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How to Brand Yourself and Why You Need To!

By David S. Chang

In the past, developing a good brand was only for professional organizations and businesses. However in today’s economy with the invention of the internet and social networking sites, it’s becoming increasingly important to develop a personal brand. Personal branding applies to everyone, especially for entrepreneurs, small business owners, leaders, managers, those looking to become more successful, and anyone looking to grow their influence. 

Branding is about differentiating yourself from others (competition), maintaining or increasing your reputation, and generating awareness of you, your expertise, and/or the products and services you provide. Thankfully, it is easier to do this today than ever before. But this also means the barrier to entry is low so there is more to sift and navigate through. We are judged in the first several seconds of anyone meeting us or googling us online. With so much information bombarding everyone everywhere, we need to make sure we can increase our brand with an Internet society short on time and short on attention.

Here are some tips to follow to help build your brand, personal or professional. Over 1 billion names are googled everyday, chances are, you have been one of them. What they find and see can affect their decision to work with you and how they perceive you. 

  • Create a branding plan. What is the goal that you are trying to achieve? Do you want to be a subject matter expert in an industry? Do you want to be in a niche category? Do you want to sell a product or service? Even if you are climbing the corporate ladder, you want to make sure your online presence is reputable.  Once you have determined what your goals are, you need a plan of action to achieve them. Here are some tips to help you get started on a plan.
    • Building your brand 
      • Online Reputation and Digital Presence – Get people to recognize your name and associate it with your service/product or the brand you are trying to convey. Post regularly and consistently. Your brand won’t grow overnight, it takes time.
      • Expertise and Information –  Be known as a subject matter expert (SME) in respective field and join other groups/forums as a SME. Offer information of good value that can help others. Setup a communications and marketing plan to convey your brand attributes.
      • Engagement – Give people reason to talk about your brand and encourage others to do so, be contagious!
      • Support – Answer questions, show people how to use your service/product 
      • Genuine – Be transparent and honest. Don’t join an organization just to get something out of it, people know that. I had a mentor tell me to join an organization only if you can add something of value. If you give, you will get in return. But if you are only trying to take or get something out of someone, you will not last long!
    • Attract New Customers/Clients 
      • Drive traffic to your social media sites, blog, and company website
      • Be a thought leader in your industry or category
      • Networking, Reconnecting, Giving
      • Call to action, get your readers or visitors to either sign-up for a newsletter, buy a product or service, share, etc.
    • Establish Credibility – Questions to ask yourself and do research on.
      • Who is our market? What is our targeted niche?
      • Who is my competition? How am I different from that person? How am I conveying that?
      • What topics/products/services/content to talk about or promote?
      • What is the value proposition?
      • What are the ideal channels to use?
      • How many followers, interactions do we want/need?
      • How will you nurture your network and those you connected with?
    • How Will You Measure Success?
      • Number of followers, likes, retweets, etc
      • Number of email subscribers
      • Number of website traffic
      • Number of customers/clients converted
      • Data analytics (i.e. Google Analytics)
  • Create your web domain name
    • Domain Name. You want to get a domain name that is unique, easy to remember, easy to spell and type, and as short as possible. Write down 4-5 words, key phrases, and sentences that describe the brand you are trying to develop. Then pick your domain name from there. Go to copyright.gov to check if it is already taken as a trademark. Don’t use hyphens, numbers, or words that can be confusing (for, four, fore, etc). The domain name sets expectations for your brand and will set you apart. 
    • Professional Email. This is one of my biggest pet peeves. I go to quite a few networking events where everyone is handing out business cards. The first thing I do is politely look at the card, hand them mine, and ask a few questions to see where it will lead. The moment I see someone using an email with their organization name with a google or aol account (yourcompany@gmail.com), it is tough for me to take them seriously. It does not show professionalism or that they are a legitimate organization. It is extremely easy these days to go to any hosting site, buy a domain name, and use an email with their domain name. If you like to use gmail, hotmail, aol, etc., then you can forward your domain email to your personal one. If you do that, make sure you setup the feature to send as your domain email as well. This helps you develop a professional brand, one that people should take seriously, and one that you take seriously. 
