Note to readers: Hello world is a program developers run to check if a newly installed programming language is working alright. Startups and tech companies are continuously launching new software to run the real world. This column will attempt to be the “Hello World” for the real world.
Some founders are very popular on social media. Take Kunal Shah or Ankur Warikoo for example. Seeing them, several operators and sometimes founders ask how they can build a personal brand too. Turns out it helps them land better gigs, promote their product, and open doors.
Now I won’t pretend to have a lot of insight on how they built their brands. Clearly, a lot of hard work has gone into it. But for most people looking to build a personal brand, there’s a simple idea to follow: get people to know, like, and trust you.
The thumb rule, as proposed by Bob Gurg and John David Mann in their book The Go-Giver goes something like this: “All things being equal people will do business with, and refer business to, those people they know, like, and trust.”
These pithy lines are repeated often by marketers and business folks in the context of doing business. And it works for personal branding as well. There are a bunch of things you can do to get people to know, like, and trust you. Content marketers seem to have had a field day with the famous KLT principle so a simple Google search will throw up some good advice and a tonne of garbage on how to do that. So we won’t go into it. Instead, we’ll talk about some does and don’ts as you build your personal brand.
What you need to do before you jump into a whole lot of tactical things, is to really dig deep and define how you want to be perceived by everyone out there. For your business or career to benefit from that, that definition should be aligned (at least loosely) to what your business is. This will help you stay on message even when there’s a lot of noise out there.
So let’s take an example. Say you run a software product company that builds and sells a note-taking tool. When you jot down what you want to be known for, it could be: productivity, habits, and smartness or say entrepreneurship. This should also be something you enjoy reading about or are deeply curious about at a personal level. Once you are through this exercise, pick platforms that you want to focus on. Start with one platform and branch out to others. In this case, Twitter or LinkedIn might work better as opposed to say TikTok or Instagram.
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On platforms where you’re trying to build your personal brand to help your business or career, try and fight the urge to participate in conversations that aren’t aligned to these. Try also to fight the urge to talk about things you haven’t deeply thought through. This will help build credibility and trust. Building publicly and sharing insights you uncover also helps get more people to know you.
It follows that you’ll go deep into these topics as you build your business. As you pick up knowledge, share it freely with people who follow you on the platform of your choice. You’ll read, watch and consume content that blows your mind. Share your excitement with others. Thank the creators. Engage with them. Attribute and credit where it’s due. These again signal trustworthiness and integrity.
As you become more knowledgeable about a certain topic, you’ll form opinions of your own. Those are worth taking note of to create unique and new content. This can help you become more of a thought leader. A simple thumb rule to judge whether your content is unique or not is taught in journalism schools: if a dog bites a person, it’s not a story. But if a person bites a dog, it’s a story. This means anything that’s changing the status quo is a story. These unique insights will come to you only when you understand the status quo very well and then start forming patterns, connecting dots, and so on.
It doesn’t guarantee hundreds of thousands of followers. For that, you’ll still have to do some serious marketing. If you get these basics right, you’d be able to confidently build a personal brand. As always, nothing happens overnight. It takes years to build a strong personal brand and it pays to be consistently on message.
Jayadevan PK is a former technology journalist and recovering startup founder. He now works with Freshworks Inc as an evangelist, focusing on efforts around brand building. He’s also a commissioned author at HarperCollins.