Whether you hate or love personal branding, it’s here to stay.
Whether you ignore it or build your own brand, it’s a part of your life.
It’s time you learn how to take advantage of it.
I’m an excellent example of what is possible if you take the time to build your brand online through the use of social media and social networks—the powerful tools that enable anyone with something to say to grow their audience.
In this post, you’ll learn the tips I use to brand myself, grown an audience, and get paid to do so in the process.
Branding yourself and social media
I learned how to brand myself through trial, error, blood, sweat, and tears.
The best way to brand yourself is to become a thought leader. The best way to become a thought leader is by using your online presence and social media to build an audience and to teach.
In fact, the motto of my website is to take what I’ve learned the hard way and break it down so that you can learn it the easy way. I make myself a living example of what I teach. I recommend that everyone take this approach. That is, using their real-life experience to build an online personal brand.
Most, if not all, of the points I raise here are based on my own experiences getting:
- 160,000+ followers on Twitter (On of the best social media platforms for building a brand)
- 44,000 followers on Instagram (Better for posting pictures than Snapchat because the content lasts)
- 100k pageviews per month on my personal website (Done with the magic of SEO)
- 25,000+ email subscribers (A great place to teach what you’re most passionate about, not just what ranks well in the search engines)
I’m far from a branding expert, but I know more than the average person about what it takes to develop and execute via a personal branding strategy.
My personal life is demonstrated via social media. This is why my branding strategy works so well, and this is what you’ll learn. Even if you don’t use all of it, remember what Bruce Lee once said: “Research your own experience. Absorb what is useful, reject what is useless, add what is essentially your own.”
What is personal branding?
Your personal brand is simply how the world perceives you.
Before the internet, your personal brand was simply your reputation. If you didn’t have dollar to your name, you still had your name.
Your reputation a.k.a. your personal brand could get you a loan, get you favors, or even get you a job. A good brand today gets you paid just like a good reputation of before.
This is simple enough to understand. The hard part is successfully applying it.
Branding requires you to have tact, foresight, and the mind of a strategist.
The best strategy to do this
When you build a brand, remember that you live and die by other people’s perception of you.
In the old days, you could relocate if you ruined your reputation. There was no Yelp, Twitter, Linkedin, or Google.
You could be a sinner in one city, a saint in another city just a few miles away, and no one would be the wiser. Well the internet has changed all that and you need to take advantage of it.
It doesn’t matter if you want to be self-employed or you’re looking to stand out in the job market.
It’s better to exert some control over how to appear to others than have it be left to chance. Of course, that doesn’t mean you should make yourself appear “perfect” or project a false version of yourself.
As you’ll see, building a brand is about authenticity, transparency, and relatability.
3 personal branding tips
Building your personal brand is a simple, three-part process:
- Live your life transparently
- Be interesting
- Share what you learn and experience along the way
Let’s start from the top:
Start living more of your personal life transparently
Your brand doesn’t need to be squeaky clean and perfect, but it needs to be your real personal life.
It’s easier to form a connection with your target audience when you show them that you are flawed, human, and perfectly imperfect. Remember: a strong personal brand puts emphasis on the “personal” over the “brand”.
However, this is not to say that you should totally ignore it.
What you say, what you do, and who you are must align. You should live and breathe everything you talk about. Your social media profiles should be congruent with your blogging. Everything–even if it’s not ideal–should never be disingenuous or deceptive.
You don’t need to be an authority. You don’t even need to be highly accomplished. You don’t even need expert status.
Those things help, but lacking them isn’t an automatic death sentence.
What *is* a death sentence for your brand however, is presenting yourself as an expert when you aren’t one.
What *will* spell the death of your online presence is if your real life is different than what you present in your social media profiles.
Projecting a false image of yourself will—sooner or later—come back to bite you in the ass.
