"You, my friend, are a brand."
That's a line from Barry Feldman in a post drawing comparisons between major corporations, cartoon characters, and personal brands.
We often think of a "brand" as the consistent style, voice, and personality used by organizations. If that's true, then personal branding is simply how you manage the consistency of your own style, voice, and personality.
Companies spend millions of dollars each year on their branding in order to stay relevant to their audience. According to McKinsey, global spending on media is forecasted to rise to $2.1 trillion by 2019 (from $1.6 trillion in 2014).
Fortunately, building a personal brand is much easier (and far less expensive). Here are the easiest ways to start building your brand right now on even the tightest budget.
1. Have a Specialty
Before you can start building anything, you have to decide what it is you're trying to build. Answer the question "What exactly do I want to be known for?"
There are countless people trying to grow relevancy for things like "marketing" or "entrepreneurship." You'll have a hard time trying to stand out in that mess. Instead, choose 2 or 3 areas to specialize in, just like an entrepreneur might target a niche within an industry.
By specializing, you'll have more opportunity to showcase your expertise. And while the audience is significantly smaller than the broader market, the engagement opportunities will be highly relevant.
2. Audit Your Personal Brand
If someone did a search for your name, what would the web tell them about who you are? A quick audit of your personal brand starts with that brand search--typing your name into a few different search engines.
If I do a search for "Sujan Patel" I'm served results for:
When you're getting started you're likely to see more varied results. In my case, the first page is fully controlled by content I own and produced myself. Your search will show you opportunities and possibly items that need to be addressed.
3. Build a Personal Website
You don't need to create something flashy or fancy. You just need a website that speaks about who you are, what you know, and why your audience should pay attention. This is the site you want people visiting when they search for you.
It's also the home of your blog, where the majority of your content is going to live as you build your brand.
A starter website can be relatively inexpensive; a hosting account can cost you as little as $5 a month, a domain name is approximately $13 per year, WordPress is free, and you can find a good premium WordPress theme for around $60.
If you need a logo or some basic design, I recommend using Fiverr or Upwork to find a freelancer.
Kristi Hines is a well-known and respected content marketer and freelance writer. Her website is the perfect example of a simple, straightforward design. It showcases her talents, testimonials, content, and contact methods.
4. Build Authority Around Your Brand
If you want to be known as an expert within a specific niche or industry, you have to showcase that expertise. Content is the easiest way to do that. A lot of the content you create in the beginning will live on your own blog. From there, you can distribute it to other places.
Find influencers and authority sites that accept guest posts and start pitching. Those guest posts will help you reach a wider audience. As you continue to post elsewhere, you could also get offers to contribute on other sites, expanding your network.
Neil Patel creates a wealth of content published on a daily basis. His guest posts spread across countless sites including HubSpot, Search Engine Journal, Buffer, Moz, Huffington Post, Content Marketing Institute, and many more. That creates incredible brand recognition and consistency while reinforcing his position as a digital marketing expert.
5. Get Active in Relevant Discussions
Search for discussions across the major social platforms around your specialty. Jump into those discussions and contribute where you can. Twitter is an easy way to join a public discussion, but you can also find them in Facebook and LinkedIn groups.
Quora is another terrific site for this. Your audience is there looking for answers. Jump in and provide as much detail as possible when you answer a question and work in a link back to a relevant post. You could also write a blog post that answers a popular question, then return to provide an answer with a link back to your new post.
Just remember that no matter the channel, be it on social or in blog comments, engage but don't sell.
Provide information and education and link back to your content when you can to reinforce your expert authority.
6. Share, Post, and Engage Regularly
A research study on Twitter showed that one of the most important factors for growing a brand following is consistent posting. Choose just 2 or 3 social channels for growing your personal brand and start posting on a daily basis, a few times a day.
Make real-time posts while using services like Buffer and Quuu to schedule curated content for your followers and round out your schedule. Even Business Insider uses productivity and social sharing tools like Buffer to grow its brand.
"Making yourself easy to find is the first step toward a great brand,"writes Kevan Lee of Buffer. "The next step: Sharing your enthusiasm and expertise with others."
When you create your social profiles, use the same name, photo, and style across every channel to maintain brand consistency.
Keep the Cycle Going
Building a personal brand is an ongoing process. You'll need to work at it daily, which includes writing and posting content, creating content with influencers, sharing their content with your audience, staying active on social media, and using tools to help you scale your efforts. Stick with it and you'll quickly grow an audience of people who trust you and seek out your expertise.
Do you have a tip or tool that you've relied on to grow your personal brand? Share them with me in the comments below: