That ubiquitous word in the world of marketing. Take any article, and I guarantee you will find a direct or indirect reference to this concept, which is not surprising considering that branding is the SOUL of marketing.
What IS Branding
Popular social media marketing influencer, Heidi Cohen, has compiled a list of thirty definitions of branding. The one that stood out for me was: “A brand is a reason to choose” (Cheryl Burgess)
Simple, succinct and so-very-true!
I believe that branding is a promise – of quality, value, trust, consistency, commitment and service. It is that intangible X-factor that qualifies and defines a company instantly in our minds. The best brands create an emotional connection so strong their loyalists happily promote the brand for them. Some examples that immediately come to mind include Harley-Davidson, Southwest Airlines, Wegmans, Amazon, Starbucks, Coca Cola and Apple
Personal Branding: What’s Your Story
Branding is not limited to businesses anymore. Personal branding has become the new buzzword in the marketing circles. Katherine Kotaw – one of my favorite social media ‘storytellers’ – makes a beautiful point about how personal branding is just a way of telling your story. It is an authentic and transparent expression that outlines why you are unique by presenting your abilities in a memorable and consistent manner at every point of contact between you and your readers (or your audience). This is very similar to how brands try to create a consistently indelible experience for their consumers at every point of sale.
In other words, personal branding too is a ‘reason to choose’ – a reason to choose YOU. So anything that achieves this goal is part of building a confident brand image.
Why is Personal Branding Important
Competition is not limited to corporations anymore. Everyone is competing for someone’s attention. In my case, as an aspiring social media marketer, I am trying to establish a strong brand that will prove helpful while building my career. More specifically, I am interested in blogging, branding and content marketing. Since technological advancements have made a writer, content marketer and publisher out of everyone, I am competing with a vast sea of other marketing-hopefuls. Hence, I have to create a compelling portrait that is indubitably ME to stand out from this crowd.
The prevalence and penetration of social media have made it very easy for people to present themselves to a global audience in a noteworthy manner. This is both good and bad because while face-to-face interactions create impressions in the minds of only a small group of people, online branding goes viral instantly. Anyone connected to you or searching for you can ‘see’ you, which makes it all the more important to create a powerful and positive ‘virtual’ impression.
Recently, I came across a fantastic article that listed twelve ways to damage your personal brand online. This got me to thinking about how to create and strengthen your personal brand on Twitter, my first love in social media marketing :-)
Not a Simplistic Idea
Here, I would like to state that personal branding is a complex concept and encapsulates so much more than just one social media platform. It is a complete and well-rounded representation of you at every stage of interaction with your audience. But focusing on Twitter is a start!
Also, let’s remember that, much like business branding, personal branding too needs to have a goal. What do you hope to achieve by being active on Twitter?! If you are just using it for fun, you don’t have to define any goals. You may not even have to worry how you come off to others! If – on the other hand – you hope to utilize personal branding to craft a positive professional image, you must take extra care to present yourself very well.
That being said, the following elements can act as a good foundation upon which you can erect an potent personal brand on Twitter.
Note: At the end of this article, I shall use my Twitter Profile as an example to demonstrate some of these elements.
Elements of Personal Branding on Twitter
a. Twitter Handle or Twitter ID
Your Twitter ID must be easy to remember and searchable. It must not be random, vague or long. This is not the place to get creative, especially if you are new to your profession. An obscure, unrelated ID not only looks unprofessional, but is also forgettable. Businesses generally use their business name as their Twitter handle, which makes sense because this makes it easier for people to search for them. Other Twitter users prefer to use some variation of their first and last names.
b. Profile Picture
What is the first thing you notice about people when you meet them?! Their face! Superficial or not, we often make snap judgments based on how people ‘look’. Your profile picture on Twitter is the online equivalent of that first ‘Hello.’ Hence, it becomes paramount to choose a photo that is inoffensive and professional. The four basic ‘rules’ that everyone must follow while uploading a picture are: (a)Use your picture; (b) Face the camera and smile; (c) Choose a clear, high-quality picture; (d) Use a sufficiently bright picture (i.e., not too bright, not too dark)
c. Cover Picture
An often ignored part of the profile is the cover picture. Selecting a ‘thoughtful’ background goes a long way in crafting a strong personal brand. Choose a cover that subtly expresses who you are (or your ‘essence’) and/or what you like. Do not use your picture in the background. You don’t want to give an impression of being full of yourself!
