How to brand yourself on social media in 7 simple steps
In addition to being a lifestyle blogger, I'm also a branding, social media, and content strategist and was formerly an online fashion marketing executive. I'm often asked about my branding tips so decided to launch a series where I share a variety of ideas for branding yourself or small business.
In this post I'm sharing tips on growing a strong social following in an easy and effective way by branding yourself and your social media channels.
This is the 7-step personal branding process I used to build my own community to over 75,000 followers across several platforms in less than 6 months at the time of writing this.
I've also used this framework for over a dozen iconic consumer brands as well as startups I've worked for, advised, or partnered with over the years so it is relevant for small business branding as well.
Step 1: Establish a personal brand identity
Regardless if you are an professional, freelancer, or entrepreneur, if you are serious about establishing a strong social media presence you have to know who you are, what you stand for, and what you want to convey to the public. This is core to a focused and consistent social media presence.
On a high level a personal brand identity consists of what I call the "4 Vs" framework:
- Vision — who are you, what do you stand for for, what do you aspire to achieve (i.e. purpose), and who do you want to target?
- Value — what's unique about you and what value can you add to your target audience such that they would want to follow and support you?
- Voice — how will you communicate via social i.e. what will you say and how will you say it such that it engages, inspires, motivates, influences, persuades, and establishes trust with your target audience?
- Visuals — what visible elements of your personal brand or small business brand will you use to establish a distinct visual identity and be distinguishable, recognizable, and relatable to your target audience?
Step 2: Create a content strategy
With your personal brand identity in place you can then translate it to a strong content plan:
- Content Creation — Determine the type of content you want to (and can consistently) create or curate.
- Social Channels — Select the best outlets to use in distributing your content. Stay focused and start with only one or two that are best suited.
- Content Calendar — Be organized by creating a monthly calendar to map out what you will post and when you will post it. Starting off prioritizing quality over quantity.
Step 3: Develop a promotional plan
- Use Hashtags — an easy and effective way to extend your personal brand and be discovered by your target audience is to leverage relevant hashtags. Make a list of the most relevant ones to use (except on Pinterest where they aren't relevant).
- Cross promote — if you have a website or other digital presence be sure to promote your social channels on it. Add links to your channels in different areas of you website (especially at the top of blog posts).
- Outreach to influencers — identify individuals in your category with a strong presence who may be interested in collaborating with you or accepting a guest post. Be sure to approach them with a thoughtful proposal that benefits them.
- Consider social ads — these days fast organic growth can be difficult to achieve depending on the social channel you are on. Think about amplifying your content with paid ads (particularly if you are a business). A large percent of my site traffic comes from Pinterest as a result of occasionally spending low amounts on promoted pins.
- Think of creative campaigns — whether it’s a giveaway or an interview series, you want to generate interesting content ideas that get people excited about following and engaging with you.
Step 4: Engage with your community
Social media communities aren’t designed to be one-sided. Don’t just post your stuff without engaging with your followers as well with others who are in your category.
Respond to comments, follow/like other people, get involved in existing discussions, and actively seek out opportunities to support others.
This is why I believe only having a presence on a few channels is the best approach until you are in the position to scale to others. You'll notice that I am only active on Pinterest, Instagram and Tumblr (and sometimes even purposely neglect regular updates when I believe I need to focus my energy on one channel to drive specific results).
Step 5: Track your performance
You can use a variety of social analytical tools to monitor your progress. Here are the core metrics to watch:
- Growth — Though not the most important metric you should keep an eye on how your community is growing over time. If stagnant, rethink whether you are targeting the right audience.
- Engagement — Monitor how engaged your audience is in terms of likes, comments, shares, etc. This is a strong indicator of whether your content is resonating.
- Traffic — If your goal is to build awareness of a product, service, or blog (vs. a personal brand) then you will want to determine whether your community is compelled enough to investigate your offerings by visiting your site to learn more.
Don't get caught up in vanity metrics (e.g. being focused on how many followers you have) because they are only a part of the pie. The goal for social is to build brand awareness, engage your followers, and spark deep interest in the products, services, or content that you believe is beneficial to them.
Step 6: Test & Learn
Overall, social media trends and platforms are evolving rapidly and becoming critical (if not the most important) tools in the marketing line up.
The best way to succeed is to make it core to your personal or business marketing efforts and adopt an agile and open mindset. You should constantly be thinking about what works, what doesn’t, and how you can learn and improve.
Step 7: Don't Rely Solely on Social
I've learned the hard way that you don't have full control over you social media channels. Social channels make changes at whim in order to improve their ability to monetize their platform and that can plummet your growth and reach without notice (such as the recent Instagram algorithm change).
Try to establish a content funnel that gets followers to explore your site and, ultimately sign up for emails from you. A simple approach to this:
- Post interesting and useful content on social
- Link back to relevant articles with richer information
- Offer valuable incentive in the articles in exchange for follower emails
- Capture their emails so you can communicate directly