I got to catch up with some friends this week while I was in Toronto for a mobile panel, and we started talking about the topic of personal branding. One of my friends is a real estate agent, and the other is an aspiring actor (well, not so aspiring -- he spent all day on set today shooting a US-based TV show. Turns out a lot of American shows are shot in Toronto). Both of them want to create a strong personal brand in their respective fields.
Having started a real estate brokerage in the past, I have some great tips on how to create a successful real estate brand, and I believe in the power of personal branding. So instead of sending a private email with my tips to my friends, I figured I'd write a blog about it in the hopes others can join the conversation about what's worked for them.
Daniel's Top 10 Tips to Turn You Into the Coca-Cola of Personal Brands:
1) Conquer your fear. Fear is what stops many people from starting to build a personal brand. If you're a service provider, it's likely a fear that by giving away your expertise, you won't have anyone willing to pay you. That couldn't be farther than the truth. Read my blog on how sharing your knowledge freely makes you a superstar. None of the ideas below will do you any good if you're afraid to execute on them. Be prepared to be embarrassed. Get over it, and move on. Your brand is counting on you.
2) Capture content. I can't stress this enough as the most important part of building a personal brand (once you're over your fear of execution). Capturing the expertise that's inside your head is a primary building block in successful personal branding. Your genius insights and thoughts aren't going to help anyone if they're just spoken to one person. There's no scribe following you around breathlessly writing down every word you say. You alone are responsible for acting as a force multiplier: If you think it, say it or write it, then do it in a way that as many people can participate as possible. Following are a few very pragmatic ways to accomplish this, but everything starts with a commitment to capture content.
3) Answer questions in a blog. When you get a written question from someone (for example, a real estate client over email), don't write them back over email. Instead, write the answer in a blog post. Instead of spending 15 minutes writing the same answer over and over again via email, spend 3 hours composing the answer once in a blog post, and then send that link back to the person over email. You accomplish many objectives this way. The most important result is that the person asking you the question gets a much better answer, because you've put 3 hours of thought into it instead of 15 minutes. This is why I often say Henry Ford would've loved blogs, because you're creating an assembly line of knowledge. You also create a public knowledge base that others can build on, and you benefit from what I call the "Angelina Jolie Effect."
4) Capture video at events and panels. How many events do you go to (conferences, trade events, speeches -- anything) where great content is shared? Next time you attend an event like this, look around the room. Is anyone capturing the content? Probably not -- as I've said before there are often cultural barriers to capturing content (if you don't know what I mean, try setting up a camera and see what types of strange looks you get). But therein lies the opportunity: Since nobody else is capturing the content for repurposing later, it's getting lost -- imagine if you can capture all the great content from an event and be the one to share it with the world. You'll build a great brand because you'll be offering content nobody else has. That's why I capture video at every panel I speak on. In fact, I wouldn't even travel to do a panel if I couldn't capture it. Sure it might be nice to share a discussion with 500 people in a room in one day, but by capturing it tens of thousands of people can see it over the course of years. The rig I use to capture content is this Kodak zi8 camera. The entire setup costs less than $500.
4) Use SocialCam liberally. SocialCam is a fantastic app for capturing video content. For example, when I was hacking a vegas cab line, I took a video of the experience using SocialCam. SocialCam then automatically uploaded the video to Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, and I later embedded the YouTube video in a blog I wrote about the experience. But you don't even need to embed the video in your blog -- just taking lots of videos using SocialCam on your phone is a great start; it'll give you content that you can repurpose later. And if you're a Realtor, for example, you can have a client log into their Facebook account on SocialCam, do a video with them about any real estate related topic (maybe a testimonial, for example) and then have your client post the video post to their wall and Twitter stream. It's a great way for you to get exposure to their friends and followers using them as a 'hook' to vouch for you. SocialCam is one of my favorite brand-building tools today. Use it liberally and often -- when you're in the car going to see a client, for example, take a SocialCam video of what you're up to. Just get that expertise out of your head and into a digital format that can be shared with the world! If you're super hardcore about capturing content you can do what my friend Frank LLosa of FranklyRealty did and create something like the "Wheel Estate Cam" (better ask him for permission first).