d. Profile Description
This is the most important section of your profile in terms of building your personal brand, and is placed below your picture and ID. Simply put, the Decsription is your very own sales pitch or personal ad. This is where you sell your abilities, interests and persona. The important components of your description are:
- Headline: Your headline or tagline must be catchy enough for the reader to continue perusing your profile (similar to a newspaper headline)
- Hashtags: Using hashtags in your description automatically signals to the reader that you are interested in those areas and want to be a part of those communities. But remember that it’s easy to get lost in a sea of similar hashtags, which is why the personal trivia, tagline, location and website become that much more important.
- Personal Trivia: Another option to brighten your profile is by including some interesting personal trivia that you are sure might appeal to many people. Remember that the ‘goal’ of your profile is to network with others. Hence, some sort of a conversation-starter is a wonderful thing to include in this section.
- Location and Website: Providing the location sets up the possibility of connecting offline. Providing a link to a blog or any website that showcases your work allows other users to gain a deeper understanding of your abilities, thereby gaining a deeper understanding of you.
e. Choosing the ‘Right’ People to Follow
The people you follow say a great deal about you. If you carefully surround yourself with knowledgeable and prominent Twitter users in your field of interest, others sharing similar interests will be more apt to follow you. Do not get too caught up in numbers. Instead, focus on garnering quality connections.
Remember that people follow you for one (or both) of these reasons: (a) You provide a constant stream of useful information, which makes you valuable; (b) You are connected to popular influencers whose guidance is sought after, which makes you valuable by association
Hence, follow someone only if you are impressed with their contributions and believe they can prove useful for your followers. If you come off as the sort of person who follows others mindlessly – without making any worthwhile contributions- just to ‘pose’ as an active user and gain followers, no one is going to want to interact with you. Consequently, your personal brand suffers.
f. Sharing Other People’s Content
The 70:20:10 rule of social media posting states that 70% of your Tweets have to be dedicated to distributing relevant and useful information from other sources. Curating and distributing content from external sources demonstrates your willingness to learn more about your chosen field and your readiness to share your knowledge with others. This will attract more attention and – subsequently – more people would want to engage with you.
Now, remember that the percentages are not written in stone, but the point to take home is that the majority of your Tweets have to indicate that you are interested in other peoples’ content; only then can you expect others to be interested in your content. So make sure that you are actively reading and retweeting relevant, targeted and timely content. This is a surefire way of increasing your number of followers without coming off as a spammer or a poser.
It would prove very useful (for you) if you find a way to indicate to the authors and those who shared their article that you are actually reading the Tweeted articles (you will learn how I do this later in this article)
Remember that you are under no obligation to Tweet everything you read. Even if you share just 5 articles a day, make an effort to demonstrate that you value the writer’s hard-work. This way, you will grab people’s attention, thereby enhancing your brand image.
g. Posting Original Content
While re-tweeting and re-sharing information will earn you the goodwill of others, it is also important to establish your own expertise in the field. To this end, posting original content around 10% of the time - back to the 70-20-10 rule - that positions you as a thought-leader will definitely help.
I would not recommend posting more than 1-2 original Tweets per day, and only if they are genuinely relevant posts. Posting for the sake of posting is just as bad – if not worse – as following for the sake of following! I’d rather you focus on one original post and promote it in a way that garners engagement instead of making multiple original posts in quick successions without any actual impact.
Remember that unless you are an established social media marketer, you need to first concentrate on gaining more visibility in the Twitter-world. So don’t keep throwing stuff at your followers. This will piss them off and they will just as easily Unfollow you. Instead, be patient and persistent.
