A Primer on Personal Brands: What It Is, Why It Matters, and How to Build Yours

Eugene  Yang (@eugeneleeyang) is many things: actor, writer, producer, director. While he’s part of Buzzfeed’s  Try Guys, Eugene is singled out for his unwavering air of cool—which goes to say that the very foundation of his brand is his personality.

In an age where businesses tap major influencers for sponsored ads and bloggers leave their day jobs to write full time on their own websites, it’s easy to see that personal brands are a lucrative venture. If you’re looking to invest in yourself and establish your personal brand, read on for a primer!

First things first: what is a personal brand?

A personal brand is a brand that is unique to who you are as a person. When people think of personal brands, they don’t think of the product or the services you offer. Instead, they think of you. They also think of their experience interacting with you.

What pops into your head when you think of Nike, versus when you think of, say, Taylor Swift? For Nike, you probably thought of a range of running shoe models or your very own pair of Nike sneakers.

Source: Medium

But if we’re talking about Taylor Swift, the first thing that will probably pop into your mind is her face. Or the fact that she’s one of the most talked about pop superstars in the music industry today. Sure, she’s got her songs as products—but Taylor Swift has marketed herself to the point that you begin to focus more on her persona than on her songs whenever her name comes up.

Source: InStyle

Singer, social media celebrity, and cat lady—you have to hand it to Taylor Swift when it comes to controlling her image.

Another way to identify a personal brand is by imagining somebody else taking over the brand. Nobody can be like Taylor Swift—it simply won’t be the same! Whereas, Nike can always be spearheaded by another qualified CEO.

Should you start your personal brand?

Way before social media, we’ve been working on our personal brands, one way or another. It could be through the resume we are populating with our best careers and skillsets. Or, it could be the way we switch codes when conversing with our boss versus our parents.

The advancement of technology, however, have brought to us so many more tools that enable us to convert ourselves into full-fledged businesses. Think of all the bloggers, vloggers, and influencers who work full time on their personal brands.

Caroline de Maigret (@carolinedemaigret) is an author and a model, but her feed chronicles the daily life of a Parisian woman—which is what her audience follows her for.

Even if you’re not interested in working on a personal brand full time, the way you present yourself online can impact your career. A bigger following on Twitter could help you close that cookbook deal. A well-curated Instagram feed can help you snatch that marketing opening in your dream company. Whichever way, a personal brand matters.

What should you know before establishing a full-fledged, personal brand?

Just like any business, there are pros and cons to personal brands. Let’s start with the upsides.

  • A personal brand is completely unique to you. Nobody can imitate it or recreate it because YOU are completely original.

Ever heard of a supportive and comedic husband as a personal brand? Nico Bolzico (@nicobolzico) plays that role to actress and model Solenn Heussaff; on his Instagram, he often shares snaps of himself with his wife, along with humorous and dorky captions. The guy gets tapped for collaborations with local brands and publications following his massive influence!

  • Following that, a personal brand creates unique experiences for your clients and followers. It’s like that small cafe that you keep visiting because, more than the coffee, you love chatting with the baristas there. People will come back to your personal brand because of their experience with you.

There are many influencers in the fitness niche, but Cassey Ho (@blogilates) has amassed a huge following because of the personal captions and inspiring anecdotes she tells her audience about—an extension of her energy as a fitness instructor.

On the other hand, these are the downsides you can expect from a personal brand.

  • You can’t easily sell your personal brand once you’re done running it. The business model is unique to you, and if another person takes over, there will be a noticeable shift in branding.
  • Criticism can hit close to home. Since you are putting yourself out there, any disrespectful or distasteful feedback can affect you on a personal level.

Definitely, before you dive into building your own brand, you have to think forward and decide if this is the business you want to head to. These pros and cons can help you define a direction for yourself!

So, you’ve decided to build your personal brand. What are the factors for success?
  1.  Keep it real.
  2. Morgan Hanbery (@carelessmorgan) first broke out into Internet stardom when her hilarious makeup tutorial video went viral. The humor comes from her honesty, and she continues to harness that attitude with her Instagram posts. As of writing, she has over 600,000 followers!

    We may be plagued with over-processed photos and selectively published content, but nothing will draw a loyal following more than authenticity. Personal brands are founded on honesty. So share an embarrassing anecdote. Talk about how difficult it has been to keep up with workouts. Tell your followers how, really, you find that eyeshadow palette you bought way too expensive! Moments of honesty like this will make your brand all the more personable and relatable.

  3. Stick to a niche…
  4. Peng Joon (@pengjoon) is a speaker, businessman, and crossfit enthusiast who shares motivational videos and life advice on his Instagram.

    When building a personal brand, you wouldn’t want to overwhelm your audience with multiple, random careers or skillsets. This holds especially true when you extend it to Instagram, where feeds ought to have overarching themes—food, fitness, travel, fashion, business—or a combination of some of these. Pick one to three themes that you want to plant yourself in and stick to them!

  5. …but define your edge!
  6. More than identifying a niche, you also have to define your edge. With so many people establishing personal brands, it isn’t a rare case that you find someone posting the same content as you do. For a personal brand to succeed, you have to offer something that nobody else can. Maybe you love fashion and you’re an expert at thrift shopping: why not share outfit ideas under $20?

    Heidi Nazarudin (@theambitionista) is a businesswoman and a fashion influencer. She combined her career as a CEO and interest for all things sartorial into a brand that advises women on how to present themselves fashionably and professionally.

    Find something that only you can offer, or that you have more of compared to others. Then, play to that strength!

  7. Connect with people and build your tribe.
  8. As previously mentioned, personal brands are about people’s experience when they interact with you. So engage with the existing community in your chosen niche. Leave genuine comments on their photos, follow them, and get friendly with them. Likewise, engage with users who comment on your posts!    

    Source: The Daily Mail

    Take it from Taylor Swift. The celebrity regularly engages with her fans across different platforms, leaving comments (oftentimes lengthy!) on their posts for a personal touch.

  9. Stay active to maintain your presence.
  10. Mariam Ezzeddine (@cookinwithmima) shares easy-to-follow recipes on almost a daily basis, and, on occasion, posts snaps of herself with her family on Instagram to give her followers a glimpse of her life outside the kitchen.

    If people follow your brand because of you, then make sure they’ve always got someone to come back to. This is to say, there is a level of upkeep with personal brands. When you disappear, the brand disappears along with you. So post consistently, engage regularly, and you should be good.

  11. Be prepared to work hard.

Ultimately, building a personal brand is building a business. You can’t expect overnight success, so take time out of every day to dedicate yourself to your growing your brand.

Blogger Caitlyn Chase, for example, woke up two hours earlier every day so she could post new content on her website while juggling a career in marketing!

Many bloggers and ‘grammers go on with their day jobs as they work towards a steady cash flow and stream of clients to partner with for their brand. Results won’t be instant, but with persistent efforts, it will come!

These days, even potential employers Google our names to learn more about us beyond what our resumes reveal. Establishing a personal brand is a good way to control what people see about you. And if you’re all for making a business out of it, start with our tips for success!