What are the best ways to build my personal brand online? originally appeared on Quora - the place to gain and share knowledge, empowering people to learn from others and better understand the world.
Answer by Sara Mauskopf, CEO & Co-founder, Winnie, on Quora:
Before I spill all my secrets about building a Personal Brand, I'll start off with a disclaimer: I'm not a branding expert by any stretch. I have not studied branding or marketing, nor do I have any professional experience in branding or marketing roles. However, I have had a lot of success building a large social audience on platforms and am for all things at the intersection of tech and parenting. Also, thanks in large part to my following, I was able to secure funding for my company , something that would have been more of a struggle early on if people didn't know who I was.
I didn't really set out to become "tech famous" (i.e. well known in Silicon Valley circles) but a few things that I did in particular had a really big impact on my ability to grow an online following. If you're looking to build an online Personal brand and an audience, here are some ways to start.
Stand out from the crowd
It's easier to build a brand when you embody a concept that few others represent. For example, if I wanted to build a personal brand around being really beautiful and sexy, I'd probably (ok, definitely) be unsuccessful. There's a lot of competition for that brand and I'm not exactly a competitive candidate. On the other hand, if you choose a brand that's a bit more obscure (for example, being beautiful and sexy while wearing a colostomy bag), you can be known for that thing. Try combining two concepts that are rarely combined in a public way and that you can really embody. For me that was tech startup CEO + mom. Sure, moms have been tech startup CEOs before, but they don't usually make that a central part of their identity and personal brand for fear it could hurt their credibility. I have taken the opposite approach and. Because my brand is pretty unique, it's easier for me to be one of the few people known for it.
Share the good and especially the bad
Of course no one likes following a depressing sob story, but on the flip side, if the personal brand you put out there is just an Instagram highlight reel of your life, it becomes really hard for people to feel any connection to you. People like to root for an underdog and when you share some of the less flattering moments of your life, it can be a way to garner support. I stumbled across this by accident when I starteddiagnosis and treatment. I originally started the blog as a way to inform my family and friends about his status and have an outlet for my emotions, but as a side effect I grew a following on Medium of people who wanted to offer support to me and my family. Recently I've taken this more to heart and shared as well. I'm not suggesting you turn your life into a tragedy for the sake of building an audience, but rather that you should be authentic and remember that sometimes your most vulnerable moments are an opportunity for people to form a personal connection to you, and therefore, your personal brand.
Some people get a kick out of following me just for the ridiculous things that I say. Sarcasm is tough to get right on the internet and it's pretty easy to say something stupid and offend thousands of people (ask me how I know), but one way to minimize the number of people you are likely to offend with your jokes is to make fun of yourself. It turns out that if you make fun of yourself, very few people will be offended on your behalf (sorry to break it to you). Besides maybe your mom. My mom does get offended when I make fun of myself on Twitter and will call to check on me, so that's nice.
Put yourself out there
This is my most important tip. No one can discover and follow your personal brand unless you get out there, early and often. Most people make the mistake of honing their voice and waiting too long to try things and get real feedback. Here's a dirty little secret: each thing you blog, tweet, or speak publicly about will only ever get to a small fraction of your potential audience. Even if you completely flop during a speaking gig or write something that resonates with no one, you hopefully learned something and can try again next time. Also, be sure to test different platforms. Building a large following on YouTube is very different from being popular on Twitter or Instagram. There may be a platform that works better for the kind of content you produce and you won't know until you try them.
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