Geoff Beattie, Cohn Global Practice Leader of Corporate Affairs, says the following about what people think of authentic companies:
A brand that has values and morals and stands by them no matter what while honestly divulging its practices (flaws and all). In fact, the thing people most wanted was open and honest communications about products and services. And that finding was consistent around the world.
You may not be a massive company, but you are still subject to the rules of human connection. In fact, a personal brand is held to an even higher standard when it comes to authentic communication.
Trust and “fan” loyalty are critical to the long-term success of your brand. Once you lose that, it’s damn near impossible to win it back.
“You know my first week looking crazy due to high demand, ‘Cause people don’t buy music in this day and age, they buy the brand”
-Logic, *44 Bars*
Be interesting to get people interested in you
As I said, you don’t have to be the best at what you do.
But you must be *doing* something.
The more unique and challenging, the better.
It doesn’t matter if you’re just getting started. As long as you are taking action.
Embarking on a journey and letting others come along is a great way to build a brand. By sharing your own insights, successes, and struggles, you become a source of inspiration and education.
It also makes you human.
People can connect easier with someone who seems to be kind of like them,rather than some super-human robot. This is critical to building a tribe and finding your “10,000 true fans”—which can enable you to pursue your passions full-time.
It’s not difficult to be interesting because most people are terrified of standing out. They don’t want to take risks, go out on limb, and do something extraordinary.
It’s fun and profitable to follow a different life script.
My brand is thriving because of the usual life I’ve lived. At age 34, I:
- Went back to school at age 28 to get a degree in Physics
- I enlisted in the United States Army at the age of 27
- I won a national title as an amateur boxer
- I was a professional heavyweight boxer with a 13-1-1 record
- I’ve written two books
- Played competitive chess
- Failed out of college the first time I tried to go
- I struggled with alcoholism and got sober
- I grew up in public housing on welfare
Even with all of this, I’m leaving out a lot. But this isn’t supposed to be a complete bio about me. It’s to teach a valuable lesson:
I wasn’t the best scientist, boxer, or soldier. I didn’t start out in life with advantages and I almost ruined my life with alcohol.
All of this has given me an interesting life and made it easy to build a powerful personal brand.
You don’t need to live my life, but you need to live a life. The more unique and satisfying, the more easily you’ll be able to build a brand.
“My heroes have the heart to live the life I wanna live” —Gnarles Barkley, *Crazy*
(Read: “How To Get Your Life Together”)
Share your experiences with people online
It doesn’t matter what you do if you don’t put yourself out there.
To build a strong brand, you must share your experiences and learnings with a wider audience.
There are many ways to do this and it doesn’t matter what option you choose—as long as it’s the right one *for you*.
- If you don’t write well, there’s Instagram and YouTube.
- If you’re not photogenic, there are podcasts and blogs.
- If you struggle with producing long-form content, there’s always Twitter.
There’s a mode of self-expression for everyone. You can do them all, but to maximize your chance of success, it’s best to focus on one or two.
And remember: all of these skills can be learned.
How to choose the best niche
Don’t *try* to find a niche:
Authenticity is at the heart of branding yourself because it allows people to connect with you on a deeper level.
Rather than grab attention by touting the benefits and features of a product, you build a network of like-minded individuals who look up to you and care about what you have to say.
Because you’re building relationships and making *yourself* the focus—rather than a service or product—it doesn’t make sense for you to “niche down”.
Personalities don’t fit neatly into specific niches. So the more narrow and “niched” your brand is, the less authentic you will be.
The less authentic you are, the weaker your brand will be.
The weaker your brand, the less business you’ll have and the more you’ll blend in with the crowd.
No niche, no competition
When you have a strong brand, no one can compete with you.
No two people have the exact same hobbies, lifestyle, personality, and life story.
When your personal branding is done correctly, your niche is automatically carved out for you.
Some have called me a social media influencer because I know how to get followers on Twitter. For the sake of argument, let’s say that I accept this label:
I’m not in competition with other influencers because people follow *me* due to *who I am*. Other influencers’ fans follow *them* because of *who they are*.