5) Do screencasts showcasing your expertise. Back when I was in real estate, I did lots of low-budget, cheesy videos that showcased our company's expertise in the real estate market, like this one and this one. These screencasts and videos are so low budget as to be laughable, but that's actually what makes them so awesome. The rawness of the video (I refuse to edit whenever possible) makes it feel real and not like a marketing slick. And I got an amazing amount of business from these videos. The video at right has been watched almost 15,000 times. I literally had home buyers from all over the country contacting me asking me to represent them. Stop for a minute to think about that: There are ~50,000 licensed Realtors in most states, and yet buyers were so desperate for real information that they were reaching out to me -- someone who wasn't even licensed in the majority of the states where these requests came from. Again, this is about getting the expertise out of your head and into a format where others can benefit from it. This goes for my actor friend as well -- showcase your skills by capturing your acting prowess whenever and wherever you can. One thing I hear time and again from people is that nobody would want to hear what they have to say. That's just total BS. In many cases you've spent years learning information that makes you a professional. Just because it's mundane to you doesn't mean it's not interesting to someone who's learning about it for the first time. Case in point -- none of what I'm writing is new to me, but I'm spending the time to get the expertise out of my head and into yours. And the fact that you're still reading about it tells me it's interesting to you! So pay it forward to others by doing the same. Get that knowledge out of your head.
6) Become a Subject Matter Expert (SME) at something. You pick what that something is. Maybe you're the world's leading expert on how paint dries. Whatever it is, make it your own and make yourself known for it. A great example is my friend Joey the Cat. He's the world's leading expert on skeeball machines. He dresses up as a cat and plays, rents, sells (and probably dreams) skeeball machines. But you know what? He's been featured on NPR, the NY Times, and a ton of other outlets for this expertise. When anyone thinks (or google searches) for skeeball rentals, Joey comes up on the first page of Google. He's thrown himself into being the world's leading expert on skeeball. What's your SME claim to fame?
7) Focus. If everything is important, then nothing is important. You want to pick a very defined, focused area to begin building your personal brand in. Don't succumb to ABBA. The more focused your SME area, the faster you'll see results. Corollary to this point: Don't give up if ou don't see results right away. It may take you 6 to 12 months and hundreds of videos, blog posts and tweets to become recognized by Google and your target audience.
8) A/B Test and optimize. Once you figure out what's working, start optimizing it. Here's a great post on using Optimizely for A/B testing.
9) Use Twitter to run contests. My friend mentioned that he got his own trailer on set for the TV show he was acting in. I suggested he consider doing a super simple Twitter campaign the next time he was on set: Send a Tweet out a day or two before the shoot stating that the person who re-tweets his tweet the most gets to go with him to the shoot, and hang out in his trailer for the day (or for an hour, whatever). In this way, he'd be using something he has proprietary access to -- a TV/movie set -- as a hook for a simple Twitter contest campaign. Almost all of us have some type of access to something that our friends & followers don't. Twitter is a great way to engage an audience and make them more passionate about your personal brand. For example, whenever I'm on a panel I give out my twitter ID and encourage people to tweet their questions during the panel. I weave answers to their questions into my panel responses. It's a great way to make the audience feel like they're a part of the conversation, and it keeps the panel more relevant to their interests, and therefore more engaging.
10) Get great press. Getting great press can be incredibly easy if you know how. When people read content in the news, they have a bias to believe it's true. Getting press is many times more valuable than advertising, so leverage my techniques to show off your SME to the world.
Bonus: #11) Be more efficient. You'll find any of the items above way easier if you learn to play a computer like an instrument and use simple knowledge sharing techniques that will provide you massive productivity gains. Become a force multiplier by learning how to leverage technology to make you more efficient.