Want to stand out from the crowd or grow your business? Then you need to focus on building your personal brand online. Andrea Edwards from The Digital Conversationalist explains what it’s all about.
What exactly is a personal brand?
In a nutshell, your personal brand is you, what you stand for and what you believe in, all packaged up and presented to the online world. Your personal brand should be focused on what you want to be known for.
I’m an employee. Should this still be on my radar?
Yes. It’s the core tool for opening opportunities for yourself! If you’re interviewing for a new position, and you’re competing with someone who has 30,000 connections across social media – and here you are, with barely a footprint – who are they going to choose? It’s the same when the ugly word “redundancy” starts to become a rumble. Powerful employees are an asset.
Businesses are finally waking up and understanding the power of employees as influencers. People are more trusted than brands today, and that’s why employee advocacy – or the promotion of an organisation by its staff members – is going to be a big priority. You shouldn’t, however, be a megaphone for your brand. This is where many companies are getting it wrong, because they still think it’s about their brand.
This year is going to see a big focus and growing momentum around employee advocacy. My message is: you first, your employer’s brand second. Focus on standing for something meaningful to you. Set a goal to become a powerhouse in your industry and build your eminence in your field.
How do I know what to talk about?
Whatever topic you promote doesn’t have to be tied to the product or service you sell. You can be inspirational, someone who’s passionate about equality, the environment, or whatever is important to you. You become a spokesperson in your field of passion and then you become a valuable asset for your business or the company you work for. That’s the goal.
So, how do I start putting myself out there online?
The two biggest challenges I always see are: Self-confidence – why would anyone want to listen to me? Everyone has a unique story to tell, based on their own unique life and professional experiences. Tie your brand to something really meaningful to you and you will stand out.
I don’t want to contribute to the noise! I love it when people say this, because it means they think that to be present online is about delivering value. Being focused on something you really care about is what matters here.
Personal branding is an act of service: serve your audience, make their life better. That’s it. It’s not about you or how great you are. That’s not inspiring. I believe personal branding is the health insurance of your career. We, the people, are the voice today, but we must step up and own it.
I’ve been building my personal brand for a decade, and I’ve now built a business off the back of it. I kept going with my blogs and social media outreach, even when I was working for other businesses, focused in other areas, because I knew this was core to being a professional today. It does, however, require ongoing focus and showing up, year after year, even when no one is speaking back. They will eventually hear you, as long as you consistently deliver amazing value and share or speak from a place of meaning.
How has social media changed your life?
When I moved to London in 1995, I used to fax articles to friends in Australia because I thought they would enjoy them. I have always shared knowledge in any way I could, and social media made this possible on a massive scale. Its other enormous benefit was that it kept me connected to all the incredible people I’ve met while living and travelling around the world.
In the past, we’d have amazing experiences with people and then move on.
Today, we can stay connected for the rest of our lives. For expats specifically, social media is also a window into the homes we left behind – the joys and the sorrows, too – though we still miss so much. That’s part of the sacrifice of leaving your home country. I believe social media takes some of the sting out of it.
Would you say there’s been any negative impact?
There have been some bad experiences. I have a personal blog, too, and it sometimes attracts a whole world of ugliness. It can upset you for days.
When I write a blog, it’s to share thoughts and open up conversations. Many trolls just want to attack you for having “liberal” opinions and don’t even read what you write.
I try not to self-censor, but there are days I’ll say to my husband – should I publish it? He knows exactly what can happen, and he knows the impact it will have on me. But should we let them force us to be silent? I don’t think we should. We are the ones who think and consider, they are the ones who attack.
I really believe we need to speak up now for what’s right, more than ever before. We have to be brave and smile through the criticism. I respond to critics and if they speak, we talk. If they attack, I ignore them. If they’re revolting, I say something like, “Aren’t you just a little ray of sunshine in the world!”
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