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Last Saturday, I hosted Kayode Abass, a LinkedIn coach and Personal Branding consultant on the October edition of Learn & Grow Series. We talked about LinkedIn Hacks to power your personal brand and unlock rare opportunities and boy! did we have a great time. Kayode showed us little-known hacks and went deep into optimizing your LinkedIn profile for job and business opportunities. (Get your copy of the video class from Kayode Abass and previous classes here.) However, I picked 8 pearls of wisdom from him about growing your personal brand that you can apply immediately. I dug deep into each point so this is quite lengthy - use the Table of Contents below to quickly choose where you want to go. Shall we?

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#1. If you don’t brand yourself, people will brand you

Many people get turned off when they hear "personal branding" because they think it's about packaging yourself into a larger than life figure of who you really are or lying and making up numbers to make yourself look important. On the contrary, your personal brand is how people perceive you - what comes to mind when they see your face or hear your name.

Your brand is what other people say about you when you're not in the room

- Jeff Bezos 

Founder of Amazon

The most important point in personal branding is that you have a lot of control over that perception. You have the power to control how people see you and the narrative about you. However, if you refuse to, they'll still have a perception of you anyway. Only that it most likely won't be what you need to further your goals. It's one thing for you to be a superstar and another for people to see you as a superstar. Personal Branding makes sure of it.

#2. Personal Branding on LinkedIn starts with your profile

It takes less than one-fifth of a second to make first impressions online. Even though psychologists say it takes less time to make a first impression in real life, first impressions are more critical online because you're not there to explain yourself or sway anybody's judgment. With such a slim time-frame, making a good first impression should be on your priority list. So how do you do this? Build an amazing LinkedIn profile.

Before you sigh and say it's hard, note that an amazing profile is not one with the most certifications or best skills. It's one that presents you in the best light and meets your personal branding goals. The problem is that many people's profiles are not yet fully optimized to support their goals. If this is you, please do a quick makeover of your LinkedIn profile ASAP.

  • Profile Photo: This is the first thing people see when they look you up on LinkedIn. By all means, make it count. Remember nobody visited your profile to see a logo, they came to see you. Don't use a picture of your dog, a blurry photo or family picture (except you're a family business). You can't leave it empty either. Invest in a professional photo. 
  • Headline & Summary: This is real-estate for you to succinctly provide an overview of yourself and what you can do for your profile visitor. Your Headline follows you everywhere you go and must spark the interest of your target audience. Remember to use keywords i.e. words that people will actually search if they were looking for someone like you. So, instead of saying "world changer", use "business consultant", "spoken word artist", "baker" or whoever you actually are. If people can't find you via a LinkedIn search, something is wrong with your profile. If you need more help in this department, here is what you need
  • Get social proof: If you're as amazing as you say you are, why are you the only one saying it? 92% of people trust recommendations more than anything you could ever have to say about yourself. Endorsements and recommendations make your profile stand out.  Get people that know you well -former colleagues, bosses, clients, etc. to write recommendations for you.

Stop telling an outdated story. Update your profile as you progress, hit new milestones or change direction in your career. Imagine if the MD of Coca-Cola sent you a connection request and his profile has not been updated since 1996. You'll suspect foul play right? Exactly! If your profile is not complete, you'll come off as a scam.

#3. Visibility creates a top of mind awareness with your audience

No matter how amazing you are, if nobody knows you're there, you're just winking in the dark. You must have heard something along these lines before:

"You need to put yourself out there", “Marketing is an act of service to those who need you. If you don’t promote yourself, you’re stealing from them”

They’re all true, and frankly, over-flogged. So, I won't repeat it. However, if you've also heard:

"Nobody needs to see you, as long as you're doing the right thing."

That one is crap. What's the point of creating something if those who need it can't see it? This is 2018. Nobody wakes up thinking "I need to go and look for [insert your name]'s LinkedIn Profile. "If you build it, they will come" may have applied in Field of Dreams but not in real life. If you build it, they will come - only if they know it's there. So, first be visible.

How can you apply this on LinkedIn? Make sure your profile is public i.e. allow people to see you

edit-linkedin-visibility


Click your profile Picture, in the Drop down, choose Settings >> Privacy

If you build it, they will come but first they need to know it's there.

Click to Tweet

#4. Understand each platform and adapt accordingly

Why should you behave like a Roman when you're in Rome? So that:

  • You don't look stupid
  • People will take you seriously and not mistaken you for a scam
  • Street people won't take advantage of you as a JJC (slang for newbie)
  • You can copy what's already working instead of struggling to figure it out yourself

Now, in a bid to "work smart", many people copy and paste their content from Instagram to LinkedIn without batting an eyelash. That's like behaving Nigerian in Rome. Beware of those in-app tools that let you automatically post from one platform to the other eg. Facebook to Twitter. They are not the best. See what happened when I tried it:

I automatically linked my FB page to Twitter, now notice how the sentences were never finished and no point was made 🙁

Go the extra mile to create the right content for each platform. How?

  • Right sizing: For instance, Instagram images require a 1080 x 1080 px to look great on your feed while LinkedIn requires 1200 x 628 px. I use a tool called Canva to design my posts so I never have to remember these dimensions.
  • Right wording: You can't talk with your grandma the same way you gist with your cousin. Grandma will be confused.

