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Social Proof: The Golden Rules of Personal Branding (According to Experts)

In this interview, six experts share their Golden Rules for personal branding on social media.

Nov 22, 2022 6 min readFlow
Photo of Tamilore Oladipo
Tamilore Oladipo

Content Writer @ Buffer

We’re super into helping people grow on social media, including individuals who want to boost their online presence. So we’ve created Social Proof, our series on personal branding. The series chronicles how amazing individuals with different goals grew on social media to further their career and business prospects.

Each interviewee so far has shared amazing insights into their process and mindset around personal branding, so you should definitely check out the full interviews. However, in this article, we highlight the Golden Rules of personal branding – the main thing each interviewee suggested that you should be doing on social media to grow your online presence.

Katelyn: Dive deep into one channel before exploring multiple

In the early days of building your personal brand, you may want to start sharing across multiple platforms – but this can be more harmful than not. While convention dictates that you be discoverable through different channels, you may not be able to keep up with the demands and specific culture of each one.

That’s why Katelyn Bourgoin, CEO and Lead Trainer of Customer Camp says, “I think you should go really deep into one channel and build an audience there, get good at creating content for that platform, and understand what works with your audience on that platform.”

Start small and build up momentum as you grow your personal brand.

The real struggle with spreading yourself too thin is that you’re just one person. And if you’re not a professional at creating content calendars and keeping up with publishing frequently, then you may not be able to keep up with the cycle. You also won’t be able to build deep relationships with people on any platform as you hop from comment to message.

Start small and build up momentum as you go along. As Katelyn suggests, “Once you have an audience – and it doesn't need to be a big audience – it might be time to get started getting people to sign up for a newsletter. Focus on publishing that newsletter every two weeks and getting your Twitter following to allow you in their inbox.”

Fadeke: Have a distinct online presence outside your employer

In our interview, Fadeke Adegbuyi, Lead Writer at Shopify, shared, “I think it is important to have an online presence and have a brand distinct from your employer. That's something that's always been important to me – having a presence online where I can share what I'm working on and what I'm interested in and, in turn, connect with people who are interested in the same things. And it also helps me have an inflow of hiring and collaboration opportunities.”

Take stock of what and how you communicate online, and make sure it’s true to you and not your employer.

The main part of a personal brand is the “person.” If all your content is primarily subject to the place(s) you work, it only furthers your employer’s interests. But what happens if you leave that organization? Will you have to change your personal brand to fit a whole new tone and voice?

If your personal brand only highlights someone else’s brand or company or work but doesn’t show who you are, that won’t help people know why they should be interested in what you have to say. Take stock of what and how you communicate online, and make sure it’s true to you and not your employer.

Steph: Treat every project you undertake as a vehicle for your personal brand

Steph Smith, Podcast Host at a16z, said something that resonated with me, “Everything I do, whether I like it or not, relates to my personal brand and is a vehicle for it. But ultimately, what drives that vehicle, good or bad, is how I perform in every one of those circumstances.”

You won’t always find yourself doing work that aligns with your passions and dreams. But if you’re going to do something, you might as well do your best at it.

“Everything I do, whether I like it or not, relates to my personal brand and is a vehicle for it. But ultimately, what drives that vehicle, good or bad, is how I perform in every one of those circumstances.”

Also, in the same vein, you might put your all into a project, but you can’t control the outcome and reception. But the one thing that will always stand out is the effort and eventual quality. “If the quality of your work doesn’t match your audience’s expectations and seems like a money grab, you’ve harmed your personal brand and that trust is hard to win back,” says Steph.

Shaan: Outline your future self and then work towards being that person

Shaan Puri, entrepreneur, investor, and creator, shared a great framework for outlining what you want to reflect to others through the Pillar Branding Exercise. The idea is that you draw out three or four pillars and put at the top the words that represent your personality the best. Then, you outline which stories from your life and career uphold these pillars. If you don’t have any stories to share, you’ve identified what to work towards. So if you say “creative” but can’t share the evidence of creativity, you want to take more action towards making that evidence.

personal brand social media
Shaan's pillar branding exercise

As Shaan said, “...for some of the pillars, I had more stories than others, which helped me realize that even though I wanted to be perceived a certain way, I hadn’t taken enough action in that direction. So this exercise was also a note to try more things I wanted to be part of my brand. It became more than just a branding exercise – more of a roadmap for how I wanted to approach life.”

Jack: Love what you do or risk failure

It’s hard to keep at something you’re not passionate about – Jack’s advice echoes this sentiment. In our interview, Jack Appleby, social expert and creator of Future Social, shared, “A big part of personal branding: if you don't love what you’re building your brand around, it will fail. I’ve found great career success in building a personal brand around social media strategy because I love it! I’m genuinely curious about social media and communities, so it doesn’t feel like work to me.”

...if you don't love what you’re building your brand around, it will fail.

What are the topics that interest you the most? What could you talk about for hours on end? Find the intersection between what you know best and what you’re passionate about, and use that to kick off the content you share.

Tori: Remember that it takes time and patience to be successful

Success doesn’t happen overnight, and no one understands that more than Tori Dunlap, founder of HerFirst100k. Tori didn’t become the owner of a multi-million dollar business in one sitting – it was compounded effort that helped her build her business and community.

“Even if you know you're capable of something, it won’t work out as you expect if it's not the right time. You have to make all the mistakes and learn all the ropes to reach the same level of success [as the people that inspire you],” she shared in our interview.

You can build what you want through time and patience, but if you’re trying to be at the same level as people who have been working at something for five months before you, it likely won’t work out as you expect.

“You have to patiently build that over time till you get to the point where you can build the business that you want. It has to come through time and patience, and dedication,” says Tori.

Take what resonates with you

The final golden rule, coming from me, is to take what works for you. Not everyone will struggle to write a newsletter and be present on Twitter and TikTok. And not every topic you cover will be something you’re absolutely passionate about. What matters is understanding how you work and what it will take to keep you consistent enough that you can build a lasting personal brand.

And whenever you get around to creating your personal brand, save time and maximize your resources by using Buffer to track your ideas, schedule your content, create a simple microsite and engage with your new audience. Get started today!

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