Social media works magically. If even ONE of your posts actually catches someone’s attention, it will be shared to their umpteen followers, which grows your reputation organically. Your upcoming posts will then have a much easier time being noticed. Ergo, take it one step at a time. Your efforts will be rewarded.
Since Twitter is like a supercomputer that processes a zillion messages a minute, posting one original post once a week and then hoping that somebody will magically stumble upon it is not a good idea. Instead, if you believe that you content deserves attention, try to re-post the same content more than once a day or multiple times in a week. This will expand its reach and increase the possibility of someone seeing your post.
h. Timing and Frequency of Tweets
While you are still establishing your personal brand, it becomes important for you to post nearly every day to let others know that you are interested in a particular subject and are committed to learning and sharing information. However, try to make sure that your Tweets are spread out throughout the day so you do not give the impression of cluttering someone’s feed.
Posting most of your Tweets within a few minutes of each other might seem like ‘spamming.’ Of course, it’s entirely possible that you are a quick reader and were excited to share something you liked, but why take the risk of belittling your brand.
There are several scheduling tools, such as Buffer and Hootsuite, which allow you to space out your Tweets. Take advantage of them if you are too busy to logon multiple times in a day.
i. Focusing on a Single Personal Brand Per Account
This goes back to your goal.
If you are Tweeting for professional purposes, do not obfuscate your personal brand by talking about diverse topics in one account. This prevents confusion and firmly asserts the fact that you are trying to gain expertise in one particular topic.
In other words, do nodilute your brand by being too many things at the same time. Twitter allows you to have multiple free accounts. Make use of them.
j. Twitter Etiquette: Being Courteous, Helpful and Authentic
Social media is called ‘social’ for a reason. This is a wonderful platform for you to communicate and connect with others. The best thing you can ever do to bolster your personal brand on Twitter is to be genuinely interested and invested in others. Simple things like saying “Thank You” for a re-tweet or a re-share can make a huge difference. Always be courteous and helpful.
Authenticity is the key to long-term success and a sustainable, favorable reputation . While you might believe that it’s easy to ‘fake’ interest on social media platforms, you cannot get away with it for a very long time. People will realize that you are just ‘taking the easy way out’ to build Followers, which will hugely diminish your personal brand. And why waste time if you are not interested?! Be genuine and authentic at all times.
Let’s Take These Concepts for a Test Ride, Shall We?!
Let’s put these personal branding elements together using my profile as an example. I would like for you – my readers – to provide your inputs on the effectiveness of my profile or personal brand on Twitter. Please feel free to be honest (but gentle;) ha). I am learning too and would love to improve.
Following is a screenshot of my Twitter profile:
This is ME
a. Twitter ID
My Twitter handle is a combination of the first initials of my first and last name (kr), along with my husband’s last name (iyer) = @kr_iyer
b. Profile Picture
I used a picture from my recent trip to the most beautiful state of the U.S of A – Alaska You can see a snowy-white backdrop, with my smiling head-shot front and center.
c. Cover Picture
Initially, I wanted to go with a photo that communicates my interest in social media marketing. After much deliberation, however, I decided to opt for a picture that might perhaps demonstrate a different aspect of my personality. I love traveling. My first cover picture had a beautiful iceberg as the backdrop, but I wanted something more eye-catching. Hence, I selected this picture of two bears trudging along a road at Denali National Park.
Symbolically, I wanted this to represent my attitude of being a ‘lone warrior’ who slowly, but steadily is working towards earning a good reputation in my chosen career of social media marketing.
d. Profile Description
I must have changed this multiple times since my induction into Twitter, finally settling on this (for now). I plan on tweaking it every so often just to keep things fresh.
My first tagline was: “An aspiring marketing professional, I seek to be reborn every minute.” While this sounded ‘poetic’, I thought no one would understand what I was trying to communicate. I wanted to clarify my belief about marketing in this headline, and hence included – what I think – are the three cornerstones of a successful marketer: someone who wants to learn, share and care. Hence, it became, “An aspiring marketing professional, I want to learn, share and care”
I am most passionate about blogging, branding and content marketing, so these three were ‘hashtagged’
Therefore, after reading an article that communicated the importance of showcasing your ‘personal’ quirks to network better, I also included some personal trivia in the second line: “coffee-addict, thriller-junkie, word-crazy.”
