HOW TO BUILD YOUR PERSONAL BRAND ONLINE: A STEP-BY-STEP GUIDE by Michael Peggs
You are what Google says you are. If you get this, then you get the importance of building your personal brand online.
Your potential boss, classmates, investors, and future mother-in-law have access to more information than you would willingly share. So we search. First on Google. Then Facebook and every other social media site known to man and Android.
What we find—not what you tell us—will form the basis of our first impressions. Gone are the days when eye contact, a firm handshake, and a smile are enough to pass the seven-second test. While we still make snap decisions, the human brain is rewiring to care less about verbal and nonverbal cues from face-to-face interactions. What matters now?
Putting your best cyber face forward.
To do so requires a new way of thinking. We’ve always seen big business, and lately Silicon Valley startups, as the benefactors of our brand. We use Nike, Starbucks, and Apple to co-author the stories we share with the world.
Put down the pen and pick up the blog.
Today all you need is a connection, and it’s as simple as a friend request or a follower. Don’t believe the hype—you are enough. No association necessary. But we can learn one lesson from big brands: remarkability.
Word-of-mouth marketing still matters, and your personal brand must be worthy of remark.
As Tom Peters first wrote in Fast Company magazine, your most important job is to become the head marketer for the brand called YOU. And today, more than ever, that brand must be built, marketed, and sold online.
THE ONE THING TO KNOW BEFORE YOU BEGIN BUILDING YOUR BRAND…
Perception is reality. Often our successes and failures have more to do with the impression we leave behind than the content of our conversation. It boils down to one word:
It takes a lifetime to build a good reputation but only a second to destroy it. Actions, attitudes, and values must be believed. “Fake it until you make it” might have worked in the past, but information is too easy to come by these days.
It goes back to remarkability and likeability.
We hire, do business with, and look out for people we like. People like us. It’s that simple. The goal of your personal brand is relate ability. Given the right message and medium, you can connect with anyone.
HOW PERSONAL BRANDING WORKS
Michael Jordan might have left the NBA after the 2002–03 season, but his name is still mentioned by players, coaches, and announcers alike. Even kids born after his retirement ‘wanna be like Mike’. Did Michael Jordan reach the heights of superstardom because of his basketball skills alone? No, Jordan built a brand.
Your personal brand is your legacy, and I’m not talking about when you’re six feet under. It’s what people say when you leave the room. It’s their interpretation of You—your personality, interests, passions, and performance on the job.
Ideally, what you intend is what’s received. Rarely is this the case.
Unfortunately, we easily misinterpret and then we misrepresent. People bring baggage to most relationships, and that impacts how they receive you. This is why personal branding is important. You must take back control of the conversation. As long as you’re clear and consistent in your message, your true meaning and best intentions will come to light.
But of course it’s not that easy. It never is
People will forget what you said and they will probably forget what you did, but they will never forget how you made them feel. Your brand must connect in ways that extend beyond words, and your best bet is believability. Authenticity is key.
SELLING IS HUMAN
The first step in building your brand is believing in yourself. Ask any professional pitch man what the key to selling is and you’ll learn that it’s belief in the product. Look in the mirror—at you—and think about what you see.
If you do not believe in your brand, how do you expect anyone else to buy in?
It’s a matter of coaching and confidence. As you learn more about YOU, you feel better prepared to go to market with your skills, talents, and expertise, all of which make up your dramatic difference.
Let me ask you a question: What sets you apart? What makes you remarkable? That’s where we begin.
The best way to ignite your personal brand is to tell a story. Since the dawn of day—and I’m talking the prehistoric past—stories have existed as the tried and true means of communication. Studies have proven that 70% of what we learn is consumed by storytelling. Think of way, way back in the day. The Giving Tree instilled a sense of gratitude and generosity while If You Give a Mouse a Cookie warned against greed and too much generosity.
For the audience, stories put meaning to the message.
We listen and we care. Maybe stories connect to our childhood curiosity, wonder, and sense that anything is possible. We romanticize the past and, on some level, stories are our way back to simpler times. More optimistic times.
Or maybe stories replace facts with feelings so we’re more inclined to act. We’re more motivated to move. Yes, it’s definitely that, and people pay attention to stories. They turn on and tune in because people care—your emotions represent their experiences and vice versa.