For example, in the posts below I was saying the exact same thing. Click on each version to see how I modified image size, hashtags and caption to suit the platform:

Whatever platform you're on, some things are basic such as finding ways to engage your audience and get them more involved. Two ways to do this:

  • End your post with a question. Eg. The LinkedIn version above
  • Tell them what to do next. Eg. The Instagram version above

#5. Understand your audience and create content to give them what they want

On every platform, people are looking for something. While I understand that you're there to grow your reputation, get a job or boost your sales, others are not there to meet your goals. They are there to solve their own problems. To get their attention, you need to let them know you are the solution they are looking for. How? By creating content. If your personal brand is fire, content is gasoline. Content is the fuel that powers your online presence.

Your content is every word or image that tells us what's in your head. On LinkedIn for example, you have many opportunities to do this. I like to think of them in advertising language: Your Cover Photo is your personal Bill Board. Your Headline is your Tagline. Your Summary is your Unique Selling Point, Your posts and updates are Press materials, etc. In these elements, your goal is to show up the way you want your brand to be perceived.

Not sure what kind of posts to create? Try any of these:

  • Inform: People love to be in the know about what interests them. Share little known facts and news updates. For extra points, add your own perspective - else you're only casting news.
  • Educate: Share what you know. Teaching brings opportunities towards you. When you share your expertise, jobs will chase you.
  • Entertain: People love to have fun and be inspired. There's a reason women love men who make them laugh. Share important information in a way that makes the reader chuckle.

If you don't know your audience, your content will be bleh and you'll only hear crickets when you post. Understand your audience and appear accordingly. There is no "best" way to create your content. You have to work with what is suitable for you. What kind of message resonates with your audience? What's consistent with your brand?

At the end of the day, you attract what you put out there. So, whatever content you create or share, tie it to the type of audience you want to attract based on your business + career goals.

#6. Build Relationships

For goodness sake, endeavor to be social on social media. Be friendly and create a community around your interests. Don't just shout your ideas and leave, stop to notice others and acknowledge them. Here's how:

  • Build relationships with Influencers. If you’re just starting out, try to build relationships with influencers. If they like you and recommend or endorse your message, your visibility will increase overnight. It helps you build authority and grow your audience. Also, many influencers are gatekeepers to some of the opportunities you're looking for. It's good to be within their radar so they can recommend you when the time comes. I'm particular about value-adding relationships so I recommend you think about what you can give, not just what you can get. So, don't just tag them in your post hoping they share it. Instead: Leave thoughtful comments on their posts especially long articles - they appreciate that and often respond. Share their content with your network. Speak well of them publicly, etc.
  • Build relationships with "regular people". If you only comment when your role model or a celebrity posts, stop it. Engage with other posts on your Timeline. Most of the so called "regular people" are the ones who can become your clients, give you a job or recommend you to their friends. So, stop ignoring them. The same way you want your audience to engage with your posts, engage with theirs as well. Go through your timeline and engage with posts you find interesting. Beyond liking the post, think of something intelligent you can contribute to the conversation.
  • Build an audience outside of social media.  Life doesn't end on social media. Get off your computer and go out. Attend networking events. Nurture relationships with a phone call. Move your connections over to your email list. Engaging people personally is more valuable, breaks trust barriers, helps your business long-term, and is beneficial to your health. My mantra for this is: Initiate relationships online; Nurture them offline.

Be genuine. Be remarkable. Be worth connecting with

- Seth Godin 

Multiple times Best-Selling Author

If you think this is tough, you're right. That's why I recommend that you focus on one platform. By all means, register your presence in as many places as possible for a robust online presence. However, focus your efforts on one or two to avoid burn out.

#7. Balance Quantity with Quality

People go crazy, obsessing over stats like how many Instagram followers they have or number of LinkedIn connections. This obsession is unhealthy, it does not determine how far you'll go in life or guarantee how much you will earn. But, I'll be telling a lie if I say that the numbers don't matter. Numbers do matter. Because you can't sell a secret. People need to see what you're posting, read from you and hear from you to notice that you exist. The more people, the better. However, it's not just about getting views on your posts, but the right views. Channel your effort towards your target audience because you attract what you put out there. LinkedIn lets you know who viewed you. When people in your target audience view you, view them back. If you like them, send a connection request, with a friendly note based on what you've seen about them. (In the live class, we shared a sample script of exactly what to say in such requests)

You will win once you figure out the simple mechanics of turning strangers into friends and friends into customers

- Seth Godin 

Multiple times Best-Selling Author

You can tell I love Seth Godin 🙂

#8. Measure and Monitor your Brand Goals

This one is simple. What you don't measure, you can't manage. There's only one efficient way to tell if your efforts are making any difference: Look at the Numbers 

Dive into your analytics to see what's working and what's not. Who's viewing your profile? What do they do? Where are they from? What's their gender? How long did they stay? What made them leave? What did they like most? Do more of that! What made them leave? Do less of that!

Analytics of an article I published on LinkedIn in January

Social Media platforms have in-built analytics you can use. If you have a website, set up Google analytics. You'll be amazed at what you find.

Your Turn!

Personal Branding is a process and not a destination. You can't put in all the pieces of your brand from  Day One. The big personal brands you know all started from somewhere. Don't feel overwhelmed by details. You have a voice and message with which you can change the world. Don't wait for perfect conditions either. The best time to start taking yourself seriously was last year. The next best time is now. 

So, which of these 8 lessons are you going to apply today? What future topics would you like to see on the Learn & Grow Series? Which experts would you like to learn from? Let it all out. I'm waiting to see your comments.

Want a copy of the video class from Kayode Abass? Get it here.

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