It’s as true for you as an individual as it is for any company: Who you are online — i.e., your brand — matters. Why? In today’s economy, branding is powerful.
According to research from PR and marketing firm Edelman, about half of all buyers will decide what to buy because of trust in the brand that makes it. So, ask yourself: do you want people to use your products, hire you, follow you or otherwise subscribe to what you have to say? If so, what you need is a strong, compelling, credible brand that shows them why they should.
How do you build a strong personal brand online?
The key is content marketing.
What Is Content Marketing, and Why Does It Matter for You?
Nobody has to tell you that, in today’s Internet world, content is everywhere. It’s what makes up websites, blogs, videos, podcasts, social media posts, slideshows, infographics and essentially everything on the Web. Content marketing is a practice that taps into that reality by creating the kind of content that’s useful, relevant, comprehensive and designed to market a particular product or service. This matters for you as an individual because the same practice that can sell a service can sell you as a brand and what you offer to the world. In other words, content marketing is the tool to use to build your voice and reputation online.
Key Tips for Using Content Marketing for Personal Branding
Once you understand the power and potential of personal branding, it’s only natural to want to create a strong identity online through content marketing. But how do you do it? What goes into effective content marketing? What tips do you need to keep in mind to make the most of the practice? To help answer these questions, here are some key tips to remember.
- Be genuine. The strategy behind content marketing emphasizes building credibility, authority and trust. That’s exactly why nothing derails the process faster than inauthenticity. Readers can tell when you’re faking it, and this immediately discredits anything you have to say. So, for the best results in building a personal brand, be yourself. Be genuine. Bring a human touch back into business by letting your personality and way of seeing the world shine forth.
- Know the difference between personal and private. Using the Internet to build a personal brand does not mean sharing every aspect of your life. You can share honestly without sharing everything. Decide upfront what parts of your life are off limits for sharing — whether that’s your kids, your spouse, your address, your place of employment or something else — and set clear boundaries to protect your privacy.
- Be positive. As much as you want to be genuine, you’ll generally want to avoid negative, bad-mouthing, politically incorrect language or content online. When you consider that you’re trying to reach potential clients, partners, employers or connections, it helps weed out content to avoid.
- Set goals. Casting a vision for your personal brand is a great way to keep your content marketing on track. Ask yourself, what do you want to accomplish with your personal brand online? Are you trying to land a new job, connect with new clients, become a recognized expert in your field, or something else? Once you know what your goal is, you can set plans to achieve it. What will the audience you’re trying to reach be helped by? What kind of content will move you closer toward your goal?
- Start a blog and post regularly. When used strategically, a blog is a huge part of good content marketing. Through a blog, you can regularly publish content that demonstrates your knowledge and allows you to connect with readers. According to the site Business2Community, small businesses with blogs generate 126 percent more leads than businesses without them — that’s a statistic you can’t ignore, no matter what you’re seeking to accomplish.
- Create quality content. Another way content marketing can backfire is when it’s done poorly. If you’re churning out short, irrelevant posts or slapping together ho-hum articles, you’re telling the world to expect little from you. Good content marketing focuses on value — delivering usefulness and relevance to readers.
- Share your content. Your existing social media accounts are the perfect place to start sharing your blog posts and other content. These platforms are already set up with your real connections — people who know you and what you’re like. What’s more, because you’re creating valuable, meaningful content, it should be only natural to want to share it with your real-life connections. Be consistent about sharing, too: Research shows it takes five to seven impressions before someone remembers your brand and what it represents.
- Encourage others to share. The ability to share high-value content is perhaps the biggest brand-building dimension of content marketing. When people are helped by what you’re posting, they’re far more likely to promote it — bringing you more website traffic and exposure in the process. You can also encourage readers to share by asking them to do so, holding contests that require sharing to enter, interviewing people who are likely to then share their features with their audiences, etc. Make sure you understand the promotional guidelines of your social media platforms before designing your contests.
- Streamline your posting with an app. Keeping up with regular content creation and sharing on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube, etc., can be overwhelming. One way to streamline your content marketing is to schedule social media posts with an app such as Buffer or Hootsuite. This makes it easier to keep your accounts fresh, without requiring you to be on every platform every day.
- Connect with others. What’s great about social networks is how easy they make it to interact with influencers or prospects in your field. Want to grow your blog? Read and interact — genuinely — with other bloggers, drawing them to come learn more about you through the content you post. Want to draw more potential clients? Post quality work and follow accounts in your target audience. Use content marketing to create and build connections that can help you reach your goals.
No matter what your industry or interests, as an individual in today’s marketplace, you can’t afford to ignore personal branding. And to grow the kind of personal brand that gets results, you have to think about content marketing. Use the tips above to guide your efforts, and start growing the kind of online identity that helps you reach your goals.
Shanna Mallon is a contributing writer for Straight North, a leading Internet marketing agency in Chicago providing SEO, web development and other online marketing services. She’s been a freelance writer since 2007.