Building Your Personal Brand in YouthNation

The following is an excerpt from the upcoming book YouthNation: Building Remarkable Brands in a Youth-Driven Culture, out April 20th and available now for pre-order. Learn more at

Whether you are trying to influence a potential employer, a college admissions officer, or an editor from a key industry publication, your ability to build and strengthen your “personal brand” is the surest way to get noticed. The truth is we all shop like mom does at Wal-Mart: we buy the brands we know. Just like we will always trust throwing Tide or Diet Coke into the shopping cart, we will always trust hiring someone we have heard of – a familiar name or face that feels safe, trustworthy, and like a “known entity.”

Years ago I had an indelible experience working with a marketer at a major software company. As an early adopter of social media, he was the first to write a blog and always raised his hand to speak at industry conferences. He was active on Twitter and shared everything he was doing. Over the years, despite what I perceived to be a notable lack of skills when compared with his peer set, he would rise through the ranks as management continued to bank on his notoriety versus his aptitude for the job. It was clear that a new set of criteria were in place for evaluating employee performance, and an individual’s Q rating was now a big part of the package.

This is happening everywhere. Fame has been democratized and those who have learned to harness it have put their career on steroids. Imagine doing this and being talented—you’d be unstoppable!

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. 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, You Tube) 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 everyday 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 as part of SMG Ideas Connection on LinkedIn


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