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Investing time building a personal brand online may seem intimidating, but it can lead to some incredible opportunities! A personal brand is the image others see of you and how you present yourself to the world. Your personal brand can grow naturally without extra effort on your part, but the end result may not align with what you hope to achieve. If you invest some time in cultivating your online presence, you will end up with a professional personal brand that helps you reach your career goals.

Anyone who is successful in their field has gotten there at least in part by creating a personal brand—think of icons such as Oprah. Your personal brand is crucial in setting you apart from others and enabling you to highlight your strengths and passions. Your online brand should be an extension of who you are in person. It should emphasize your personal expertise in your field, as well as make you more visible and accessible to those in your industry and beyond.

Every day, recruiters and hiring managers use social networks to search for, connect with and recruit top talent. So let’s get you started on building a personal brand that will help you stand out!

Find Your Niche

First, you’re going to have to decide what you want your personal brand to be. One downfall many people succumb to when creating a personal brand is trying to appeal to a broad audience. The best approach is to narrow your focus and be as specific as possible in what brand you are presenting. Personal branding expert Neil Patel’s advice is to “pick something specific that you can do better than 90% of the world.” Identify what expertise you have to share about your field and find a way to tell a story about how this expertise makes you unique. By committing to a distinct niche, it becomes easier to create focused content that is consistent with your brand.

Connect

Now that you’ve decided what niche area you want to work within, it’s time to connect to the other players in that field! You’ll need to decide which platforms you want to use: LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Tik Tok, YouTube, Reddit, a personal blog, etc. Since there are so many platforms on which to share your brand, a part of your brand itself could be choosing to focus your engagement on certain platforms. This will make your brand more concise as well as simpler for you to properly maintain. If you are uncertain about where to start, LinkedIn is a good choice, because most recruiters and HR professionals use it to search for candidates. For more information, check out How to Optimize LinkedIn to Build Your Personal Brand.

Whatever tools you decide to leverage, the strategy is pretty much the same as in real-life networking. Identify the key people or groups of people you’d like to be involved with, and begin connecting, engaging and sharing with them. Find Twitter thought leaders to follow, Facebook and LinkedIn groups to join, and bloggers who also write about your areas of interest. It will also be helpful for you to follow someone within your niche that has a well-established personal brand as an example and inspiration.

Share

Now share! Social media is not just about creating and pushing your own content, it’s also about joining a conversation. This means commenting on blogs, discussing topics, and sharing any interesting, relevant content that is consistent with your brand. Ensure that you are respectful in how you engage, even when you disagree with someone’s point of view. Visual content is incredibly important in today’s social media, so add photos and incorporate videos to better engage your audience. Leverage your followers by having conversations with them and allowing them to tell your story as well. After all, word of mouth is one of the most effective PR strategies!

Be Authentic

Authenticity is something you should practice and apply in all steps of creating a personal brand. Your brand and online voice should be a healthy blend of professional/industry insight and your natural personality. Be sure to keep your brand genuine to who you are. Your audience will know the difference between the real you and an act, so stay true to yourself. As Jenni Flinders, an influential businesswoman and seminar leader on personal branding, says in her TEDx Talk, “you have to be authentic to be accurate” in your personal brand and presentation of yourself. By keeping your online voice genuine and consistent, you will keep your audience interested and engaged.

Building your brand is a lifelong project—it takes time to see results. But persistence and continuing to positively engage in the online community will gradually build your personal professional brand.

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