How to Use Social Media for Personal Branding

This is a guest post by Dan Schawbel. Follow him on Twitter.

Most people online are building “a brand,” but sometimes people forget whose brand they are building and if they are making the right strategic moves. For instance, if your Twitter handle reads “@fastcar,” then you aren’t building your own personal brand. When people retweet you, they are viewing @fastcar and not your full name. So stop for a second and consider what brand you’re trying to build and why. Are you looking to become an industry expert, or are you focused on establishing your company’s name, or both? We’ve seen a lot of successful personal brands explode online because they’ve either thought about how they would like to be perceived or they have slowly grown into their current roles, by experimentation, luck and hard work. I could write a post explaining how to use TV advertising or radio to build your brand, but most of you won’t shell out thousands of dollars for something that most people will ignore anyways. Social media, on the other hand, allows you to connect directly with the audience you want to target, on common ground, and build relationships.

Here are ten tips that will help you on your journey:

Discover your brand

A lot of people are rushing to get on social networks, and are forgetting to fill out their profiles, or what their purpose of participation is. You need to have a clear idea of who you are, what you want to be known as, and the type of content you can consistently publish, otherwise you won’t stand out. There are thousands of people who brand themselves as realtors, lawyers, social media gurus, and marketing experts, and very few of them are successful. By basing your brand off of what you’re passionate about and want to be an expert in (if you’re not already), you will be able to become a serious player in the social media world.

Create your own marketing system

I recommend that people take a portion of their day to learn as much as they can about what people are saying about them, as well as review competitor and partner activities, and peruse industry trends and case studies. The more you read, the better and more prepared you will be to communicate through various social media channels. Use tools such as alltop.com and google.com/alerts to find the right blogs and new articles, and then subscribe to them through RSS using Google Reader. The second step is to organize the most important articles that you review in Google Reader, using Delicious.com. Finally, share these articles using your social media tools, such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and possibly cite them in your presentations and within blog posts.

Get endorsements

The world is run by recommendations and you trust what your inner circle has to say, rather than complete strangers. An endorsement could be from a happy customer, an industry expert, a professor or someone else that is respected by society. The endorsement will give you more credibility and respect. Recommendations happen publicly all the time now, so the more people say positive things about you, the bigger your brand will become.

Build your brand by association

By working for brand names, you gain more credibility in the process. For example, Tamar Weinberg is the community manager for Mashable, and she has written for Lifehacker.com and other mega blogs. Not only does this enhance her visibility as a brand, but this association has helped Tamar leverage her brand into new areas, such as becoming the author of a popular book. This is why I always recommend that you align yourself to well-known brands as fast as you can because it establishes a foundation that you can work with later.

Partner with others

It’s hard to spend hours each day working on creating content, working with clients, expanding your business,and possibly your full-time job. That’s why you should look to locate other people online that are looking to achieve similar goals and link up with them. If you’re looking to start a blog, a YouTube channel, or some other content platform, it helps to have multiple content creators so that you can focus on the marketing of that property too.

Have a unique identity and take a niche

Be different and love being different. The more you can offer a fresh perspective or a brand new concept, the more people will gravitate to you. No one wants to subscribe to another tech blog or meet someone at a networking event that does the same thing as someone else. The more you’re able to take your distinct personality and ideas and carve your own niche, the better off you’ll be.

Don’t join every social network

You might hear from people that you need to be everywhere, and I’m sorry to say that it’s not a good strategy. You won’t be able to scale your brand on fifty social networks. Instead, join the top four networks: Facebook, Google Buzz, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Once you’ve done that, then you should get accounts on social networks that are relevant to your field.

Join other communities

When you’re first starting off, or even if you already have a large platform, you should participate in communities that already exist. Whether it’s Tamar’s blog, a Facebook fan page, a LinkedIn group, a Ning network, a local association, etc. This way you can target your audience, while forming relationships with the people who will be interested in your services.

Blogs aren’t dead by a long shot

There have been reports that blogging is dead and Twitter has taken over. If you listen to these reports, you will be in major trouble because your blog is a property that you own. You don’t own social networks, you lease them. If Facebook didn’t exist in five years, you would lose all of your fans and friends. A lot of the content that is shared on Twitter comes from blogs anyways. Before you get active on social networks, start a blog.

Commenting on blogs is exceptional marketing for your brand.

When I first started out, and even today, I comment on almost every blog that mentions “personal branding.” All of the people that care enough about the topic to write about it, give a comment from me, which makes them what to continue to write about it and it drives targeted traffic to my blog. It also helps me build a relationship with the blog authors.

Dan Schawbel, recognized as a “personal branding guru” by The New York Times, is the bestselling author of Me 2.0, a national speaker, and the publisher of both the award-winning Personal Branding Blog and Personal Branding Magazine. Has is the youngest BusinessWeek columnist, and just started his own company called Millennial Branding, LLC.

