Beyond PR

Jul 13, 2012

Dear Gracie: Personal Branding Tips Every Social Media User Should Know

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Dear Gracie,

What are some general tips that I can give my clients about creating a personal brand on social media?

Branding for Beginners,


Dear Branding for Beginners:

“Because of the open Web, explosion of user-generated content, social media and mobile apps — anyone who uses the Internet has a personal brand, whether they know it or not,” says Stefan Pollack, president of The Pollack PR Marketing Group.

Therefore, all public interactions must ultimately contribute to a controlled perception of how one wants to be perceived, Pollack continues. Whatever the objectives, only contribute information that supports that identity and an online personal brand will be formed.

“The Internet has already branded you, so it is up to you to cultivate that into a brand that supports your ideal online identity,” he says.

Determine Your Personal Brand

  • There are six ingredients for an engaging personal brand, says Joellyn Sargent, principal of BrandSprout LLC. Consider:
    1. Who you are
    2. Who you want to be
    3. How you see yourself
    4. What you want people to see
    5. What others perceive (how they receive your message)
    6. What they believe (what resonates, or “sticks” from your message)
  • Like company brands, consider what your personal brand has to offer that competing brand don’t, says Catherine Kaputa, author of the book “Breakthough Branding: How Smart Entrepreneurs and Intrapreneurs Transform a Small Idea Into a Big Brand.” Analyze your strengths and weaknesses, and do some fun brainstorming with friends to determine what sets your brand apart.
  • Share a compelling narrative, instructs Kaputa. The best profiles tell a personal or career story that ties all of the pieces of the journey together into a coherent whole. Profiles with captivating narratives are sticky — they’re easy to remember.
  • There are so many social media platforms, it can be overwhelming, says Kaputa. Begin broadly where you can catch the most clients by focusing on Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube and Twitter. Then branch out to Google+, Pinterest, etc., that are more targeted to your industry.

Create a Plan of Attack

  • Try to express your brand idea in one catchy, differentiating line that defines your brand, says Kaputa. (Analogy can be a memorable device, e.g., a market researcher calling herself the “Oprah of Madison Avenue” or a finance executive calling himself the “Steve Jobs of Finance.”)
  • Set both short-term and long-term goals, and come up with a mission statement to identify what you want to be known for, says Bill Corbett, Jr., president of Corbett Public Relations.
  • Determine which vehicles are best for promoting your brand and reaching your target market, says Corbett. For example: website, blog, videos, social media, e-newsletters, real-world marketing, networking, speaking, trade shows, etc.
  •  “Create a social media and marketing schedule for your brand marketing,” says Corbett. “Identify how much time you will spend each week on social media and stick to it.”
  • Consider automating tweets, blog posts, updates, etc., using services like Feedblitz, HootSuite or Social Oomph to help you manage your brand, suggests Kaputa.
  • “The real challenge is not discovering your personal brand; it’s adjusting and augmenting your brand to work across multiple social mediums,” notes Elliot Tomaeno, head of consumer technology at Morris + King Company. Your voice on Twitter is not your voice on Facebook — each medium requires a different approach.

Share Compelling Content

  • If you only tweet client news, you will not be establishing any personal brand — you will only be furthering your client’s agenda, explains Tomaeno. Share original thoughts, and add personal comments when sharing other’s work.
  • “Your brand is most effective if you mix your personal experience with business interests, skills and expertise,” Corbett continues.
  • “Publish your brand content and messages frequently,” says Corbett. The content should be interesting, helpful and consistent. This will drive people to your brand and lead them to become regular followers, and eventually customers.
  • Keep the content simple, and keep it you, suggests Grace Kang, founder and chief buyer of Pink Olive Inc. “You don’t want to overload people with information, but you do want them to be able to see your overarching style and philosophy.”
  • Balance sharing best practices from thought leaders with original content, says Jeff Bunch, digital strategist at LANE PR.
  • Support complementary brands and businesses, and they’ll be more likely to spread the word about your brand in return, explains Kang. You’ll build a community with similar ideals and audiences.
  • “Make sure you have quality photos and headshots on your social media sites,” says Corbett.

Monitor Feedback and Activity

  • Develop key talking points and see what resonates with your audience, says Bunch. Where does your community think you’re adding value?
  • Ask for feedback from trusted fans and brand ambassadors, says Corbett. Don’t be afraid to change your approach!
  • Protect your reputation online by monitoring your brand by using Google Alerts and regular online searches, says Corbett.
  • “Make it easy for people to pass along your content or your professional information,” says Kaputa. Consider adding Twitter and Facebook buttons, for example, to your website or blog so that people can spread the buzz about you. “People tend to pass on what moves them emotionally.”
  • “Create a system for capturing contact information from people you meet in the real world and online,” says Corbett.

Be Generous, Interesting and Inspirational

  • Be generous and promote good work by others, says Bunch.
  • Don’t try too hard to make your personal brand about only one thing, says Tomaeno. Everyone is multifaceted! Clients, partners and even your boss want to know that you have a life outside of work. Have a sense of humor sometimes!
  • Be inspirational and inspirational, says Kang. “Customers want to find experts that they can trust and follow implicitly. Hold yourself and your brand up to a high ideal and only post what you feel truly represents the core of your brand and vision.”


Written by Grace Lavigne, senior editor of ProfNet, a service that helps journalists connect with expert sources. Dear Gracie is published weekly on ProfNet Connect, a free social networking site for communicators. To read more from Grace, check out her blog on ProfNet Connect.

6 Comments on Blog Post Title

Lauren Lox 00:01 EDT on Jul 14, 2012

Gracie, this is a great post that I’ll benefit from- and I’m sure many other people can, too. Good point about not just “discovering your personal brand” but “adjusting and augmenting your brand to work across multiple social mediums”. It’s true- one voice won’t work across all networks. I’m part of PRSSA, so what would you suggest to students when trying to discover their personal brand and developing beyond everyday student troubles?


PR agency India 03:28 EDT on Jul 16, 2012

These are some really nice social media tips. Promoting your brand with Facebook, LinkedIn & twitter would be just great for reaching out to the customers.

Grace Lavigne 08:51 EDT on Jul 18, 2012

Thanks so much Lauren! I’m glad to hear the info is useful for you. I think your question regarding students specifically is great — I’ll try to feature it in an upcoming Dear Gracie!

Grace Lavigne 08:52 EDT on Jul 18, 2012

Thanks! 🙂

Gwen Himes 04:02 EDT on Oct 27, 2012

A surprisingly extensive and elaborate list. A lot of people underestimate the effort and planning needed to effectively use social media, and these kinds of articles are a big help to prespective social media marketers. Just as discussed in this article,, it is very important to get a handle on social media as a marketing tool because otherwise you would get left behind.

ioanna angelidaki 07:43 EST on Nov 23, 2012

Very clear tips, and so helpful!!! Great post! 🙂

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