“Personal brand” may sound like a new term, but the concept has been important to maintaining a successful career way before social media came along. Vix Meldrew, an expert in this burgeoning field, gives her tips for nailing your brand, whatever it may be.
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In the age of social media, a personal brand can be important in many careers. In fact, research by CareerBuilder found 70% of employers use social media to screen candidates during the hiring process, so making sure your sense of self is conveyed well over social media can be a vital part of finding a job.
But, a personal brand is more than just who you are online, encompassing a wide range of elements about yourself and your career.
Vix Meldrew is the founder of Grow & Glow, an online platform providing advice on how to grow your personal brand and has helped thousands of people to build their online persona. Here, Vix gives you the tools you need on starting to build a personal brand, whatever your career. But before that, let’s make sure we’ve covered the basics…
What is a personal brand?
“The first thing that people think when they hear the word branding is a logo and colours, how a brand looks,” explains Vix. “But personal branding is more about the person, the messaging and their values.”
Vix references Jeff Bezos’ famous quote, “Your brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room”, and explains that your tone of voice, your personal style and the visual side of social media are all important.
Who needs a personal brand?
Personal brands are considered to be most important for influencers, individuals whose job it is to create content online on their own social and digital platforms, often partnering with brands to do so. A personal brand really allows influencers to find a niche and grow in order to build their career.
But you shouldn’t underestimate the power of personal branding for people in more traditional careers, Vix says. “If you have social media and you’re posting your opinions, the things you believe in, the things you’re excited by and interested in, this is going to reflect back to your employer and then perhaps to the wider community who see you and associate you as an employee of a certain company.”
Personal brands are also useful for people who run their own creative businesses, like life coaches, photographers, graphic designers. “We even have historians and dog trainers in our community,” Vix adds.
How to build your personal brand from scratch
1. Find your ‘why’
Vix explains that the most important part of building your personal brand is figuring out why you want to build one. “Are you an employee who wants to display the same values as your employer? Or are you a life coach who wants to help teachers?”
Start with Why by Simon Sinek is a book Vix recommends to help people understand the importance of their ‘why’. “Think about what you’ve been through, your experiences and what you want to help people with and connect with that,” Vix advises.
Sam, (@sammacewellness), a fertility specialist who is part of Vix’s Glow and Grow programme, identifies her ‘why’ as being “to break the silence, break the stigma and support others suffering from recurrent miscarriage”. A specific reason to build and grow your account like this one will help you stay motivated to consistently create content, as well as allowing people to really believe in your message.
Once you’ve found your ‘why’, that becomes your niche, something that will make you stand out from other people, a crucial part of personal branding.
2. Let your brand develop as you do
Many people worry about settling on a niche, in case they are pigeonholed into it but eventually change their mind on what their niche really is. But your brand can change as you do.
“We’re all humans and humans grow, evolve, change their minds, adapt. Personal brands are also humans and humans are susceptible to changing and adapting.” Vix affirms.
Intuition is key with personal branding so you can keep in touch with your “why”, so don’t worry about the niche you have chosen for right now defining you forever.
Another person who has used Vix’s Grow and Glow method, Gem Morson (@the_mothercooker) originally started out posting recipes and grew her account to about 5000 followers as a result. But by making her niche more specific by changing it to posting about seasonal cooking, she quickly doubled her following within a few months and became known as a go-to blogger for seasonal recipes, helping her grow her following and sell recipe e-books.
3. Create a sustainable plan for social media
Posting on social media a lot can be a commitment, one that might put many people off building a personal brand. But Vix says that this does not have to be the case.
“Every time you put content out, it’s like you’re buying a lottery ticket to win new people into your community. The more tickets you buy, the more chance you’ve got. But what does that really mean?”
Vix explains that it’s better to engage a community who really believe in your content and grow your following sustainably than post meaningless content that attracts followers who don’t really care about you or what you are posting.
“Be realistic with yourself. Choose the platforms you feel strongest on. It’s that classic thing of ‘Jack of all trades, master of none’ – so choose a couple of spaces where you can get really good at creating content and then when you are able, scale where you can.”
The experience of one of Vix’s clients, Jenny (@jenshomejournal), shows this to be true as she explains that she originally tried to grow her account by posting every day, using any photo she had available to her and feared that she would lose followers if she stopped posting daily. “Since finding my niche and following my content pillars, I’ve found I post fewer times a week,” Jenny says. “I learn from anything that doesn’t land well with my audience and use it to improve next time. I also take whole days off my phone now which is something I never used to do.”
4. Use content pillars
Vix suggests choosing between three and five topics that are relevant to your brand that you can always post about on social media. She describes these topics as content pillars because they will prop up your personal brand.
“For example, a wedding photographer’s content pillars might be tips for posing, inspiration for poses, inspiration for shoots and photos from their portfolio.”
Gem, (@the_mothercooker), uses “food, recipes, deserts, breakfasts, lunches and dinners” as her content pillars and has amassed 16,000 followers through using them.
Having content pillars will also ensure you don’t run out of things to post about, so you can create regular content. “With social media, it’s much better for you to post once a week forever than 17 times this week and using all your energy up in two months time.”
5. Make your ideal audience member the main character
“When we think of ourselves as personal brands, we think of ourselves as the main character of the story,” Vix explains. “But flip that on its head and think about your ideal community member, audience, customer, client or employer as that main character and use them as a guide.”
Vix says that it is important to visualise your ideal audience member but not with traditional demographic determiners like age, location, profession. “Consider instead what stage of life they are at, what they are interested in, what keeps them up at night, what kind of things are they googling.”
Sam, (@sammacewellness), describes her ideal audience member as “someone who is feeling overwhelmed by their recurrent miscarriage fertility journey and looking for support to unravel the overwhelm and learn to align their mind and body.” Envisioning your ideal audience member with this level of detail will really allow you to connect with them.
And your personal brand is often based on your own experience, so connecting with your audience is very important as it allows you to really get into their minds and understand what they want.