I can never become them. They can never become me. Therefore, we can never compete to take each other’s place.
How to make money from branding yourself
The reason why most people want to start a brand is to get paid. However, if the *only* reason you’re in it is to make money, you won’t be successful.
Building a brand takes time.
If you want to make a quick buck, you won’t stick with it. Branding yourself is a long game that can take several years to fully support yourself.
If *all* you care about is money, start a business.
If you have a desire to express yourself and share your experiences, you may as well get paid.
There are many ways that brands can make money. They generally fall into one of two categories:
Branding yourself makes it easy for you to have multiple streams of income.
- I have a book about life philosophy
- I help promote a CBD oil that I use
- I run a Twitter consulting group
- I wrote a book about Twitter
- I wrote a book about sobriety
I can dive into a variety of areas because my brand reflects my varied personality.
*How* do you go about selling it?
Promoting products to your audience and getting paid
Share your own story and your own experiences with that product.
My most successful affiliate partnerships have all been the result of sharing my personal experiences with that product.
I only promote stuff that I’ve tried myself, and when I promote them, it’s because I genuinely like the products—not because I’m trying to milk my audience for money.
I have the most popular review of Wim Hof’s breathing course in the world. It heavily focuses on *how* I used the course and what *I, personally* got out of it.
When I began promoting Sabaidee brand of CBD, I simply talked about how I used it in my daily life and how it helped me reach my goals. I didn’t have to “sell” hard—I just shared my experiences with my followers.
Authenticity and transparency are critical. Don’t promote products you don’t believe in or use yourself, and don’t abuse your followers’ trust.
You may make a quick dollar, but it’ll be the last one you ever make from branding yourself.
Sell less to sell more
Companies exist to sell a specific product or service.
As a personal brand, the product is secondary.
Branding yourself is the business of building relationships. This means you don’t have to constantly sell. Instead, focus on building your brand and growing trust.
Be a *giver* rather than a *taker*. People are more likely to believe your recommendations when you aren’t constantly selling to them.
People will also more readily consume your content. On the few occasions that you do promote something for sale, they won’t mind that much because your brand has given them so much value.
Can you be anonymous on social media and still build a personal brand?
Not everyone is prepared to expose themselves to the vulnerability personal branding.
Sharing intimate details about your life can be scary.
For this reason, some people opt for anonymity. The problem with this is that when your face is not the brand of what you are building, then you are—almost by definition—not a personal brand. As an entrepreneur, this is a risky move.
Before you decide to brand yourself behind a veil of anonymity, consider this blurb from an old (now deleted) curiosity.com article:
Princeton University psychology professor, Alexander Todorov, humans are “wired to look to faces to understand the person’s intentions.” A 2006 study shows that people decide whether or not they trust someone new after as little as 100 milliseconds… that’s faster than a heartbeat. And, as it turns out, a lot of our judgments are pretty predictable. After looking at a series of photos with varying facial features and expressions, most participants found faces with stereotypically feminine/baby-like facial features and happy expressions to be more kind and trustworthy, while mature and neutral faces were deemed more dominant and untrustworthy.
Anonymity removes the primary advantage you have in building a personal brand: it makes you less personable.
If you’re using social networks online to build a personal brand from a position of anonymity, you’re basically a corporation.
Your personal brand makes you an open book to the world and your fans. If you don’t want that, then don’t start a personal brand.
There are a lot of other ways to make money in life, but a personal brand most likely isn’t for you
The most important personal branding tip
If you take nothing else from this article, just remember to strive to be your best self. If you do that, you can mess up quite a few other things and still do alright.
This is the ultimate point of having a personal brand: to make a mark on the world as you strive to become a better version of the person you were yesterday.
If you commit to continuous improvement with unmitigated transparency, there is no limit to the connections you can make and the impact you can have.