Whether you’re ramping up your career, looking to launch a successful side hustle or have been hard at work building a business, owning your personal brand online can help you achieve success by telling your story and sharing your experiences in a meaningful way. More than just publishing a website, blog or newsletter, building your brand means being thoughtful about how you use social networks. We caught up with Carly Mask, a freelance photographer, Instagram creative and the co-owner of Camp Digital, a California-based boutique creative agency, to score some actionable advice.
What Is a Personal Brand—and Why Is it Important?
Carly believes that harnessing the power of social media is essential to building a strong personal brand, which is defined as how people market themselves (and their careers) as brands. “Whether you agree or not, I think we can all admit, at least in some capacity, that our personal social media presence is the digital proxy for the analog versions of ourselves,” she explains. “Social networks like Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest are easy to access, easy to use and provide enough of a creative canvas to tell a really great story without a lot of training. Your social presence shouldn’t be the only place you bring your personal brand to life, but it’s a great start and important supplement to your resume, your work product and your physical presentation.”
She says that while when most people think of their social networks as a way to stay in touch with friends, find inspiration or keep up with the latest news and trends, they can also be so much more. “Don’t forget that your social networks are also places for you to tell your story, showcase your style and shed light on your experiences,” she reminds. “Using social media this way can add dimension to how you show up for anything—from a job interview to a client pitch to a new brand partnership opportunity.”
8 Smart Tips That’ll Help You Build an Authentic Personal Brand
- Be purposeful. “As you continue building your personal brand using social media, it’s important to consider how your content serves others and how each post connects back to your brand’s purpose and mission,” Carly educates. “Ask yourself, ‘What’s the purpose of sharing this post?’ and know whether it’s meant to inspire, teach, make someone laugh, raise a question, appeal to a wide crowd, draw a small niche or something else. Be honest with yourself, and always dig in to ask yourself why you’re posting what you share.” She says that when she does this, she often finds inspiration for a caption, an idea to tweak her call-to-action or that she needs to ditch a photo that doesn’t feel meaningful enough.
- Create consistency. Consistency is key for achieving success with many things, including work on building a personal brand. Not sure how to nail it? Carly has some advice to share. “Be consistent with messaging and consistently post across social media channels daily to stand out and differentiate yourself from others.” To create a consistent voice and refine your message even more, she says to “start establishing a preferred tone, style and direction (to emoji or not to emoji, that is the question) that’s aligned with your overall brand and other touch points, such as your website or marketing materials.”
- Reach for real engagement. “Every fan and follower is an opportunity to connect with people who want to know more and care about your personal brand,” Carly stresses. “Social media is like socializing in real life and it’s an incredible opportunity to find and engage with your followers and potential clients and customers.” She says that while it’s important to talk, the name of the game is the conversation. “Listen and engage,” she suggests. “Reply to comments in a sincere, human way, check those DMs and requests, and go comment and spread the love on other people and brands’ content.”
- Be unapologetically you. When it comes to social media, Mask tells us that you are your best competitive advantage. “Be you, because no one else can!” she says. “Your fans and potential clients or customers want to feel a connection to your brand, so share special moments with them. Give them a sneak peek into your life or a behind-the-scenes look they won’t get anywhere else. Or, surprise and delight them with a promo code in their DM, a handwritten snail mail letter sent to their home or host a live AMA (ask me anything) Q&A. Get creative!” We love it.
- Embrace grid goals. Love scrolling through gorgeous looking Instagram feeds? Us too! Turns out, plotting out a pretty-looking grid for yourself can be a key aspect of a solid personal brand. “Think about your grid, wall or feed as the portfolio for your brand,” Carly offers. “If a new fan lands on your page, how would they describe your product? How would they describe you and what you stand for?” She says that the mix of images you curate tell a story about your brand. “For example, do your current ‘Top 9’ Instagram photos communicate the look, feel and products of your brand? Consider the categories of content (e.g. tight product shot, product on someone candidly and in a tropical place, natural background/texture shots, etc.) that you’d like to feature regularly in your ‘Top 9’ to portray your personal brand and start creating a cadence to feature them.”
- Meet your audience where they are. “Everyone’s personal brand is different and speaks to a different audience,” Carly notes. “Where do your fans or customers live, breathe and play? Go there. Meet them where they are and start the conversation!”
- Be crystal clear. You might use a mix of social media channels to share your story, perspective and experiences but Carly says that no matter what, your goal should be to be crystal clear. “It’s important to have a strong call to action (CTA) when you’re driving your fans and followers to take an action, whether it’s to buy, sign up, enter to win, share, comment or something else,” she says. “Because you’re often limited by character count or ‘above the fold’ real estate, it’s important your CTA is clear, concise and tells a person why they should take a specific action.”
- Indulge your creativity. “The sky’s the limit!” Carly says. “With brands increasingly ramping up on social media, every channel is becoming more saturated and more difficult to cut through. Really push and stretch yourself to think differently, to test the limits, push the boundaries on your own personal brand. And, have fun while doing it.”