For Spencer Rascoff, CEO of Zillow Group, personal branding through social media is a big part of a successful company.
“I was focused on corporate culture before it was cool,” he told The New Yorker. “It’s common for me to walk out of a meeting and write on Twitter, ‘Just finished a great meeting with @camille reviewing our PR goals for 2018.’”
Rascoff hopes employees will retweet his tweets, and he’s looking for good reviews on Glassdoor, where he has a 93 percent approval rating. Good reviews help Rascoff build an “employer brand,” which attracts top talent. Great employees create great companies. His strategy is simple: he tweets about his interactions with employees.
The internet provides unprecedented potential for personal branding, such as this. Increasingly, your personal brand is a cornerstone of your company — you’re the face of your business, a symbol of its values. Sound daunting? It doesn’t have to be.
What personal branding means for entrepreneurs
Personal branding is about how you represent yourself online and through other outlets. Even interactions with employees are a proxy for personal branding, because they can translate into online reviews.
Let’s concentrate on what you can control directly through your own efforts online. Your brand is a symbol representing your business. When it comes to how you represent your business online, there are a number of touchpoints to consider, including:
- Your social media accounts
- Your personal blog
- Third party websites
You can’t control what others say about you, but you can control what you say. Like anyone setting out to develop a presence online, start with social media.
Social media personal branding
There are over 3 billion social media users worldwide, and the number of active users has gone up 4 percent since April of 2017. But as an entrepreneur, one of your primary concerns is time. It’s tempting to sideline social media because there are so many things you need to do.
Think about successful entrepreneurs like Elon Musk (Tesla, SpaceX), Richard Branson (Virgin Mobile) and Mark Cuban (Dallas Mavericks, “Shark Tank”). Can you imagine what it would be like if they didn’t have social media accounts? Social media is an open door policy; it’s a sign of your accessibility, transparency and commitment.
LinkedIn is a good place for entrepreneurs to start, because it’s a place where professionals can connect with each other. When it comes to building your personal brand on LinkedIn, experts from the University of Alabama Birmingham recommend “striking a balance between presenting qualifications and offering a personality-rich narrative.” This balance applies to any of your social channels.
“Media can no longer be viewed as traditional producers and consumers, as we have all become our own news channel, facilitating in the conveyance of content and information,” Maeve Ahern O’Neill, personal branding consultant, said.
Here, then, are some strategic considerations for your social conveyances:
- Are you posting links and updates that are relevant to your expertise? Curating relevant content and commenting on it shows people you’re on top of your game.
- Are you tweeting, posting status updates and commenting on others’ posts in ways that showcase your personality? If people can tell you’re a real human being on networks, they’re more likely to follow you and approach you with questions about your expertise.
- Are you posting occasional updates with pictures about your personal life? You don’t want to overdo it, but personal disclosures are part of your charisma and charm.
- Are you posting about causes and nonprofits you support? Social media provides a great opportunity to show people what you value beyond commerce.
You’ll notice these considerations run parallel to how you operate in your daily professional environment. Social media gives you the opportunity to present your true professional self to a larger sphere.
While a blog may not be as important as a social media presence, it’s a great way to develop a personal brand with depth.
A blog can do multiple things for your personal brand, like:
- Provide a casual place for you to write posts about what’s important to you.
- Provide a portal to your social media channels, company website and from other websites via RSS feed.
- Demonstrate that you are an expert/thought leader in your field.
- Create traffic to your company website, which can lead to conversions.
People prefer to read and watch casual, entertaining and informative content. Your own blog is a great place to engage with an audience, but if you are going to start one, avoid these common blogging mistakes:
- Don’t expect instant results. People access your blog primarily via Google and social media, and it takes to time to build a following from these channels.
- Don’t focus entirely on SEO. As I brought up in a previous post, SEO might as well be dead; the point of your blog is to build influence and share your expertise, so focus on posts people will want to read first and foremost.
- Don’t sideline your personality. Write like you talk; this is “personal” branding after all, so be personable.
- Don’t be scatterbrained. Develop a regular posting schedule and stick to it.
- Don’t be narcissistic. Write about and post videos pertaining to issues that are important in your niche.
Having a blog is important in order to develop yourself as a thought leader in your field. And, it’s a great place to refer people to your company website as well as your posts on other websites.
Don’t be shy about sharing your knowledge on third-party websites. These could be industry-specific blogs, business blogs or news sites. Increasingly, people expect successful and smart entrepreneurs to be thought leaders in their field. When you share your viewpoints and demonstrate your knowledge through guest posts, you demonstrate that you’re smart enough to offer a valuable product or service.
“Guest blogging is crucial for branding,” Sujan Patel, chief marketing officer for Bridge.us, said in an interview with Search Engine Journal. “The first thing you mentioned to me was that you see me everywhere…I’m not actually everywhere, I’m just in the places you (a marketer) frequently visit and in case you miss me there, I’m sharing my post on Twitter and Facebook so you’re forced to see me.”
He’s a little tongue-in-cheek with the “forced to see me” part, but this is no joke. Patel blogs on sites like Business Insider, Forbes, Small Business Trends, Entrepreneur and Fast Company. He connects these posts with his social media presence. He posts on sites highly relevant to his niche as a marketer. This targeted presence (even if you don’t read the articles) creates the image of Patel as an expert on marketing.
Personal branding is about creating an image, and when people dive into that image, they get the meat and the substance of your expertise. You need a great product or service and a great company. When you build a personal brand on top of it all, you put your signature on the bottom line.