How to Build a Personal Brand: “People want to connect with people, not corporations”

How to Build a Personal Brand: “People want to connect with people, not corporations”

Personal branding has become a crucial aspect of success in today's digital age - and poor personal branding is really one of the biggest missed growth opportunities for startups as it acts as its own marketing engine.

Creating a personal brand has been a part of my own journey as the founder of Vivino, and its power is immense - it enables you to attract the best talent, win new businesses, create awareness through speaking opportunities and contributed articles, and so much more. It essentially positions you as a pioneer in your field. I mean, who wouldn’t want that?

This article is based on a conversation between Heini Zachariassen, founder of Vivino; and Personal Branding experts Maiken Paaske, and Robin Daniels. The video is embedded below and the article continues under the video.

Step 1: Create your position in the market

The first step in building your personal brand is to figure out what you stand for and what your values are. Answering these three questions can help you create your position in the market:

  • What values do you stand for?
  • What’s your area of expertise?
  • What do you want to be associated with?

In addition to answering these three questions, it’s essential to associate yourself with what you want to be in the future. Association is often how people remember you, so it’s important to be careful when choosing the values you affiliate yourself with, for example with certain corporations, people, politics and more. The advice here is not to remain neutral in terms of affiliation, but rather to be sure your values are aligned across the board.

Step 2: Pick the right channel for you and your audience

The second step is to pick the right channel for your personal brand. It is vital to select a platform that you feel comfortable with and where you can put in the effort to get the most out of it. When choosing the channel that’s right for you, it’s all about format and frequency, as well as what matches you and your audience best. Most importantly, it has to work well for you. Otherwise, it’s simply not sustainable. Let’s take a look at some of the several channels to choose from:

  • LinkedIn is the number one platform for business, allowing you to connect with your network and people who work in the same field as you. Because it is the primary B2B social platform in the market, it’s a great place to build a community as a B2B startup founder or executive. Your LinkedIn profile is essentially a digital resume and therefore provides you with almost instant credibility. To add to that, the conversation on LinkedIn tends to be more civilized than on other platforms as people don’t have a screen name to hide behind. It is also great for content writing - both long and short form - and has instant reach. The frequency needed here is medium to low, posting once a week or less.
  • Twitter, on the other hand, is great for maintaining an audience and can help you get noticed by reporters, whereas building an audience can take a much longer time. In fact, the biggest Twitter users were famous before joining Twitter. Ergo, they did not make it big on the platform, meaning you probably need to build your audience elsewhere and then take it to Twitter. It is a platform for short and fast content, such as sharing thoughts in real-time or commenting on hot topics. Compared to LinkedIn, users on the platform are a lot more opinionated, and not afraid to talk politics. The frequency needed here is high, posting daily or a few times a week.
  • YouTube is a platform where you can grow an audience organically, but it takes a lot of time and investment. While you have to invest a lot of time in the platform, the audience you build on YouTube is one of the most dedicated audiences compared to other platforms. When looking at the most famous people on YouTube, they actually made it big on the platform (unlike Twitter users with big followings), proving that you can build something from scratch and make it huge. The frequency needed here is low, usually posting 5-30 minute videos with the occasional short video. Though the frequency is below, the time invested in creating content is much higher when compared to platforms like LinkedIn and Twitter.
  • Instagram is a more consumer-focused platform for photo and video sharing. The platform demands more visual content than LinkedIn and Twitter, and many thought leaders choose to keep Instagram more personal and often private. If you want to connect with your audience in a more informal way, Instagram Stories are a great way to do so as it’s a much more casual outlet, making it significantly less intimidating. Frequency is medium to high - posting to the grid weekly and stories nearly every day.
  • TikTok is hard to break through and extremely competitive. However, if you make great content that users engage with, the platform will push it out and it is very likely to go viral, putting you in front of millions of people. Frequency is high, requiring posts nearly every day.

Ultimately, you have to find what’s right for you - something that matches your format - text (short, medium, long) videos, images - and frequency. A good way to start is to win over one platform and then move to others from there, so you’re not dependent on just one channel.

Step 3: Develop a content strategy

Once you have picked the right channel, developing a content strategy that resonates with your audience is key. A great way to find out if it does is to test it - similar to how comedians test their set in a smaller club before performing at a sold-out arena. In terms of personal branding on social, testing content or thoughts on your second channel (i.e. Twitter), before taking it to your main channel (i.e. LinkedIn) is a great way to gauge interest from your audience and see if it aligns with your values and position in the market. The content should be valuable, informative, and engaging, helping your audience learn and grow.

Step 4: Consistency is key

Consistency is crucial in building your personal brand. Posting frequently and consistently will keep you on top of mind with your audience. But it’s not a one-way street - don’t post and ghost, stay engaged with them. Engagement is a vital part of building your personal brand. Responding to comments and messages, interacting with your audience, and building relationships can help you grow significantly. People’s attention spans are super short, so staying active and consistent is essential.

Step 5: Follow profiles that inspire you

Study others and look for inspiration in profiles who do personal branding really well. Who comes to mind when you think of people you are inspired and fascinated by? People who have strong personal brands that you can study, observe and learn from. This can be purely from a personal branding perspective and not someone who perfectly aligns with your values and who you want to be as a thought leader - but rather people that are doing well in terms of marketing themselves. Some examples of people with huge personal brands - that I don’t necessarily share values with, but am fascinated by in a certain way - including Elon Musk and Gary Vaynerchuk.

Building a personal brand can give you a real push forward - follow these five steps and you’ll be well on your way. It’s all about finding what works for you and feels authentic for you - those are the key ingredients in building a successful, sustainable personal brand that will resonate with your audience.