  • Create a Professional Website. Now that you have a domain, invest a little time to setup a website. You can use templates that are very professional and look great. The worst thing you can do it setup a website and have it look a 1st grader did it (although some I have seen aren’t bad!). Avoid cheesy cliparts and check your spelling and grammar! You can go to sites like fiverr.com or hire a designer to get a logo made. You want the design and colors to be elegant, represent your personality, and have a professional design. I recommend a company called snappygeek.com if you are looking to outsource your website, especially if you are thinking of using wordpress. They do great work for a great price!
  • Create a Professional Business Card. Create a card that separates yourself from the rest. I recommend using premium quality paper, and of course a professional design. With so many business cards handed out, you want to draw attention to your card. Unless it is last minute, don’t buy the ones you can print from your home printer, especially with ink that can smear or bleed just by touching it. Your business card is one of the first things people will see, so it is important to make a good first impression. I use a card that fold in half with my pertinent information so people take more time to look at my card than just put it in their pocket and forget about it. Some cultures, the the business card exchange is one of the most important things you can do. It is the first step to set a good impression and introduce yourself. Especially in Asia, stand up, give and receive your card with both hands and in order of rank protocol, take time to look and acknowledge the card, and don’t scribble on the card in their presence and never leave it behind. In doing business all over the world, you want people to have a good impression of you. Remember, many times it isn’t about what you know, but who you know, and more importantly, who knows you. Many times someone I thought forgot about me will reach out to me from an exchange months ago and it has led to great things!
  • Take a Professional Head-shot Photo. You will need to post your personal head-shot online. Make sure the picture looks like you! I know of people who use a photo they took 30 years ago and when I meet them, it’s a bit of a shock. It shows you aren’t comfortable with who you are now or that you are living in the past. Don’t have other people in the photo or a group picture cropped (people can tell!), don’t have a picture of you too far away where you are unrecognizable, dress nicely, make sure it is well-lit and looks good. Unless this is to brand you as an artsy or creative type, make it just like your high school photo. We skim through things quickly online and we want to make a good impression. A picture is worth a thousand words and people will remember your photo more than your words. FYI, take out or hide pictures of you that show embarrassing photos. You can have an option to approve of any tagged pictures of you. Many people have lost jobs or not gotten jobs of compromising pictures of themselves online. One person called in sick and said they couldn’t get out of bed but posted pictures of themselves at a bar partying. Person was fired the next day. 
  • Create Your Social Media Sites. Social media is a great way to expand your brand. The sites below are the ones you should initially concentrate on. Check back frequently as I will update how to brand yourself specifically on each social media site, apps to use, and other programs to help you manage them. When people google you, these social sites will be the first to pop up since it ranks high on search engine optimization, so make sure it is complete, professional, and clear in what brand you are trying to present. 
    • Facebook Page – Create a separate fan page from your personal page. Great way to post photos, links, post content, and interact with your peers.
    • Linked-In 
    • Twitter 
    • Google Plus
    • YouTube
    • Instagram
    • Pinterest
    • Klout
    • Flickr
  • Communications
    • Email Subscription Program (mailchimp, constant contact, aweber, etc)
    • Newsletters
    • e-newsletters
  • Software/Apps to use
    • Respective app for the social media outlet
    • Hootsuite
    • Tweetdeck
    • Buffer

These are the most common tools to brand yourself. However the most important thing is that in the end, who you are, your character and your integrity will be the deciding factor. Branding will get people in the door, but keeping them there is a different story. Check back frequently as I update this post and also create links for the social media sites above on how to utilize them to their fullest extent!

David S. Chang

Award-Winning Entrepreneur, Wealth Manager and CEO | Chief Editor, Author, Keynote Speaker, Consultant ArtofThinkingSmart.com | Political Consultant | Army Officer National Guard | Living To Fulfill Needs, Solve Problems, and Live Passionately!

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