If you asked me 6 years ago what a personal brand was, I wouldn’t have had an answer for you. My journey to creating a personal brand has been a random and lucky one, I just set out to write content that I was passionate about, and the rest followed. When you boil it down to its raw elements, this is really all creating a personal brand comes down to.
To introduce myself, my name’s Ben and I run the blog SalesforceBen.com. Back when I was a Salesforce Administrator I loved building cool stuff on the Salesforce platform, using standard features but also discovering hacky solutions. This is what led me to start documenting my journey, in the hope that other people had similar problems and I could support them.
Fast forward to today and we have over 1.3 Million users visiting a year, 220+ guest posters that have contributed, and we have just crossed a milestone of 1000 posts. This has completely inadvertently led me to create a personal brand.
There are many benefits to creating a personal brand, but the main aspect is that you can connect with people on a human level before even meeting them. People will recognize characteristics such as credibility, expertise, authenticity before a word is spoken. For your career, this can translate to improved job prospects, marketability, and increased job performance. Just imagine someone in sales who is able to establish credibility and expertise before even pitching!
So let’s dive into creating a personal brand…
1. Pick Your Topic
Creating a personal brand is all around producing content, and if you were to look up tips on starting a blog, YouTube channel or Instagram account, rule #1 is pick a content niche. Picking a broad topic such as recruitment, marketing, technology, or sales, is tricky to get traction on. You will spread yourself too thin in terms of the topic to cover, and you will probably struggle to produce the high-quality content that is needed to be successful.
Think of the industry that you are in, and what niche you could really add value in. A few of examples of this could be; SaaS Marketing, Recruitment Sales Tips or Salesforce Lightning Development. Even if you work in SaaS Marketing but don’t regard yourself as an expert, just start creating content. I guarantee you will be able to impart some wisdom that a bunch of people will find valuable, you will also become more of an expert yourself through research for the piece of content.
I’ve been asked by people just starting their careers, “how can I add value?”. My answer is always that they are closest to the ground for people just stepping into their shoes. What steps have you taken to learn quickly? What mistakes have you made that can be avoided? Anyone at any level has something to offer.
2. Choose a Platform
There are so many platforms for sharing your content now, you can choose the one that fits your personality and style. A few options out there include a Blog (I use WordPress), YouTube, Instagram, Medium, LinkedIn (articles, videos, statuses). Here are a few of my favorite examples in the Salesforce world…
Salesforce Hulk – A YouTube channel started by Shrey Sharma to help Salesforce professionals get skilled up and ultimately get a job. Shrey’s YouTube channel is the best example I’ve seen in the Salesforce ecosystem and has created an amazing personal brand for himself.
SFDC99 – A blog that inspired me to get started creating content, SFDC99 is the brainchild of David Liu to help Salesforce professionals learn to code. David has created one of the most recognizable personal brands within Salesforce.
David Giller – A former attorney turned Salesforce Consultant, David has gone a seriously unique route, using Instagram as a platform to share Salesforce memes and knowledge. It’s a great example of using a personal social network to create a brand.
Christopher A. Hopper – Going down an even more unique tangent, Christopher uses LinkedIn statuses to share personal experiences, thought-provoking stories to engage his audience. This has led him to become even more authoritative in his niche.
SalesforceWay – A Podcast & video channel I was recently interviewed on and introduced to run by Xi Xiao. I was shocked to find out that Xi has only been in the Salesforce world for 2 years, but has already created a strong brand for himself by taking advantage of a trending niche for video.
3. Add Value
Perhaps one of the most important aspects of creating a personal brand, is that you have to add value. Just like any company or influencer you engage with, they need to add value to your life. When I started writing posts at SalesforceBen.com I would focus on tutorials for features that had not yet been written, this had an added benefit of doing well on Google when people came searching for a tutorial on this feature.
To work out how to add value, you need to think of the problems in your industry, what isn’t being talked about? What problems are there? Where is there a lack of transparency? This isn’t an easy task and is arguably the most difficult aspect of creating a personal brand, but by paying attention to your niche, what others are talking about, and what you have to offer as an individual, you’ll come to an answer.
In addition, it’s hard to truly know what adds value to people’s lives without creating anything, and this comes through the arduous task of trial and error. Putting content out there and seeing what people respond well to, then adjusting your strategy is a sure-fire way to succeed.
4. Consistency… and More Consistency
If you want to get recognized as a thought leader in your industry and create a personal brand out of it, it’s going to take a lot of content. Unfortunately, the dream of writing a blog post or two and creating a personal brand is just not going to happen. People will only trust you once they’ve seen or read 10’s or even 100+ pieces of content.
If you’re serious about creating a personal brand, I would recommend aiming for 1 piece of content a week. This is enough to engage your audience on a consistent basis, and not too much to overload them. Content creation also takes practices, learning what works and what doesn’t, what topics are interesting and which aren’t. This will only come with a repetitive process of thinking of content, writing content, promoting content, repeat.
In my first year running SalesforceBen.com starting in April, I managed 46 blog posts, and I saw it as a competition to myself to get more views on the blog each month than the last. Weirdly enough, this is what spurred me on to grow the blog initially. It might be hard, but if it was easy everyone would be doing it!
5. Be Creative & Unique
Personal Branding is marketing, you’re marketing yourself, and your content, and when it comes to marketing you need to be creative. It’s really easy nowadays to spin up a WordPress or Blogspot site, give it a name, start writing content and putting it out there. But unfortunately, most standard blog sites look pretty boring. Although in an ideal world, people should be judged on their content and not how pretty their site looks, the reality is different.
If you want to truly stand out and be memorable to your audience, try and create a brand and a platform that is a bit more exciting than benmccarthyblog.wordpress.com with a standard template. When I created SalesforceBen.com I got a friend to photoshop Salesforce’s “No software” logo and my face onto a superman style image. I then built a backdrop with Salesforce logo clouds and a New York City backdrop.
I find it hilarious looking back at this banner that I put at the top of my site, but it served its purpose of being unique and memorable (plus super cheesy!). Check out the evolution of my site after 4 iterations here.
If you’re serious about creating a personal brand for yourself and are going down the route of a blog, I would highly recommend getting your own website domain and getting a free WordPress template that can be customized to your liking. If you’re going down the Social network route, you can use tools like Canva to create striking logos and banners for your profile.
I hope this article has given you some insight into what is required to create a personal brand. It’s definitely not rocket science, but it does require a lot of hard work and creativity. Best of luck in your journey and I would be happy to answer any questions in the comments!
- If you’re put off blogging content due to not being confident in your writing, I got a C in school, but writing 100’s of posts will change that!
- Get inspired on types of content to write by following other thought leaders in your industry. There are only so many “types” of content you can write, and once you familiarise yourself with them, thinking of ideas will become a lot easier.
- Writing 1 post a week can be challenging when you start, mainly because of lack of ideas. Get into the habit of trying to think about post ideas all the time, write them down once you think of them so you always have something to write about.
- Do a bit of research on how to write attractive content. There are some basic rules you can learn that will make it a lot easier to get noticed.
- The title to your articles or videos is one of the most important aspects of content creation. You could have the best article on a certain topic, but if your title is boring or uninteresting, you won’t get anyone reading it. There is also a formula for this.
- If you lack any graphic design skills (Have you seen my superman banner above?), ask a friend or use UpWork to pay someone to support you in creating a logo or a nice site.