Why should people remember you?
What makes you stand out in a crowd?
What makes you different from other people in your field?
How can others relate to you?
If you can’t answer those questions, perhaps it’s time to think about how you brand yourself. Branding is the process of attributing a characteristic, quality, or image to something in order to associate an item with those qualities. For instance, think of Disney, and you think wholesome, family entertainment, right? It’s what the company is known for. This is not an accident, but rather, by design.
Branding isn’t just for companies like Nike, McDonald’s, and Disney anymore, though. Today’s entrepreneur realizes that if you want to stand out, you need to brand yourself. Branding is what separates Gary Vaynerchuk, Seth Godin, and Dooce from people you’ve never heard of.
They wear their passions on their sleeves, they invite you into a part of their lives, and most importantly, people can relate to them. If people like you, they are a lot more likely to buy from you, rather than someone they don’t know.
So, what should your brand be?
Focus on what makes you unique and on what makes you different (or more awesome) than others in your business or niche. Below are some tips on how to develop your brand.
Be you. Don’t be a phoney. People’s phoney detectors are more finely-tuned than ever. Be you, or a slightly exaggerated version of you. No, everyone won’t like you. And yeah, you might have to deal with some haters. But that’s life. And chances are, if you’re authentic, you will find an audience who appreciates you.
Find your passion. What interests you? Maybe it’s comic books, maybe it’s recipes, or maybe it’s alcohol. Businessman Gary Vaynerchuk used his knowledge of wine to create the successful Wine Library TV, a daily video blog show about wine. He became THE WINE GUY. He is now a best-selling author, appears on TV shows, has a satellite radio show, and is considered one of the leading experts on social media.
What is your area of expertise? Chances are there’s an audience for your passions. The more unique and focused your niche, the better, it means less people are competing for your audience.
Tell stories. People connect better when you use stories. If your passion is art, write stories about the piece you’re talking about. Tell a story about the artist. Nearly any topic can be made interesting through good storytelling. Ira Glass of the radio and TV show, This American Life is an excellent example of how powerful storytelling can turn the mundane into the sublime.
Become an expert in your field. Provide useful (or entertaining) information on your niche. When someone thinks about your niche, you want to be the go-to guy or gal. Put yourself out there for interviews, and interview the movers and shakers in your niche (or the interesting people if there’s not much moving or shaking going on). Soon, you will be the face of your niche.
Create a community. Social media has made it incredibly easy to find your fans and build your tribe. Use Facebook to create a fan page devoted to your brand. Use Twitter to connect with your audience. Use your blog to build your authority with useful articles and interviews. Just remember that the key to social media is to be social.
If people comment or email you, make sure you respond as often as possible. Use Twitter to promote other people’s stuff more than your own. This shows that you’re interested in others and increases the likelihood of them tweeting your stuff when you put it out there.
Use your new-found position to seek possibilities. Once you’re an established expert, new opportunities will open themselves up to you. Offers to sponsor you, joint venture offers, and invitations to speak, are all possible when you’re an expert.
When struggling author Seth Harwood was being rejected by publishers, he went online, found his audience, and built a community via his blog and podcasts. Then, armed with a fan-base he created all on his own, he was able to secure a book deal and find success.
Be aware and monitor your brand. Now that you have a public profile, you need to make sure you don’t go saying stupid things which can come back to haunt you. A drunken rant on Twitter, a public dispute with a customer, or leaving nasty comments on the internet, can instantly stain the good reputation you’ve built for yourself.
Remember, people have to feel good about your brand. If they see you as a jerk, your brand is doomed. Use Google alerts to monitor what’s being said about you. If you see a situation where you can create a positive outcome, step in and interact. Just be careful to avoid trolls looking only to get a negative response from you.
Got any branding tips you’d like to share? Post them in the comments below.
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David Wright is a ghostwriter who blogs about fatherhood. He’s got the cookie-obsessed, comic-drawing, OCD-afflicted, daddy blogger niche wrapped up, even though he would’ve preferred to be known as the ‘funny Brad Pitt of blogging.’