While nearly half of all small businesses actively use social media to market to customers, many small business owners From Business Brand to Personal Brand: Why Your Voice Matters When most of us hear the word “brand”, we think about a corporate logo or a tagline. Great brands are more than their business’s products: Nike is synonymous not just with fitness, but also with pushing through all barriers and going above and beyond to achieve success. Apple is more than the iPhone or iMac: its brand instantly evokes innovation, ingenuity, and cutting-edge design aesthetics. To wear a pair of Nikes or use an iPhone is as to make a personal statement that goes beyond product functionality. That’s why these brands are also some of the world’s most valuable – Apple is worth $145.3 billion and Nike is worth $26.3 billion, according to Forbes. When you build your business’s brand, you need a signature image. You pick a great brand name. You choose a recognizable standard. And you craft a unique voice. The same goes for your personal brand. You need a signature image, a recognizable standard, and a unique voice. And you need to get that voice heard. Here’s how: Step 1: Audit your online presence. Yes, authenticity is key in the digital age, but you can be authentic without letting those embarrassing Cancun vacation pictures be seen by everyone. Overshared on social media in the past? Remove anything that you wouldn’t want a casual business acquaintance to see from all your personal accounts. Think twice about articles you re-post or tweets that you favorite: do you really agree with the content’s message? Finally, determine what other people are saying about you. Google yourself and set up alerts for your name, as well as your industry and specific area of expertise (see “Step 2” below). If you don’t know what’s being said about you (and your industry), you can’t respond promptly. And you certainly can’t be leading the conversation! Step 2: Pick a specific focus. Most of us are what I like to call “expert generalists”: we know a little bit about a lot of different things. That’s great for cocktail party conversation, but not great for brand building. If you’re going to build a personal brand, you need to get specific. For example, there are thousands of marketers out there who are all eager to share their ‘best practice’ tips. What will set you apart from the rest? Dig into your personal story and make a real connection with your audience. Then, use this connection to establish your foundation as an expert. You don’t have to pick a topic with high volume interaction. In fact, it’s far better to get specific. Your audience may be slightly smaller, but it will be far better aligned with your interests, passions, and expertise. Step 3: Start publishing. Content is brand currency. It’s the means by which you share your ideas and insights with the world. It’s the “marketing 101” for your personal brand. Great content builds credibility and influence by sharing your unique perspective. Most importantly, it reflects your personal tone: it’s a place where your humor, wit, sarcasm or creative voice can shine through. When crafting your content, seek a balance between sharing insight and sparking participation. You want your audience to actively engage in the experience of reading your blog post or watching your video. Invite questions and comments at the end of every piece. You’re not the lone expert in any field. Build a dialogue with those who know more than you, and you’ll grow your knowledge base (and personal brand) much faster. Step 4: Build your social media presence. Don’t let all your fantastic content languish on your blog! Even if you’re lucky enough to land some guest blogging gigs, you can’t rely on the reach of other publishers’ blogs to build your brand. If content is your brand currency, social media is the distribution platform for this currency. Start by getting active on the right networks. Where does your audience spend most of their engaged time? (Note “engaged time” is not the same as mindlessly scrolling through clickbait headlines on your Facebook newsfeed). Finding the right network may take a little trial and error: it’s worth using a social media monitoring dashboard to keep tabs on your account analytics and determine which networks are best for building your reach. And just like with your business account, you can pre-schedule posts in advance to promote your thought leadership content. Cyfe, Buffer and Hootsuite are three great social media management dashboards to monitor analytics and manage regular postings. Step 5: Be consistent with engagement. A strong personable brand needs to be recognizable and consistent. Your goal: be a person people turn to for answers. to achieve this goal, you can’t dump a bunch of content on your blog or Twitter feed and then disappear for a month. Overwhelmed by the prospect of daily posting? While consistency is key, you don’t have to post every day for impact. You should, however, follow these best practices: Engage with followers: Not only does Mari Smith, a globe-trotting social media speaker and thought leader, share valuable insights on her Twitter feed, but she’s also incredibly thoughtful and generous when folks engage with her on the platform. When folks re-tweet you or direct mention you in a post, respond back. Use images: Check out what the CEO of Activision Blizzard, Bobby Kotick is doing on Twitter to promote his Call of Duty Endowment. Kotick has become a leading voice for his cause – getting veterans back to work – but he doesn’t post daily. When he does post, however, he wisely integrates engaging images into the posts, helping them stand out in a sea of tweets. Curate relevant content: Anne Handley, the Head of Content at MarketingProfs mixes her own observations on content marketing best practices with content curation (not that we’d expect anything less from a WSJ Bestselling author!). Like Kotick, Handley is big on images, too, which helps boost engagement. Bottom line: Yes, your company’s brand is extremely important. But in the rush to perfectly build and package your company’s identity, don’t overlook the value of your own personal brand. The benefits of personal branding are huge: a steady stream of ideal candidates, rewarding partnerships, new leadership opportunities, greater credibility, and higher perceived value. And, most importantly, building an identity that’s distinct from your business. Images: ”Business man touching Be Social word on blue virtual screen /Shutterstock.com“ ______________________________________________________________________________ Tweak Your Biz is a thought leader global publication and online business community. Today, it is part of the Small Biz Trends stable of websites and receives over 300,000 unique views per month. Would you like to write for us? An outstanding title can increase tweets, Facebook Likes, and visitor traffic by 50% or more. Generate great titles for your articles and blog posts with the Tweak Your Biz Title Generator.