As for the location and website, I mentioned my City of Residence along with the link to this marketing blog.
e. Followers and Following Statistics
I am following 824 people and am being followed by 438, which doesn’t seem like much, but am not quite concerned. The ‘quantity’ doesn’t matter as much to me as the ‘quality’ of connections.
Most of the ones I am following are experts in the field of marketing – there are some I followed by mistake, but don’t quite feel like Unfollowing them (just seems rude L ). I know that least 95% of my Followers are genuine because I always try to check their profile.
I am sure that if I continue re-tweeting and re-sharing relevant posts, my Follower count will grow, which might then increase my Following count too.
- Note: You can see 29 unread messages in my Direct Message Inbox. Actually, I take a look at all DMs, but since most of them were Automated DMs, I didn’t feel the need to open them. If you are a newcomer to Twitter and are trying to establish your personal brand, I would suggest staying away from Automated Direct Messages, especially the ones that are just promotional materials in disguise. Nothing will turn away people faster than someone who is trying to push himself or herself in front of their faces!
f. Sharing Other People’s Content
Firstly, I never re-tweet any article without reading it first. And I try to succinctly summarize it afterwards, keeping in mind – of course – Twitter’s 140 character limit. Remember I talked about how it is beneficial to indicate to others that you have read the article?! This summary does exactly that by: (a) indicating to the reader that I learnt something from their post; (b) helping others decide whether they might be interested in reading the re-tweeted article.
I have noticed that this strategy encourages more people to read and re-share, thereby creating a win-win situation. The writer gets more ‘social signals’ and I increase my visibility within the ‘Tweetosphere’ , thereby growing my influence organically.
Indicate That you Have Read the Article
Another way of building a positive reputation is to take a few extra minutes to seek out the Twitter handle of the author. Then, instead of just clicking the ‘Re-Tweet’ button on Twitter, click on the ‘Tweet’ button from the original article-page and say, “RT @author_handle”, followed by the rest of the details. This is a wonderful way to communicate to the authors that you value their contributions and have taken the pains to place their Twitter ID in the beginning of your Tweet. I have been Followed by most of the authors that were RTed. See the below screenshot wherein the author has re-tweeted my Tweet.
RT over Re-tweet
g. Posting Original Content
Honestly, I didn’t post a lot of original content until last week. Since then, I have been promoting my blog posts more often. In the following screenshot, I Tweeted a link to a poll for deciding the next topic for my blog. I am doing this approximately twice a day for the last couple of days, which has actually resulted in some engagement in the form of re-tweets and some participation
Promote Original Content Carefully
h. Timing and Frequency of Tweets
I normally assign a particular time period in a day to read and re-tweet interesting articles, but, lately, I have been logging on more frequently to space out my Tweets.
Once I get a full-time position and thereby busier, I am sure those Twitter scheduling tools will prove extremely time-saving!
i. Focusing on Single Personal Brand Per Account
Apart from social media marketing, I am passionate about words, movies and music. But since I didn’t want to clutter my Followers’ feed with unrelated articles about my favorite celebrities or fiction novels, I created another account (@writer_kit) to celebrate my favorite hobbies. This way, I can focus on building my personal brand as a social media marketer under the @kr_iyer handle.
j. Twitter Etiquette
While I don’t always thank people for re-tweeting articles written by others, I do thank people for sharing my original content, and definitely respond to any personal direct message. The good thing about Twitter is that the ‘thank you’ is implied when you re-share Tweets. But being vocal about your gratitude never hurts! Make people feel like they matter, and be genuine about it. In fact, I think I should thank people more often. Below is an example of a conversation between me and a renowned social media expert, Peg Fitzpatrick:
Sample Twitter Conversation
These are just some ways (according to me) to create and maintain a positive personal brand on Twitter. I hope they were useful to you!
It’s your turn now! Has anything worked particularly well for you to establish an enviable personal brand, either on Twitter or even in general? Your comments are much appreciated.