By Brady Aker
When creating a personal brand, there are many questions to consider. In my experience, these questions include, but are not limited to, the following: Who is your target audience? Who is your competition? How do you make your brand unique? What is the goal of your brand? And what is the single most important thing that your brand hopes to accomplish?
Finding the answers to these questions can be a difficult task. So, how can we make sense of this digital frontier and develop a blueprint to help build a personal brand? By the end of this post, I will provide you with the information and tools necessary to build a valuable and unique personal brand on social media. And for this narrative, I will reference my own professional experience with helping an agency executive develop their personal brand.
Step 1: Identify Your Target Audience
The first step to developing your brand is to identify your target audience. This is vital to establishing the tone and direction you take your brand. To give you some perspective, I will talk about one of my previous jobs in which I oversaw building someone’s brand. I currently work at the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) and have had multiple positions at the agency.
In one of my positions, I worked for one of three Commissioners representing TWC, the Commissioner Representing Labor. The first thing I did when I was brought onto the Commissioner’s team to develop his brand was learn more about his target audience. As the Commissioner Representing Labor, he chose to put his focus into Reentry, Apprenticeship, and Education services. So, I began researching what keywords to include with each audience we develop content for. I learned about these audiences’ challenges and needs to begin devising a purposeful plan for how we could best serve them.
Step 2: Determine Your Vision and Purpose
Now we begin to visualize who we want our brand to be and what the primary purpose of our brand will embody. When I had to come up with this for the Commissioner, I did so by first referencing the needs of our target audience. I determined that they all looked for a leader who could provide them with relevant and valuable information while also promoting the needs of their communities that are dramatically underrepresented.
It became clear that moving forward, we would be an ambassador for our target audiences, and through telling their stories and advocating for their needs, we could build a brand to help those with little to no representation.
Step 3: Determine Your Values
Now that our vision and purpose have been established, we must determine our brand values. For the Commissioner, the values we conveyed in our media were authenticity, community, growth, kindness, leadership, optimism, responsibility, service, trustworthiness, and professionality.
Step 4: Determine Your Passions
Now that we have established our values, we need to analyze our passions as a brand. For this, I sat down with the Commissioner and had a long conversation with him about what motivates him with his job and why he chooses to follow the career he has. He told me that growing up, family and community were his biggest passions. He was raised to treat everyone equally and always look out for those in need. So, for his brand, we decided to develop a community that shares our passion for helping those in need who may not have the resources or support to do it for themselves.
Step 5: Determine Your Goals
With the brand’s passions established, we now investigate what our goals as a brand should be. These goals can range from what we want to accomplish in the immediate future or even five to ten years from now. It is imperative to be specific in what we hope to achieve to increase the chances of accomplishing our objectives by having measurable goals to reference throughout this process to look for signs of growth. For example, with the Commissioner, our initial plan for his brand was to increase his brand awareness. We would measure this goal by monitoring his social media engagement with likes, comments, shares, and increased followers for his channels. To accomplish this, we set up social media accounts on platforms he was not using, such as Facebook and LinkedIn. Research had shown these platforms were very effective in reaching our target audience. After setting up his social media accounts, we devised a social media campaign strategy by looking at the events he would attend or potentially go to that would align with his target audience and began planning his social media for the coming months.
Step 6: Determine Your Brand Attribute
Following the establishment of our brand’s goals, we now look at what our brand attributes are. Brand attributes are the words we will use to describe our personality and or the value our brand offers. For example, the attributes aligned with the Commissioner’s brand were to be professional, devoted, cooperative, sincere, and sensible. With these attributes now established, we can implement them into our social media strategy.
Step 7: Determine Your Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, & Threats (SWOT)
This step is the most productive to conduct. SWOT analysis evaluates your brand’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. It is important to be as honest and thorough in this analysis as possible to ensure the most success and growth with our brand.
When I conducted the Commissioner’s SWOT analysis, we determined the following: In terms of strengths, there were many; the Commissioner was well-liked, personable, comfortable in front of the camera, and had many valuable connections and significant influence. However, no one is perfect, and there is always room to grow and improve. The weaknesses we found were that his social media needed to be updated. Keyword implementation, hashtags, tagging, strategy, etc., were absent from his current social media. He would post whatever, whenever, and we determined we needed a solid social media campaign strategy moving forward. However, with these weaknesses came a lot of opportunities. We determined we could drastically grow his brand by developing a solid social media campaign and using underutilized or neglected social media resources. Lastly, we examined the threats our brand faced. Businesses like Indeed, Workday, Handshake, Glassdoor, and many more threatened our reliability as a brand. These businesses had solid social media campaigns and more modern ways of connecting to their audiences, making it more appealing for our audiences to engage with than our brand, even though we are supposed to be represented as the most reliable source of information. Another threat we determined was our political alignment. Since we work directly under the Governor, there are times when any scrutiny he faces in the public eye will directly impact our brand as well.
To combat this, we chose to stick with the goals and values we established in the earlier steps. We will only get involved with the goals we set in place and focus on what makes us unique to deal with the threats to our brand.
Step 8: Determine Your Competition
Whether it is developing a personal brand for yourself or a business executive, there is always a degree of competition. Social media is a highly populated realm full of people looking to make a name for themselves, often with the same education, career experience, and or goals as you. So how do we combat this issue? Well, start by looking at your competition. What are they doing right? What are they doing wrong? Look for opportunities to differentiate your brand from theirs. In the case of the Commissioner’s competition, as previously stated, we had competitors like Indeed, Handshake, and Glassdoor, but also other executives in the public eye who were against the initiatives the Commissioner wanted to serve. We analyzed what our competitors are doing well and looked to see if we could implement any of their strategies/methods into our own. We also investigated what isn’t working for them or what they aren’t doing as opportunities for us to target and expand into those areas or, for us to avoid too, in order to not waste any of our resources on areas that little potential or relevance to our brand.
Step 9: Identify 3 Words That Best Describe You
Now we have arrived at the final step. In this stage, we must take a step back and determine three words best describe our brand. We must be mindful of our three choices, as these three words will embody everything our brand will set out to be. The more defined our brand is, the more marketable and valuable the brand will be to our target audience. In the case of the Commissioner, the three words that best described his brand were: Devoted, Authentic, and Patron. With these three words put in place to represent his personal brand, people have an immediate grasp of his brand’s concept. They know the type of person he is and the type of content he will put out, and now his brand has a unique value to his target audience.
So, whether you are developing a personal brand for yourself or on behalf of someone else for your job, remember that a personal brand is a reputation. The combination of personal attributes is established to differentiate you from the competition. If done correctly, you will make your personal brand highly valuable and desirable to achieve the goals you set out for yourself. I have given you all the explanations and professional examples necessary to give you enough guidance to develop a valuable personal brand for yourself. The rest is up to you.
About the author: Brady Aker is a University of Texas student pursuing a Masters in Advertising and PR. With experience in local media agencies, Brady is currently a Digital Media Specialist at the Texas Workforce Commission, specializing in data analysis, brand management, and content creation.