great opportunity to bring in a freelance designer or web specialist. Many companies specialize on web development and cover everything from copywriting, graphic design, development, SEO and conversion in order to get the most ROI from your new site. Choose which every time, resource and financial investment is going to be best for you.
Organize Your Site—There are several elements your site will need to reinforce your brand’s image. You’ll need:
- Header: elegant, neat, uncluttered, logo in upper left corner, keep your menu in the same place throughout site
- Hero Shot: professional photo of yourself
- Calls to Action: Simple, clear directions to encourage visitors to accomplish the goals of your site
- Forms: to collect visitor information, encourage registration or collect subscriptions. Request ONLY the information you need and nothing more.
- Trust Builders: testimonials, awards and nominations, certifications, memberships, samples of work
- Internal Site Search: so visitors can easily look up information on your site
- Social Media Buttons: to direct users to channels you would like to share or connect on
- Footer: Your address, contact email, phone number, etc. for quick access.
- Additional Elements: portfolio of your clients or previous work, membership access, blog links, features/benefits, etc.
Design Pointers to Consider—Your site needs to be designed with user experience in mind. Some pointers:
- Eliminate clutter. Nothing unnecessary should be present no matter how much you like it. If it doesn’t serve a purpose for your site’s visitors, toss it. It will only serve to clutter your user experience
- Your content needs to be organized logically in groups.
- Avoid features that slow your loading time like auto-play videos, complex animations or music. You have less than three seconds before new users get impatient with your site’s loading speed.
- Plan your page from the top down, with high priority information located at the top or can be accessed with minimal scrolling.
- Select cohesive colors and images.
- Budget white or blank space. It’s pleasing when used in the right spot.
- Avoid reader fatigue, legible fonts, appropriate font size, narrow lines and ample leading.
- Uniform page layouts throughout your site will package the whole experience together.
Applying Your Brand to Social Media
Most of the concepts that go into building your brand through your website are applicable to your social media pages. However, social media manages to provide several different opportunities to further strengthen your personal brand that your webpage is unable to do. Your social platforms allow you to self-package, which is the concept that "success is not determined by individuals' internal sets of skills, motivations, and interests but, rather, by how effectively they are…branded," or it’s not what your brand does, but how you say it.
While your website should not be changed that often to maintain consistency of your Personal Brand, your social media pages allow you to relay your message and self-package every day, letting you shape your image or persona consciously. You can tailor your message to the niche topics your brand occupies and position your brand as an expert in your field. Also, posting daily drives engagement and strengthens your brand’s familiarity with your audience. But most importantly, social networks allow brands to grow their visibility. Your online persona becomes a marketing and promotional tool to brand yourself. Success on these digital platforms is converted into a digital social currency of value that can transform into real world rewards.