Let me tell you a story. I spent my entire life “knowing” that I wanted to do finance, and the moment I hit the trading room floor, I quickly learned it wasn’t for me. So I quit my job on Wall Street and moved to California. If you believe All The King’s Men, west is where you go when you get the letter saying, “Flee, all is discovered.” Well, it took me three years to discover how much I didn’t know, and it all started when someone asked me a simple question: What is your story?
3 QUESTIONS YOU MUST ANSWER ABOUT YOUR BRAND (WRITE THESE DOWN)
You were born an original, and your unique set of experiences has kept you that way. So the brand you build is distinct and different from anyone else. It’s one thing to know it, and quite another to show it. Your brand is what people take away. It’s the answer to “Why should I get to know you better?”, but before you can answer that, you must answer this:
1. What is your story?
Think of yourself as the lead in a one-woman play. Alone on stage and with all eyes on you, what hopes and dreams are you bringing to life? What challenges have you overcome? What success is waiting in the wings?
Add space, time, and a cast of supporting characters and you begin to build a plot. Your story is the totality of life so far, broken down into chapters, each with a beginning, middle, and end, but it’s why you’re sharing that’s most important.
It’s what catches our attention and it’s the reason why we tune in. What purpose will your story offer?
2. What is your gift?
There is something you do better than all your friends. Where everyone else struggles, you seem to excel effortlessly. You cannot remember a time when the living wasn’t easy.
Our experiences not only shape our stories but also cultivate our craft. It could be a knack for math and science, drawings and designs that would make a cherry blossom blush, or the note to a song that sounds as sweet as summer tea. Whatever it is, be the best.
Your story is what we hear and your gift is what we see. Make me a believer.
3. How can you serve others?
Your story is not for you. Neither is your gift. You’re here to help someone else. Call it the Law of Attraction or Karma, but you reap what you sow. Good things come to those who give, so give of yourself freely and generously.
What it all comes down to is service. You can only lead if you’re willing to serve, and your tribe needs YOU. Your brand is a beacon to a community, and the light that catches each eye is formed by four factors.
THE FOUR FACTORS OF YOU, INCORPORATED.
What do Nike, McDonald’s, and Google have in common? Besides being billion-dollar companies, they’ve likely gotten you to buy into their brand and you welcomed each into your home. You’ve taken advantage of their expertise because they serve a need, be it style, sustenance, or search.
The feat is that they’re familiar. We see them as more than big brands. Companies connect on a human level, and so must we. It’s your job to package your brand in a way that’s engaging to a potential employer, a future customer, or the young lady down the street.
To educate and excite, your brand must speak to four factors:
2. Price (i.e., value)
What exactly are you selling and who is the intended audience? Like Mike, if you identify yourself as a basketball player, then you’re placing your athleticism on the open market. General managers, athletic directors, and coaches are all interested in understanding why you deserve a spot on the team. Your role as a basketball player in front of Coach K is different than the seat you take as a student in American history. You must be clear about defining your role relative to the audience.
What is the value of your service? Teams require individuals to play different positions. Are you a point guard, shooting guard, small forward, power forward, or center? Can you shoot from the perimeter or do you possess a sick ability to layup the ball? Assess what you have to offer and connect the dots between your benefits and your brand.
Who else is offering what you intend to sell? You are not alone, and it’s important that you understand the competition. At an exhibition game or a camp full of scouts, show that you work the hardest, have the most heart, or keep the team at the top of your mind. Nothing happens in isolation, and how you position your talents is what will begin to set you apart.
How will you share your story with your intended audience? It’s great to know thyself, but you must announce your gift to the world. If you build it, who will come? No one, unless you share your highlights reel, connect with coaches, and make visits to campuses. Good promotion develops your reputation, and great promotion closes the deal.
MARKETING YOUR MESSAGE
Sad to say, but if you build it, they won’t come. You have to do more than build your brand. You must market it too, and I’m not talking about Mad Men. You and I don’t have millions to spend on Super Bowl ads.
