The methodology for building a personal brand online is actually quite simple.
Take those two words, "personal" and "brand" and look at what they symbolize. When something is personal, deeply personal, it leans more on on the side of art, expression, and story. A brand, then, is how that story is packaged, distributed, and represented in the eyes of audience members. It is more concerned with the external, while personal expression focuses primarily on the internal.
Where most people go wrong in thinking about their personal brand is in putting one hundred percent of the emphasis on the "brand" side of the equation. They spend all their time talking the talk, growth hacking their way to a status of credibility, only to end up with a glossy "brand" with absolutely no substance. They might look professional from afar, but upon closer inspection they are nothing more than a talking head.
That's not a personal brand.
I have been in the personal branding space for almost a decade--and for many of those years, I didn't even realize what a personal brand was, or that I was even building one for myself. The first personal brand I built was around my gamer tag in high school. I was one of the highest ranked World of Warcraft players in North America as a teenager, and also one of the most e-famous World of Warcraft bloggers on the Internet. I didn't know the term for it, this thing we now call a "personal brand," but at seventeen years old I knew that having ten thousand people reading my blog every day was valuable. I knew the power of building an audience.
In the years since, I have reinvented myself over and over again, entering new industries like health and fitness, or writing, and building a personal brand to match. And having done it multiple times, I have come to the conclusion that a long-lasting personal brand cannot exist without both parts: art and marketing, expression and distribution.
You need both.
So, how do you take that deeply personal story, or the knowledge you hold so close to your heart, and package it appropriately?
Let's talk about the distribution side of things. Here are some tools you should take advantage of to actively share your voice with the world:
I am a huge advocate for Quora. Personally, I think it is one of the most undervalued social platforms on the Internet. It's far bigger than people realize, and is quite literally the single best training ground for vetting your audience and testing what resonates and what doesn't.
Quora is a Question/Answer site that thrives off well-written, long form content. But the real benefit is the fact that you have people who are quite literally asking questions about the very topic or industry you're looking to become a thought leader within. There is nothing more telling about your audience and their needs than a question.
If you want to become a thought leader, and especially if you want to build your personal brand online, I highly suggest writing on Quora.
2. Facebook Groups
Again, a "personal brand" needs to be personal, first.
Facebook Groups have evolved tremendously over the past few years, and are now seen as one of the best ways to keep in touch with people within a specific niche. Most of the digital marketers I know use Facebook Groups to build highly targeted audiences, and actually prefer using Groups as opposed to relying on Facebook fan pages.
One strategy I have found that works extremely well for engagement is doing Live presentations, Q&A session, etc., within your Facebook Group. This allows your audience to actually see you (a key part of conveying the personality of your personal brand), while also capitalizing on the fact that Facebook is prioritizing video heavily these days--especially the Live feature.
And if you're still unsure of whether Facebook Groups will be around for a while, Mark Zuckerberg just changed Facebook's mission and it revolves heavily around the concept of social groups online.
Another great way to keep followers even more engaged is by creating a private Slack channel for you and your brand.
This might seem a little "too" personal, but I think we're entering a time where massive audiences and eye-popping Follower counts have lost a bit of their shine. We know that it's not just about how many people you can reach, but how many of the right people.
Funny enough, Slack actually originated from an old gaming chat room concept, and as a former gamer I will tell you that chat rooms online are just as personal as anything else. By creating a private Slack channel, you can build stronger relationships with the people within your follower base.
Webinar usage has absolutely skyrocketed over the past few years, and it's because we're all now seeing the value of video. Even as a writer, I am constantly asking myself how I can continue to stay relevant in the digital age where video is by far the most engaging medium.
Webinars are something I have started experimenting with, and can be used for both internal engagement purposes or for external marketing. If you use something like Clickmeeting, for example, you can brand the presentation to match your personal brand's aesthetic, track and measure engagement throughout the webinar, and then once you're done, download the video and then upload to your social platforms as a recap--in case you missed it.
While you can pre-record Webinars and even set up a whole user flow from Facebook ad to Webinar registration, the real value is in having people be able to actually see you as you're explaining something, or teaching, or even talking about how you do what you do.
Remember: the more personal the better.
(Also: something I have seen becoming really popular lately is coordinating a Virtual Summit. Think of this as 20+ different pre-recorded Webinars created by thought leaders in a specific niche, which audience members then pay for access to. Just some food for thought.)
5. Video Courses
The obvious next step after you've taken the leap into the world of Webinars is to consider transferring your knowledge and putting together a video course. Again, people want to feel like they're sitting in the same room as you, and learning from you and only you.
In my experience, video courses are one of the most premium ways to not only engage your most loyal followers, but if done correctly can actually raise the status of your personal brand. Especially if the course is shot professionally, that alone raises the standard of your brand. Combine that with extremely sound material and plenty of additional resources, and you've now got a high-ticket item that engages current loyalists and attracts new ones as well.
To actually build a video course, however, is a pretty big undertaking. For software, I would check out Kajabi, which you can use to actually host your video course within a portal and customers can log into and access over time, as well as process payments. Then, combine it with something like Leadpages or Clickfunnels for the actual distribution of it: landing pages, automated email sequences, etc.
I want to remind you though that if you are entirely focused on the marketing and brand side of the equation here, your video course will fall flat. Remember, it has to be a balance. If it's not "personal," if there's no story, no expression, then you'll just be like everybody else.
Let's talk about extremely direct, one-on-one engagement.
If Webinars attract lots of eyeballs, and video courses are the luxury form of that content, then direct video conferencing should be your most premium engagement offering.
Whenever I consult someone on their social strategy, or someone asks me how they can get more followers, I always ask them, "Why? Why do you want more followers?" The truth is, most people can't answer that question. They just assume more = better.
Instead of always trying to chase "more," I really encourage people to double-down and engage with who they already have, better.
Using something likeSkype and offering video consulting, conferencing, or even doing contests on your social platforms rewarding people with a 30-minute "Skype coffee" with you is a great way to really engage your followers.
Because at the end of the day, anyone you have a direct conversation with, even if it's only for five minutes, is going to remember you and feel much more compelled to engage with you on a regular basis.
Because you're real. You're personal.