CEOs are nearly indistinguishable from celebrities these days. The news is awash with stories about famous executives – Zuckerberg’s recent act of “philanthrocapitalism,” Gravity’s Dan Price pegging every employee’s salary to at least $70K, Mayer’s handling of Yahoo and her potential golden parachute.
But how does that impact us less-than-famous CEOs? Is the onus on us to become the faces and voices of our companies?
That’s a decision you have to make for yourself, but consider this – in B2B industries, perceived “personal value” has twice the impact on buying decisions than business value does. In B2C industries, 68 percent of consumers say they ignore posts on social media from brands. Creating a personal brand is clearly beneficial, but you have to build it right for it to be effective.
Here’s how to get started.
1. Set yourself apart
Your brand cannot just be an extension of your business’s. Small businesses typically use social media to reach specific, target markets, and that’s fine – there is nothing wrong with rewarding followers with first notice for sales, discounts and offers. But you need to set your personal brand apart from the business; it should be connected, but not a mirror-image.
A good question to ask yourself is what you, personally, do well within your industry. Do customers or clients ask for marketing or business advice? Do you have a knack for composing the perfect Instagram shot? Start by building your brand around that talent. Create and post articles, tutorials, infographics – whatever showcases that talent best.
2. Follow and read
Once you have some idea around what you’d like to build, start researching micro-networks focused around that topic. Use tools like RiteTag to research appropriate hashtags, or BuzzSumo to find popular content and to discover people who are already thought leaders within that topic or industry. Figure out what others are posting, follow their networks, and read as much as you possibly can.
The idea, at this stage, is to both find out what works and how you’ll differentiate yourself.
Don’t be afraid to expand your horizons, either – if you want to focus on marketing, and you know a ton about traditional advertising but understand very little about content marketing, now is your chance to read and learn as much as you can.
3. Talk to people
Micro-partnerships are a beautiful thing. The word “partnership” sends chills down the spines of many business owners, thanks to the sheer amount of work and effort that goes into a traditional business-to-business arrangement. But on social media, a partnership can just mean swapping guest posts, sharing content and talking. The idea is to expand your reach and your brand.
When you first start out, it might feel like you’re yelling into an empty room. But once you begin connecting and talking, people start trickling into that room. Online marketing is inbound; that means you want people to seek you out. Once they do, it’s much easier to connect and wow them with that content you’ve been producing.
4. Be consistent
Especially when you first start out. You do not want to spread yourself too thin, nor do you want to confuse those first few followers. Make sure your profiles look consistent – use the same, or nearly the same, picture/username/biography/linked sites. Don’t stray too far from your core topic during these early days, either. Write or produce good, probing, informative content. When it feels like you’re starting to tap the well on that initial topic, dig deeper.
Be consistent and unique, and build that brand.
Never, ever forget the “person” behind the “personal brand.” People crave authenticity, and if your articles or posts feel canned or forced, responses suffer. It is OK to be you — to showcase ideas, thoughts and feelings that you connect with personally. Chances are they will resonate with those who started following you because they responded positively to your earlier, idea-based content.
Variety is the spice of life, so if it feels like you’re just posting the same thing over and over, push the boundaries. Don’t completely jump ship, but maybe feel around the edges of what you are known for, and see how your followers respond.
Ready, set, build a personal brand
Personally, I absolutely love that CEOs have a chance to peacock a little bit. Focusing so heavily on myself and my own brand was, at first, uncomfortable, but now I love it when clients or colleagues tell me how much they loved an article I wrote or a video I posted.
Whether you work directly with consumers or other businesses, remember that you’re working with a person. And people like, and are more willing, to connect with other people. What is good for your personal brand is therefore good for your business. If you haven’t already, take a chance and try showcasing your talent and advice, and then connect with people whose intellect you respect. The authenticity this personal branding process injects into your company is absolutely invaluable.