The good news is that it’s easier than ever to share your story. Look at Robert Scoble, Microsoft’s former tech evangelist. Robert writes, blogs, and lives for tech, so much so that he partnered with Rackspace to develop Building 43, a community founded for people fanatical about the Internet. The Scobleizer brand screams technology, and his videos, blogs, and guest posts back it up.
His secret is producing and publishing information that builds trust, authority, and loyalty to his brand. For Robert, Content is King.
And it’s true. Content is King. Content informs, educates, and brings people together. Create frequently enough and a community will start to grow around your opinions and your ideas. As people share, the market for your message increases, and so does your influence.
Great content establishes your expertise in your field.
Relevant content gets read, and there are many ways for people to recognize your thought leadership. You can create infographics, guides, videos, how-to posts, eBooks, lists, case studies, podcasts, interviews, cheat sheets, webinars, white papers, presentations, and pin boards.
There are 101 ways for you to share and stand out. No matter what you choose, your content needs a home base, and I believe your best bet for building your brand is blogging.
BLOGGING FOR BRANDING
We are all teachers, but you can only share what you know. So learn.
We hire, do deals with, invest in and trust thought leaders, or experts in their field. Become the best chef, athlete, scientist, musician or programmer. It will take time, but master your subject and then blog about it.
Chances are, someone else is interested in your industry. Right now, another person is trying to get what you got. Know what you know. Help them out.
You can blog about something as simple as your interests or offer your expertise. Here’s how.
First thing’s first, choose your Blog Topic. The good news is you can blog about anything connected to the brand you wish to build. So begin with your brand in mind, and ask yourself a few questions:
1. Who’s your audience? Why should they care?
2. How will readers find your blog? What will keep them coming back?
3. Will there be enough to write about down the road? Do you see yourself continuing to care?
4. How many people are already blogging about your topic? What does competition look like?
5. What will you do differently? What tone will your blog take?
I’ve found that the types of blogs you write matter just as much as the topic itself, and the Blog Types that perform best are lists and how-tos. List-based posts make it easy for readers to skim, act, and share information. They’re as entertaining as they are educational, and we learn best when we’re having fun. How-to posts not only offer detailed step-by-step instruction but also instantly establish your credibility. They’re the perfect path for proving your expertise.
Successful writing leaves your readers wanting more. When it comes to planning and organization, create a Content Calendar. Your calendar should include regular blog posts, social media updates, product releases, and seasonal content. Your calendar a reminder of what to post and when. Just like you show up for work on time, show up to blog. Only you can decide the frequency of your posts, but consistency is key to building trust and engagement early on.
Your commitment is to write, and your reader’s commitment is to respond. It could be a comment, social share, or word-of-mouth mention. You want to create a community excited to spread the good word. So ask yourself: how do you want to be introduced?
It’s all in a blog name, and the best bet for your brand is YOU. I recommend naming your blog after yourself. If you think about your blog as a digital marquee, what will the announcement say? Making the decision to name your blog after you or under a pseudonym or title tied to your topic is a personal choice that takes time. No matter what you decide, remember to keep it short and make it as catchy and memorable as possible.
Building Your Blog…
It’s all so much easier than it seems. In fact, you can have your blog up and running in 4 steps:
1. Choose a Domain Name
2. Choose a Blog Host
3. Choose a Blog Platform
4. Install It
Choosing a Domain Name
Finding a great domain can take time, especially if you’re using popular keywords and a .com extension. This is another reason why I suggest using your name: chances are it’s unique. Even if you’re John Smith, you can add an occupation or skill at the end of your domain, such as JakeBallardFitness.com or ChloeObrianDesigns.com. You get a more memorable domain extension that happens to include built-in branding.
Whatever domain name you choose, your web address will help readers discover, remember, and share your story. Keep it short, easy to pronounce, and easy to share. Oftentimes, it’s the first window into your brand.
Choosing a Blog Host
A blog hosting service keeps the lights on. It’s the foundation of your blog on which everything is built. For obvious reasons it’s important, so selecting a hosting service should not be taken lightly. You want to take three things into account:
1. Bandwidth — Each host will give your blog a certain amount of space. Think about the type of content you will create, and keep in mind videos and larger presentations will take up more bandwidth than traditional text and a picture. Check the space allocation, but just know that most blogs will never exceed the entry-level plan.
