In the book YouthNation: Building Remarkable Brands in a Youth-Driven Culture (Wiley, 2015,) author Matt Britton discusses what businesses need to be doing to adapt to the increasingly millennial marketplace. In the following edited excerpt, he offers tips for building out your social media presence--keeping in mind that people (and businesses) are what they post. 

Thanks to the proliferation of 4G data plans, push notifications, and our deep-rooted need for connection, the newsfeeds on popular social media networks, like Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram, are a critical part of each day for YouthNation on a 24-hour cycle. These scrolling feeds have become, in many ways, the central source for news, entertainment, information, and commercialism in our lives.

Perhaps the most engaging element of the newsfeeds that drive obsessive mindshare and consumption is the melting pot of informational sources it presents. We're swiping through our friends' baby photos in between brand advertisements and breaking news. Mashed right next to one another is an endless stream of content from your neighbor, the local Pizza shop, CNN, and Beyonce. Never before have individuals and organizations of all sizes experienced a level playing field within the same medium.

Whether we are a business, individual, nonprofit, or politician, we're in a constant battle for the attention and mindshare of our audience. And now, for better or worse, we're competing for the same real estate. That means your ability to have friends see your honeymoon photo album is based on how well your images stack up against Nike's post featuring the new Lebron James sneakers. And the same goes for Nike who is competing against you and me for the attention of their consumer target. Social media no longer distinguishes between the individuals that matter to you and the brands you patronize. Increasingly, people are most certainly brands.

While this comes naturally to some, the art of building one's persona can seem elusive and even a bit unorthodox to others. The path to building a personal brand, however, is not really that mysterious, and very similar to building a corporate brand. There is a science to it that can be easily mastered with a little practice.

YouthNation tips for building a personal brand

Following these simple steps could make all the difference in fast-tracking your next promotion or landing your next mega-deal in your personal success story. 

1. Create a consistent personal social media brand.

This means that if possible, try to get the same screen-name or handle on all of the major platforms. If you are named Jane Smith, securing your actual name is all but impossible at this stage in the game so you may need to be creative. Play around with common industry terms or even your college alma mater to create something distinct and ownable (i.e., Jane Smith could become "BuckeyeJane" if she went to Ohio State).

2. Activate your presence across as many popular social media platforms as you can to manage.

First start with the Big 5 (Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube) and if you're feeling super charged, play around with some secondary platforms (Pinterest, Tumblr, Snapchat). Even if you don't intend to use a platform, lock down your preferred username on top platforms anyway.

3. Create a singular value proposition.

Ask yourself, "What can I bring my audience every day that they will derive value from?" Maybe you have great recipes, maybe you have a knack for home design, or are astute at tracking industry trends. Whatever that offering is, focus on it and get better at it.

4. Map out a content strategy and stick to it.

Once you have nailed your value proposition, challenge yourself to a content calendar where you are consistently creating text, audio (podcasts), video, or photo assets to deliver this value. Every now and then, share relevant articles or posts from others in the space. Make this an indispensable part of your job as now it is one. 

5. Sprinkle in content about yourself to humanize and let your persona shine.

Nobody wants to be friends with a robot. We're all people--and we appreciate seeing that side in those we do business with.

Keep in mind that you may very well want to create this professional presence separate from your personal presence in social media. People that follow you for your cooking tips probably don't care about your winter vacation photos. Generally, creating a separate social media profile for business purposes can be a smart strategy. Further, you can use different channels for different purposes. Your Twitter profile may be more business-oriented while your Facebook may be more personal. Utilize "friend" lists that allow for selective sharing and make sure to always think twice before posting anything.

Published on: Mar 23, 2015