Photos by Shutterstock.

32 Comments

  • April 1, 2010

    Ramkarthik

    One of the best advices: Don’t join every social network.

    I used to join almost every social network I heard people speak about. When I joined many, it got out of my hands. I couldn’t be consistent in any of the sites. Only few months ago, I stopped visiting every single social network and started to concentrate on the ones that mattered to me the most.

    Good post. And yes, here’s hoping that I’ve implemented the last part of the post quite well (commenting on blogs).

    • April 2, 2010

      Dan Schawbel

      Exactly, you can’t manage a presence that extends through a hundred social networks.

  • April 1, 2010

    Hasan

    Great advice. It’s even more important now that your Google Profile is ranking right up there.

  • April 1, 2010

    David Siteman Garland

    One thing Dan mentioned that should be amplified is blogging. Or more importantly creating content around your passion. Video. Audio. Text. Whatever you are best at.

    Blogging isn’t dead by a long shot. Half-hearted blogging, boring corporate blogging is always a losing situation. Passionate, interesting blogging is still in its infancy.

  • April 1, 2010

    Steinar Knutsen

    Great tips Dan! I also use Google Reader to monitor my brand – subscribe to BackTweets for your URL and several various versions of your name in Google blog/news search. That way you catch anyone talking about you or referencing your site. But to David’s point, if you’re not creating any new content on your blog, chances are you won’t see much traction.

    And commenting on blogs … so powerful. Ever notice that the most tweeted articles usually only have a just a small handful of comments. Comment early and often to build your brand – stay on point and add value to the discussion.

    • April 2, 2010

      Dan Schawbel

      You get out what you put in, exactly Steinar.

  • April 1, 2010

    Jenny Stradling

    One thing I’ve learned with years of helping individuals with reputation management and brand awareness, it that most people are great at getting their name or company name to rank #1 in the SERP’s but they forget about the rest of the top 10. Unfortunately is much more difficult to have to outrank a negative listing if they don`t have other optimized sites/pages already ranking that I can use to boost. If your name is your brand, you should have it all over the place!
    Great post Dan!

    • April 2, 2010

      Dan Schawbel

      True, but it depends on how unique your name is.

    • April 4, 2010

      Roxanne Ready

      I would like to add that while one can’t be active on every social network in existence, it’s still a good idea to claim your brand on as many as possible. Otherwise, you’re leaving yourself open to brand identity theft by piggy-backers or people with ill intent. These can then be used to point people to your more active social profiles. As Jenny points out above, you can use a few of these to help establish your brand’s presence on the SERPs.

      Great list overall. Thanks!

  • April 1, 2010

    DK

    Thanks for sharing this great list!

    Just want to add: Be authentic. When people are articulate but fake it smells bad.

  • April 1, 2010

    Jordan Walker

    That is really great advice for someone like me who is trying to get their name out there. Thanks.

  • April 2, 2010

    Zainul Franciscus

    My friend Sarah joins several community. Her job as a software developer gives her an identity as a software developer. On her leisure time she like to play the violin. So to her violinist community she is a ‘Violinist’. Sarah is able to develop a brand of as a ‘Software Developer’ to a particular group of software geeks and technical people. She also manage to create a brand as a ‘Violinist’ to the group of music or violin enthusiast.

    I observe that we have the ability to create different identity or brand depending on the group that we associate our self to. It will be very interesting to explore how we can effectively use social media to manage multiple identities of a person. Is this possible ? Or will this add confusion over our audience ?

    • April 2, 2010

      Dan Schawbel

      I see what you’re saying. I will always recommend starting with one distinct identity first before expanding because it’s hard to be known for multiple things.

    • September 6, 2011

      David Lawyer

      This is actually more common than not, having two (or more) distinct interests, skills, areas or expertise, what have you, that you want to keep ‘separate’ (branding-wise) to particular groups/audiences…

      I think we will see even more of this with the current state of the economy and the changing workforce…

  • April 2, 2010

    Barbara Talisman

    Dear Dan,
    Thanks so much for the great post. Am working on leaving comments in addition to retweeting great posts. I forget to leave the comments and think RTing is good to get it to my peeps.

    I have also found Google Alerts (tardy sometimes but works) as well as Reader to track. And always include trackbacks in blog posts as well as cross posting with folks.

    Thanks again!

  • April 2, 2010

    Sean Horrigan

    Great advice Tamar. When I first went out on my own I was all over the map. Now, I’ve focused my branding efforts on Twitter, LinkedIn, and blogging. Focus has made all the difference. Thanks again.

  • April 3, 2010

    Udi Drezner

    Tamar, great post!

    Trying to get your name / your brand’s name out on the web is not easy. And getting to know social media is an important step.