2. Reliability — If readers can’t view your blog once, they’re unlikely to come back. You want your blog to be up and online 24/7. Only work with hosts that guarantee 99% uptime, and if you have your doubts then search for reviews.
3. Customer Service — Eventually something will break, and you want to make sure you’re supported. Even if you’re Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg, it helps to have channels to ask questions about surface problems. Phone and email support come standard, but look out for active forums, discussion groups, and other customer-centric communities.
Where Can I Get a Domain Name and Blog Hosting?
Shop around, but there’s no reason not to use the same service for purchasing your domain and hosting your blog. It saves you time and money. Most domains will run you $7 to $14 a year, and hosting typically costs no more than $5 a month.
I’ve tried a lot of services, and I recommend Bluehost. Bluehost offers 24/7 phone, live chat, and email support. According to independent studies, they average 99.9% uptime and some of the fastest page load speeds of any host. Maybe most importantly, they’re cost-effective. Plans start as low as $3.95/mo. and include:
Unlimited domains and website hosting
Unlimited disk space and bandwidth
Unlimited email accounts and FTP accounts
1 free domain name
Secure shell, SSL, FTP, stats
CGI, Ruby (RoR), Perl, PHP, MySLQ
$100 Google advertising offer
24/7 phone, chat, and email support
I have used BlueHost for years. Not only does it offer the most intuitive user interfaces, BlueHost is also the top-rated WordPress host. To learn more, visit Bluehost.
WordPress, Wix, and All Other Blog Platforms
You have options, and they include Blogger, Tumblr, and SquareSpace to name a few. They have their pros and cons, and each does one thing well. Blogger is as easy as it gets and offers an express setup. You can sign up and set up your blog in 15 minutes or less. Tumblr is great for curating snackable content, particularly the visual kind. You can add video, audio, photos, links, and text from around the web. And SquareSpace is the new kid of the block, offering some of the most beautiful design templates to artists, musicians, and photographers.
If you’re just getting started and care most about convenience, then I recommend Wix. They take care of the domain name and hosting—all you need to do is write. Wix offers more than 280 professionally designed templates, all easily customizable with their drag-and-drop interface. If you’re interested in creating a simple one-page portfolio, online business card, or digital CV, then Wix is for YOU. To learn more, visit Wix.
What I use is WordPress, and I’m not alone. More than 75 million blogs and websites use WordPress, including CNN, Forbes, and Best Buy. I think you should too.
WordPress is the most popular blogging platform in the world. Technically, it’s a content management system (CMS), which is a fancy way of saying it’s powerful. Not only can you blog, you can also create dynamic, fully loaded websites. You can choose from a directory of 2,000+ themes in addition to the ones you create yourself. With more than 25,000 plugins, you have access to limitless functionality and it’s all free. Yes, WordPress is free.
If you’re still not sold, consider this:
1. More Multimedia—Text alone is boring. Thanks to the WordPress Media Library, you can import and manage videos, audio, graphics, and more.
2. Mobilize—40% of your readers will visit your blog from a smartphone or tablet. WordPress offers responsive themes that automatically create a mobile-friendly version of your site.
3. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) — You want new readers to discover your blog, and Google loves WordPress. The code generated by WordPress works behind the scenes so that your site appears higher in search results.
But none of that is the best part. WordPress is really easy to use. You don’t need any technical or programming skills to get your blog up and running. Bluehost even offers a one-click installation.
Fire It Up!
Installing WordPress on your Bluehost account is like downloading software to your desktop. It’s super easy and takes seconds.
After signing up for Bluehost, login to your control panel. On the CPanel, scroll down to the “Software/Services” section and click “Simple Scripts.” Select “WordPress” under “Scripts List” and on the next page click “Install.”
In step one, select the domain name you purchased through Bluehost. If you purchased your domain from another domain registrar then you will need to transfer the domain to Bluehost. Skip down to step four, read the terms and conditions, indicate that you agree, and select “Complete.”
That’s it! WordPress is installing.
Write down your site URL, login URL, username, and password. You will need all four for managing your blog and sharing your first post with the world.
Blogging is just the beginning of building your brand online. It’s the first step to controlling the conversation, which is always much easier on your home turf. Create a space where you can share, listen, and learn. Your brand is best in the company of others.
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