Anyone who has an online presence needs to understand the importance of personal brand. The person on Facebook who got fired because she posted on her profile that she hated her job did not get the concept of personal brand.
But there are many social media channels. Most people have several profiles, which they maintain to a greater or lesser extent. What is the point of perfecting your LinkedIn profile if you inadvertently sabotage it with a lackluster blog or indiscrete Tweets? The solution is to evolve your personal brand.
By evolving your brand, you start from simple principles and create an increasingly complex presence. Before you start on any of this, you must understand the process of biological evolution. Broadly speaking, it is a process of experimentation, ruthless selection, survival and propagation of what is successful. Here are 10 steps to implement as you evolve your personal brand.
1. Establish goals –– Decide what you want to do with your personal brand. First and foremost brand is about perception. Your basic goal is to craft perception of what people think. What do people find when they search for you on Google? Do you want to be seen as an expert, thought leader or influencer?
2. Consider your audience — Who are you communicating with via social media? If your personal brand is your professional persona, what kinds of topics interest your audience the most? Find the common ground with the topics you are knowledgeable about. By sharing your unique knowledge you provide value to your target audience. It’s vital also to consider the kinds of online behavior typical for your audience. Does your audience create and upload content, will they comment on blog posts, or are they content to passively consume content? (Charlene Li’s “ladder” model of social media participation is a good starting point to classifying user behavior.)
3. Research platforms — If you want to use Facebook just for family and friends, it might be unwise to “friend” work colleagues as did the unfortunate Facebook user in the example above. If your professional network is mainly on LinkedIn, tweak your profile and engage on Answers and Discussions. Bear in mind your audience might not be active on the platforms on which you’re active. For instance, in regulated industries (e.g., pharma) you’re unlikely to have a large audience in social networks. Do some research to find out where your peers are. In choosing platforms consider whether it gets traffic (one reason Facebook is the 800 pound gorilla), relevance, the value of content and if you are comfortable using it.
4. Create a strategy — Once you have identified where your audience is active online, and what kinds of topics you want to engage in, create a social media strategy. A common mistake starting out is to assume strategy is simply engaging your audience. It is not. Think of strategy as similar to a business plan. Your strategy needs to include long- and short-term goals, evaluation of the competitive landscape, resources you plan on using, success benchmarks, a tactical summary and a schedule for executing tactics. Be sure to try something new and unexpected. Mutations are the raw material for evolution. You have to have unusual approaches to survive in a competitive and changing environment.
5. Implement your strategy — The schedule in your strategic plan will guide your day-to-day activities: for example, what to blog or tweet about, how many posts or tweets, what kinds of content and what kind of integration (such as cross-linking with your other online presences on LinkedIn, blog comments, forum posts and so on). A common mistake for beginners is to start their social media branding at this stage, rather than including implementation as part of a strategic plan.
6. Measure your results — Your strategic plan’s benchmarks will include metrics for you to assess your progress. There are endless different ways to measure social media. If you are advertising, a good start is the IAB’s Social Media Ad Metrics Definitions. If you have a WordPress blog, use a plugin that provides a good overview of basic stats. For more detailed stats, Google Analytics are a must. You can set behavioral goals such as a conversion or clicking on a link to directly measure the impact of specific site content. If you are on Facebook or Twitter, these applications provide a variety of stats. On Facebook, the Fan page provides information on the number of views, fans, uploads and so on. Several third party sites provide stats to allow you to track your progress on Twitter, such as the number of followers, posts, and URLs clicked. There are endless permutations. Again, you need to experiment and see what works for you. (Introduction to social media metrics)
7. Compare your results with your goals — Selection is a key step in evolving your personal brand. In order to begin the selection process you, see if your results are meeting your goals. When you compare your results with your goals, it will help to refine your goals and to get more specific. Say your goal is to be the top blogger in your industry. How will you measure whether you are the top blogger? You could use your Technorati rank or Compete.com traffic. Or may be you just want to be a better blogger. You could use the change in number of comments over time, so traffic or rank would be less important. The key is to focus on what is most important relative to your goal.
8. Continue what is working — Once you have the first seven steps, the rest is easy. Simply keep up with what works. Do more of what gets positive results, whether it’s more traffic, more comments, or whatever.
9. Quit what is not working — Do less of what doesn’t work. This is selection — arguably the most important step of the evolutionary process. Selection is ruthless. You need to be too. You might have to give up something that’s precious or important. The dinosaurs were awesome animals. They’re all dead. Extinct. For ever. You need to think along those lines. What’s not working? What is diminishing your survivability? If it’s not working, kill it.
10. Start all over — Yup. Evolution is iterative. Just like the environment, the online ecosystem is always changing. Life’s evolution is always ongoing, and always will be. To survive and thrive in the online ecosystem, you too will need to continually evolve. Start from Step 1 above and continue the process as long as you want to stay in the race.
Does it work? Sure. If you stick to your plan and persist, your personal brand will evolve and you will get results. Here’s a screen shot of my stats on this blog since have focused on evolving my personal brand. It isn’t the only measure of success, but it illustrates that you can evolve your personal brand applying the above ten steps.