Take it Personally How to Build Your Brand in The Digital Space

For better or worse, the cultural phenomenon known as "Kimye" is here to stay. Visit just about any social media or news website, and you'll be bombarded with images and stories of power couple Kim Kardashian and Kanye West. While their popularity is undeniable, critics question their claim to fame. So how do they maintain their place in the spotlight? Personal branding.

The stars and their handlers are experts at knowing how to distil their personalities into a compelling (or at least clickable) online presence. Despite how you may feel about them, there's an important lesson to be learned here. Personal branding is crucial to getting found on the internet. Every business and entrepreneur needs a unique voice in order to cut through the noise of the web, and connect with customers. Whether you're employing a DIY marketing strategy or seeking the help of a reliable digital agency, here are some critical questions to ask yourself as you build your personal brand.

Who am I?

Everything starts with you. Most likely, you have a basic understanding of your personality traits. Are you funny? Smart? Great with people? Zero in on the aspects of yourself that overlap with your business' mission statement, and explore them. How can they help you stand out?

It's important here to check in with people who know you well, or perhaps consult digital marketing experts. Make sure that your self-image aligns with how others perceive you. Friends and qualified professionals should be able to help translate your personal qualities into an intriguing brand.

Even if you run a bigger company, you need to create a brand personality that's related but separate from your corporation. Give it a face literally. Studies have shown that companies that use people in their online profile pictures draw more attention than those who use corporate logos. People want to personally connect with businesses. Even if your products are exclusively aimed at other companies, you'll increase your appeal online if you can show them the person behind the logo.

Dollar Shave Club is an excellent example of a brand that has defined itself simply and clearly. In a hilarious viral video, the company's founder explains the concept behind DSC (it sends customers quality razors for $1 per month). Meanwhile, witty one-liners and eye-catching site gags abound. And yet, the video is shot in one take in an ordinary-looking warehouse (presumably associated with the company), with a minimal cast and props. In roughly 90 seconds, Dollar Shave Club shows us the face behind the company, and establishes its personality as simple, humorous and user-friendly.

Once you've defined your brand personality, it's time to dig in and show your customers the story surrounding the company.

What's your brand story?

RBC Records

Narratives are one of the most powerful ways to reach people. The same holds true even in business. For example, Nike isn't shy about sharing the story of one of its founders, a hard-working entrepreneur who traveled the world and sold shoes out of his car because he believed in the product. Phil Knight helped create one of the most successful businesses of all time out of nothing. It's an inherently inspiring story, and certainly applies well to the athletic industry.

Even if you didn't start poor or persevere against all odds, something inspired you to start or run a business. People want to know what personally drives you.

Fortunately, these days it's easier than ever to tell your story. Digital marketing has become a powerful tool in shaping yourself online; you just need to know how to use it. For example, you probably already have a website, but does it adequately represent you?

If you don't have the time or money to create a completely personalized site from scratch, services such as WordPress have a variety of unique, customizable templates from which to choose. The look and feel of the site can be made to reflect your brand, but you can also use the different pages and features to communicate your story. Whether you write a blog or post personalized videos, a website is a great opportunity to let people know what inspires you, and in turn inspire them.

To see a great example of how a website can communicate or muddle a brand, look at the record label, RBC Records. Although they represent such big names as Snoop Dogg, Raphael Saadiq, and Method Man, their website was primitive. While there's nothing wrong with a simple site, the old site didn't accurately reflect the label's status as a major player in the music industry. However, after a stylish makeover that combined a modern look with nods to L.A's graffiti art scene, RBC's new site updated their brand for the world.

What's your expertise?

When branding yourself, it's important to be clear about your expertise. Calling yourself a "Social Media Rock Star!" may be a good way to get people's attention, but if you can't drill down to specifics, your inexperience quickly starts to reveal itself. Focus on the particular corners of your industry in which you excel, and use your knowledge to help market yourself.

One good option is to start a blog and establish yourself as a thought leader. What are your opinions about the newest industry trends? How has business changed, and where is it headed? Of course, your blog is only as good as its content. You can't establish a readership if you're not actively posting quality copy.

Neil Patel has become a well-known name in digital marketing not just from his uncanny knack for understanding how search engines work, but for his writing as well. He offers straightforward, insightful posts on QuickSprout aimed at helping other businesses succeed at S.E.O. (including clients such as GE and Amazon). Best of all, his writing often contains detailed analysis gathered from personal case studies, while providing helpful resources for his readers. He offers unique insight that people can't get anywhere else. As a result, he's recognized as one of the go-to authorities on the subject.

n addition to blogging, some thought leaders have used Ted Talks. Tedx is part of the Ted brand that lets just about anyone discourse on his or her area of expertise. Video is also popular and highly shareable, so it's a great way potentially reach scores of new people.

If you find that people are interested in what you're saying, ask them to subscribe to an email newsletter. You can send them supplemental, exclusive content that they can't get anywhere else. Consequently, you've found another way to stay on their radars.

How do you want to be perceived?

This doesn't really explain the thinking behind perception (how were they perceived before the change, how after, why was the perception even there?) or what specific steps and why social media has created a myriad of opportunities in which you can execute your personal branding. Whether it's a status update, tweet, or group discussion, it's incredibly easy to post your personalized content online, which is key. Engaging with customers and other businesses by sharing, commenting on, and liking content is how you build relationships in the digital space (for many, relationships are the most important part of doing business).It's important to remember that if you're not a social media expert, you should turn to a reputable digital agency. Many marketers recognize the value of the internet, and some agencies now focus exclusively on digital strategies. Using your personal brand voice, professionals can help run your Facebook page, tweet for you, and even network on LinkedIn. Meanwhile, they'll track your engagement to make sure you're actually standing out online.

Additionally, professionals can help manage your reputation. Not only will they accurately represent you online, they'll ensure that your brand is driving the conversation about you. The downside to social media and user-generated content is that people can post negative reviews about your business, whether or not they're warranted. But an agency should be to handle the negative press while maintaining your brand voice and personality.

Now read: The 5 Elements That Make Up Brand Personality