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How to Focus & Amplify Your Personal Brand

Salma Jafri
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Before anyone hires you, they Google you (and Facebook you and Twitter you and Linkedin you, etc). So Google yourself first. Do you like the results that come up on the first two pages of search results? Are they expected and carefully planned or surprising or even unpleasant?

If you've completed all the SEO basics of personal branding and set up all your Google Authorship tags properly it's time to move on to some big hits that will really get you noticed. Here's some inspiration, strategies, and people you can learn from.

Basic Personal Branding Rules

Niche it Down

The first rule of thumb when you consciously start to build your personal brand is: you have to know what you want to be known for.

In other words, you need to know what your personal SEO strategy will be. What keywords will define you? What phrases do you want inextricably linked with your personal brand? Think about it. Niche it down.

If you Google Kris Carr, the two personal branding phrases that jump out are "wellness activist" and "cancer thriver". Kris has sprinkled these phrases in all of her online properties – from websites to social profiles. She owns those terms! Now watch what happens when someone Googles "wellness activist". You guessed it! Kris is all over the SERPs for that phrase.

kris-carr-google-serp

Amplify it Up

The second thing you have to do is: build a larger than life online persona.

Building such a persona is not about exaggerating your capabilities, or fibbing or even using the popular "fake it 'til you make it" philosophy – although I do admire the guts the latter one takes!

Instead, building a larger than life online persona is about amplifying your positive traits and reducing or eliminating your negative traits. Everyone gets knocked down more than once in life, but the people who appear larger than life are the ones who stand up again and again and again.

So how can you first niche it down, and then amplify it up? What are some things you can do that will put you on the map? Stuff that makes people sit up and take notice of you?

5 Ways to Focus your Personal Brand

Think about some of the better known personal brands out there. What words immediately come to your mind when you think of the following people? (In brackets are the phrases I associate them with):

  • Matt Cutts (Google, webspam) 
  • Jenna Lyons (J. Crew, androgynous fashion) 
  • Ekaterina Walter (Think like Zuck, Intel)* 
  • Michael Brenner (B2B marketing, SAP) 
  • Sheryl Sandberg (Facebook, Lean in)

*Note: Ekaterina has since left Intel and is now co-founder and CMO of Branderati

Here's the funny thing. These are not the people who started the company (founders obviously get a lot of limelight). These people are employees who have chosen to stand out. They are the people who represent their companies – or at least a significant part of their company.

Here are some of the paths they have taken to become known for doing one thing really, really well.

1. Write a Thought-Leadership Blog

Aside from his corporate responsibilities at SAP, Michael Brenner authors a widely-read blog on B2B marketing. A blog is one of the best ways to generate fresh content for search engines and keep traffic coming to your site.

It also helps to link your name with your chosen keyword. In Brenner's case, type in "B2B marketing" and you'll see that his blog is positioned on the first page of search results.

michael-brenner-google-serp

2. Author a Book

Lots of business owners consider authorship as the next frontier, but surprisingly very few employees set out to become non-fiction authors.

In 2012 Ekaterina Walter authored the WSJ best-seller "Think like Zuck" – a book about the leadership style of Mark Zuckerburg. Since then her numerous guest posts and interviews on the topic have made her name synonymous with being an author of a business book – a credential that gives her personal brand an uplift in other facets of business and life.

ekaterina-walter-google-serp

3. Start a Movement

Not many employees have the gumption to start a campaign alongside their regular job responsibilities but one COO who has been able to do this with the blessings of her boss has been Sheryl Sandberg of Facebook.

Sandberg started the new wave of feminism with her Lean In movement. True, not all of us have the media power to attract so many people to our cause, but a movement is only as powerful as the number of people who can relate to it. According to Derek Sivers' TED talk, starting a successful movement only takes two people!

sheryl-sandberg-google-serp

4. Develop a Community

Shared and common interests are one of the most powerful ways to attract people to your personal brand. For example, an entire SEO community has sprung up along Matt Cutts and his brand-establishing videos as the face of Google.

Even though other Googlers are now in the media limelight, Matt Cutts continues to remain a blogger favorite for the way he brings all members of the search community together.

5. Own Your Personal Style

From being an "assistant to an assistant to someone else's assistant", Jenna Lyons is now the President and Creative Director of cult fashion brand J. Crew and was recently named as one of Time Magazine's 100 Most Influential Women for 2013. She got to this position by owning and projecting her personal style onto the brand.

But Lyons' approach isn't confined to the fashion world. You too can exude your personal style from all the communication channels open to you.

As Lisa Barone said: "We are officially beyond the days where you can have a distinct personal and corporate profile. You must decide who you are and bleed it. From all accounts."

jenna-lyons-google-serp

Through the above tactics these people have become the face of their companies. The idea is to become known for doing something so well that you want your name inextricably linked to it.

Think about it. Niche it down. Just like the examples above, you want people to instantly associate a keyword with your personal brand.

3 Ways to Amplify your Brand

This is the second essential component to building your personal brand. Once you have your name associations set up, you must now engage with your audience and become larger than life.

Here are three tips on how to amplify your brand.

1. Celebrate Every Win No Matter How Small

The power of positivity plays a huge part in making someone appear accomplished and awe-inspiring.

I just love how Danielle LaPorte does this with her "life" tweets. Here's a sample: "Dear Life: For people who love what they do for a living, diners, clean air, and a body that serves me...and Ella Fitzgerald, thank you."

danielle-laporte-dear-life-tweet

2. Choose Yourself vs Waiting To Get Picked

The era of waiting to get chosen, highlighted, picked or spotlighted by someone else is over. It's time to have the confidence to choose yourself.

Seth Godin says: "it's really difficult to get picked, and those doing the picking don't have nearly the power they used to". It's time to pick yourself.

Laura Roeder is the creator of LKR Social Media and in 2011, she was named as one of the top 100 entrepreneurs under 30 and invited to speak at the White House.

No one picked Laura for this list or this honor. She picked herself. According to Laura: "I applied for that top 100 entrepreneur list (yes, I pitched myself!) and then I made the list."

3. Believe in Yourself … Even When Yours is an Unpopular View

You know that you can't please all the people all the time. Taking an unpopular or au contraire stance sets you apart and makes you more visible from the me-too crowd.

Take the late great comedian George Carlin for instance and his unconventional views on the practice of voting. Most people say that you have no right to complain if you haven't voted right? Carlin twists this around to say the opposite! He says that the people who don't vote have the most right to complain since they are not responsible for anyone not elected by them.

The point is that people notice you more when you take a stance and stand strong behind your beliefs. Amplifying your brand and making it seem larger than life is all about exuding confidence.

Summary

The interesting thing is that the principles discussed here can be applied to various business models – from building your own business to being a standout employee to becoming a thought-leader in your field.

Dan Schwabel, bestselling author of the book Me 2.0 and publisher of the Personal Branding Blog, said it best: "If you want to be known for everything, you'll be known for nothing."

Share your best tips for branding yourself in the comments below!


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