I recently gave a keynote around personal branding. Because there was such a good response from the audience I decided to break it down in a quick read. Not a 25-minute talk. Personal branding—what is it and why is it important? Whenever I am asked what a personal brand is, this is the easiest way to explain it. It is your reputation—online or offline, it is the way others perceive you. While it's important for several reasons, there are two reasons that I like to refer too.There is an old saying "it's not what you know, it's who you know." Now while this statement holds a lot of truth, in the age of technology and massive disruption, "it's not so much who you know, as much as it is who knows you."
The second reason why is your audience wants authenticity. They want something that is vulnerable and real—this is why influencer marketing has become such a powerful tool to large brands. MuseFind shows that 92% of consumers trust an influencer more than an advertisement or traditional celebrity endorsement. Although hiring big influencers can get expensive for entrepreneurs and small startups there is still a way to connect with your audience on a very real level.
Build a personal brand. It is important to have your brand diversified across all platforms but LinkedIn is a genius place to start. For years, LinkedIn has been known as a "professional non-content" platform. I have had numerous people reach and ask what the heck I am doing creating videos on this platform. The answer is always the same; according to Statista there are well over 2 billion active users on Facebook, over 1 billion active users on Instagram, and 1.8 billion active users on YouTube. Having a strong presence in these platforms is extremely smart but if you are just starting out—go where you have the greatest reach.
In less than a year I have received over 1 million views on my content all through organic reach on LinkedIn. I'd say that is a smart choice. Building a personal brand takes work, there is no question in that. There will be days that you simply don't feel like creating, there will be days that make you question your approach, and there will be haters. Because of this—knowing how to build a solid foundation is so very important. There are 3 lessons that I make sure every new client understands when we start building their brand.
1. Self-awareness & self-acceptance. This is not a sexy topic, but if you want to build a long-lasting and sustainable brand. You need to know who you are, where you're going, and be comfortable with that person. Because the truth is, you will have haters. I wish we lived in a world where everyone was supportive, but that's not reality. If you are trying to be someone you are not, people will see through it and call you out on it. Knowing who you are, keeps you authentic and being okay with that person keeps you from getting derailed when the haters come.
2. Your profile is your website. LinkedIn has this set up really well. You can showcase your history, credibility, and what your about all from your profile. Have a solid head shot, don't be afraid to use a picture that is fun and engaging. Your headline is extremely important, make sure you use this to tell us who are and what you do in only a few words. It needs to be clear, concise, and to the point. Your summary—this is the part where you get to explain a little about yourself. I always start with why, I firmly believe in Simon Sinek's theory of "people buy why you do it not what you do." After you have explained your why, show what exactly you do, and end with a place for people to contact you. I personally have my Instagram, email, and Calendly link.
3. Sell through the story. This is so freaking important, whether you are a big brand wanting to diversify your content or building a personal brand. People relate to stories, that is how we are wired. Gary Vaynerchuk is perfect example of this. He recently released his 3rd collab with K-Swiss for his Clouds&Dirt sneakers. I bought them after seeing his Instagram story. Not because they were cool looking, or because it would suddenly make me a better entrepreneur. But because of the message that goes with it.
"The clouds—the high-end philosophy of what you believe—and the dirt—the low-down subject matter expertise that allows you to execute against it. Forget about everything else."
I get this on so many levels, I am a blue-collar worker in a white-collar world. Most who know me, know I had an adopted father who wasn't exactly a good person. Years after my mom left him, she re-married a 'good-ole' country boy. He would wake me up as a 15-year-kid at 5 AM to go' clear the land, or build a porch.' "Blue-collar" work. From that point on, every summer. I worked. Hard, back-breaking, work. I respect work and I love it. However, when your a dreamer surrounded by status quo, you receive opposition.
I believe you become an UnderDog for two simple reasons:
1. People don't believe in you. They think you're crazy for wanting to start a ride-sharing app called Uber. They think you're crazy for allowing strangers to come sleep in your house through an online platform called Airbnb.
2. People don't understand you. Some people were raised in a world that shows success as graduating college with a good degree, finding a job, moving up within the company, retiring. With marriage and kids somewhere along the way. While there absolutely nothing wrong with that version of success—if that was "the way," we would all be living fat and happy. But that's not always the case.
While the world of entrepreneurship is small in the grand scheme of 7 billion people in the world. It is strong and it is supportive. When you are chasing something bigger than you, you will have haters and while I love the process of helping others. Some days are hard, some are lonely, and a lot of them are long. On those days—I want you to know you are not alone. You are a part of something bigger and you ARE making a difference.
I have a free Facebook group just for the UnderDogs. There is no selling (that is rule number one), only support. But there are amazing people and if you want to be a part of that community, let us know and we will send you the link.
Always remember, you are not alone, and you are worth everything!
With love and hope, Jacob.