Have you ever had people ask you for advice on something you hate?
You know what I hate?
I’m talking about the term, not my own personal brand. I get at least ten messages a day asking for tips on growing their social media presence and making money online. I seem to be good at both. In fact, with over 128k Twitter followers.
OK then. So what’s my beef with personal brands? It’s actually the words themselves I dislike. The concept is innocent. So many people I interact with misunderstand personal branding to the point that the term isn’t even useful anyway.
I’ve been tweeting long enough and to enough people that I know there are two sides to every tweet: There’s what the person tweets, and there’s what people think they tweeted.
My mentions and DMs are full of people who take “personal branding” to mean:
- Filling their timeline with links to products
- Tagging bigger accounts in hopes of getting noticed
- Promoting their products under others’ tweets
- Asking people they follow to (please) follow back
- Retweeting rage bait political commentary
- Using all 280 characters on hashtags to be cute (or something)
- Bragging about vague successes without posting proof
More on that last one in a moment.
Why don’t these personal branding tactics work?
In short, all these tactics are is naked self-promotion, which is NOT personal branding. That’s what I hate. Really though, it takes a lot for me to block someone on Twitter. But whenever someone tries these “brand-building” tactics on me, that’s an insta-block.
What I’m about to share with you is authentic brand-building. It looks good and works even better. I’m FAR from being an expert on brand storytelling, and I don’t have personal branding examples or case studies across a product suite to showcase.
What I do have are the facts. I know what works to get known and make money from seeing myself and a few others flourish. I also know what doesn’t work from watching others stumble and fall off. If you want to build an organic, engaged, and receptive following, this is for you.
Like most things in life, there is wanting to do something, and there is actually doing it. You may want to build a following the right way and get people to take you seriously. But if that was easy, I wouldn’t have people sliding into the DMs asking me how.
The one thing your personal brand is probably missing will also help you excel at internet marketing, high-ticket sales, and everything else. When people take you seriously, they trust what you say, promote your content, and buy whatever you’re selling.
The one thing your brand is missing: a body of work.
You don’t need a resume of personal feats and professional accomplishments. You DO need to have done something—a lot of things, really—which show people you’re competent in the thing you’re talking about.
Explains a lot, doesn’t it?
If you’re struggling building a following online or getting people to take you seriously in person, you probably have nothing you can point to that says, “I’ve developed specific skills, built up my knowledge, and earned the experience. This is what I’ve applied it all to, and here’s how it turned out.”
A short personal branding example
Do you have an amazing physique? Post some photos. They don’t have to come every other tweet, but often enough that new and returning visitors to your timeline “get it” after a couple seconds of scrolling.
Your body is proof you know a few things about physical fitness. Indirectly, your physique demonstrates immense discipline and incredible self-control. Your body is your body of work. It gives people a reason to believe you know what you’re talking about when it comes to many other things.
The halo effect is real. Check out the definition from Merriam-Webster.
halo effect, noun
generalization from the perception of one outstanding personality trait to an overly favorable evaluation of the whole personality
Invest time and effort presenting some highlights of your body of work. As a result, people will assign greater credibility to everything you say.
A great example of this is when I draw comparisons to fighting in the ring and hustling in business. When I recap my professional boxing experiences, I also share how training, winning, and even losing taught me profitable business lessons anyone can apply.
Another personal branding example
Speaking of business, have you built a company? If so, you clearly know a lot about many different subjects.
Every successful entrepreneur is an accountant, marketer, salesperson, service provider, webmaster, tech support person, chief executive, and unpaid intern all rolled into one. Not only that, but you have intangible qualities that made you stand out from the competition long enough to gain a place in the market’s mind (and wallet).
As a business owner, your body of work gives you authority to dish hot takes on your industry, forecast the future, and tell potential customers how to vet offers like yours. Even if people don’t agree with you, you’ve earned the right to your opinion because you can prove it’s trustworthy.
How? What’s the business equivalent of sweaty six-pack abs?
Well, this article is an example of proof I know what I’m talking about when it comes to getting attention online and building an internet following, isn’t it? Earlier, you read about my 128,000 and growing follower count and my six-figure income-generating website. That was intentional.
The best copywriters nowadays know you have to offer proof. They can’t just drop a claim and hope people never ask for evidence. That’s why the Engagement Is the New Cocainecheck out features a “What People Are Saying” section. Anyone feeling skeptical about my offer can read up on customers’ results and make their own judgement call.
Bottom line when it comes to building a brand for your business: People should want what you’re selling because other people do, too. That’s the body of work I want to build.
The most unlikely personal examples of personal branding
A fit body, impressive social media metrics, and business success are tangible bodies of work you can show an audience. What if you talk and tweet about intangibles?
For example, did you survive an objectively horrible upbringing, overcome a significant setback (think hard drugs, prison, or disability), or do military tours in a war zone?
Now, no one cares if a hard life turned you into a piece of shit. But if you’ve used those trials or tragedies to become an upstanding citizen, then the dangerous or destructive parts of your life are as much a body of work as any successes afterwards.
People love a success story, but they worship a comeback (or come up). Comeback and come up stories display skills, knowledge, and experience. More importantly, they offer people hope. If you made it out of hell, they can too.
Maybe your life hasn’t been filled with noteworthy experiences or remarkable accomplishments. That’s OK. Most people are pretty boring. Building a body of work doesn’t restrict you as much as you might think. Any ordinary person can take on a challenge to become extraordinary. Think:
- Learn a foreign language
- Learn a skilled trade
- Achieve military rank
- Earn a big promotion
- Write and publish a book
- Play an instrument well
- Discover something new
I wrote that list in about twenty seconds, so it’s not exhaustive. The point is what they all have in common: time.
Time to learn the thing and succeed. Whatever skill you develop or milestone you achieve, you must put in time, get results, and display proof before people will pay you attention.. More specifically, you must invest time and make progress in a way you can demonstrate.
You can spend four years studying a challenging subject or four years working customer service. Four years will pass either way, but one person will have proof of how they spent it. The other will have proof they didn’t die.
There is a lot more to building a personal brand
More goes into building a personal brand and gaining credibility than what I’ve covered here, though this is a foundation.
Your ideas won’t matter if you haven’t done anything to make people listen. To make that point, I’ll end this with a secret I’ve discovered about public speaking, which, as they say, “is not about public speaking.”
A skilled orator is nice to hear, but an accomplished speaker is riveting. Professional speakers who command five-figure speaking fees (with a waiting list) have ALL accomplished something of note. Good speaking skills are like good writing skills: They are useful to have, but you’ll be FAR more effective if you can tell an interesting story.
That brings us back to you. If you want to build a following online you can later convert into customers or advocates for a cause, you need a body of work.
Build first, flex later.
Because anyone can say anything. It’s what you’ve accomplished or survived in their life that gives it significance.
And if I don’t know what you’ve accomplished or survived, whose fault is that?