    Another tool I’d like to recommend for people trying to build their brand online is LookupPage (www.lookuppage.com). It’s not a social network like LinkedIn and Twitter, but a platform used to build your own web page. It’s very simple to create, track and manage, and the web page shows up on Google’s first page when your brand name is searched. It also shows up on all search engines.

    Check it out,
    Udi Drezner

  • April 3, 2010

    David Mussari

    Dan,

    Great post. I think you hit the nail on the head when you talked about endorsements. The barriers to entry of most social and business sites are low or non-existent. If you are going to separate yourself from the masses, you need to have credibility and nothing works better than endorsements and recommendations from clients and colleagues. Those that get started now, building their online endorsements will have a long term advantage over those that are late comers to online social/business networking.

  • April 5, 2010

    Megan

    Blogging is far from being dead. Look at this article. It’s alive with people. Great tips for creating a brand. I think it’s important to play on your strong points-what you really want to be known as. Also create something new and something your readers can use. Write something that would give something valuable to your readers.
    PS…I recommend this http://sn.im/uxpep as a guide to knowing yourself and eventually knowing your brand.

  • April 5, 2010

    Roxanne

    I agree on all of the above mentioned tips. So many people are so worried about getting their names all over the net that they feel the need to join every single social network or call themselves gurus when in fact, I do not believe there is such a thing as guru in social media as it changes every day. I have learned and taught so called “gurus” therefore they do not have all of the right answers to every dilemms out there.

  • April 7, 2010

    Jonathan Mast

    Dan,

    Great and informative post. I have to especially agree on your comment not to join every social network out there. Our clients have consistently found that using Facebook for B2C, Linkedin for B2B, Twitter and YouTube combined with one or two industry specific groups leads to success without the confusion that generally follows being engaged in too many groups.

    Another point I appreciate is commenting on blogs. I’m continually surprised how few people understand how to use this as a valuable marketing tool.

    Thank you again!

  • April 8, 2010

    Mommypotamus

    There are some good points here, but the post seems to target people in marketing only.

    You said, “There are thousands of people who brand themselves as realtors, lawyers, social media gurus, and marketing experts, and very few of them are successful. By basing your brand off of what you’re passionate about and want to be an expert in (if you’re not already), you will be able to become a serious player in the social media world.”

    Well, that’s me. I focus on my passions (food, parenting, and family purpose), and I’m having minimal success. The interaction I get on my blog is tremendous, but the traffic isn’t what I’d like it to be. As an SAHM, I barely find the time to blog daily, let alone leave many comments on other people’s blogs. I know how important it is to connect with other bloggers, but I’m having a difficult time finding room in my life to branch out.

    Not sure if there’s a question in there. Maybe I’m just sharing.

  • [...] Dan Schawbel via Tamara Weinberg [...]

  • April 28, 2010

    Israel Garcia

    Hey Dan,

    I haven’t had the chance to read the post until today, and I just wanna tell you how much I liked whant you said. The part I liked the most it was, when it refers to being different, I could’t agree more with you, we need to give the audience compelling reasons why they may want to follow/trust/engage with us, and one key factor is being authentic and different.

    Thanks for sharing.

  • May 2, 2010

    Jason Curlee

    Great post…totally agreed with not being on every social media platform…go where the mass is

  • July 19, 2010

    Meshach Cisero

    Great post. I will also give the recommendation to get acquainted with a couple social networking sites at a time. Having too many will have you boggled and have your posts out-dated. Being consistent and fresh is key to keeping a health brand.

  • July 24, 2010

    Aladdin Mustafa

    Great post =)

  • [...] For larger brands, this can be a major issue – especially when social media is being sold as a powerful branding tool. The problem can be exasperated when larger brands begin bridging the gap between social media and [...]

  • [...] How to Use Social Media for Personal Branding – Tamar Weinberg [...]

  • December 14, 2010

    Susan the SEO spammer

    I was so keen to learn about social media & branding together, lately I had an argument with one of my friend on this subject. Your blog post concluded a lot of my doubts. Thanks for writing this, it helped a lot.

    Editor’s note: Thanks for, Susan S., your comments. However, as stated in my blog policy, I have asked you to use your real name. I do not think your name is “Branding Tips” and have edited your comment and URL as explained in the blog policy. Oh, and I stole your link. By the way, I actually recommend a competitor of yours – rushIMPRINT. They’re genuine and definitely not blog spammers. :)

  • December 9, 2011

    Quora

    If an unknown person wanted to build a large audience on the internet and entertain them and feel connected to them, what platform should they choose? Twitter? Blog? Youtube? Some other medium? Why?…

    If you want to make your audience larger, you can use all mediums you have mentioned in your question. First, starting a blog is a great idea. With it you can establish yourself as an authority in your niche and attract the attention of all niche exper…

  • [...] For larger brands, this can be a major issue – especially when social media is being sold as a powerful branding tool. [...]