Personal branding is the holy grail to skyrocketing your business and unlocking new opportunities for revenue generation.
Developing your own brand through blogging, industry events, networking, social media activities, email list building will boost up your influence status (and bring some organic leads your way). As a strong supporter of HubSpot’s inbound marketing strategy, I’m all about doing sales without actively selling – which is the purpose of branding.
People who invest in their own personal brand are known to have “a lot at stake” – and therefore would likely be committed to whatever they undertake as a challenge. This is incredibly important when it comes to “building trust” with colleagues, partners, vendors, prospects.
There are so many “ghost companies” out there. Look up random outsourcing firms and try to find out who’s doing the job. Chances are, you won’t find the “Our team” page or any story behind the business itself – which raises questions around the reliability and authority of the business.
A strong personal brand gets the job done and transfers to any business endeavors you’re related with.
What Is Personal Branding?
Personal branding is a branch of marketing tailored to individuals. It entails one’s accomplishments, career growth, current endeavors, previous success stories in the field, and any form of credibility that would contribute to future initiatives as a result.
The term “personal branding” itself was coined by Tom Peters in this 1997 article for Fast Company.
In a nutshell, one’s personal brand is about the perception of both newcomers and returning visitors.
Every single person has generated a brand for themselves, but what differentiates the focused effort from the accidental one is controlling the narrative and stressing on particular positive traits by amplifying the message across the board.
The Value Of Personal Branding
For employers and managers, a notable personal brand can:
- Support the hiring efforts of the firm
- Retain employees longer due to brand loyalty
- Strengthen the corporate brand in the form of “employer branding”
- Help close customers with less effort
- Nurture transparency to the organization
- Generate strategic partnerships with other noteworthy members of the business ecosystem
Regular employees can benefit from developing a positive brand and:
- Generate additional value to their employers
- Increase the odds of retaining their job and climbing up the ladder
- Unlock new job opportunities in-house (thanks to their recognition)
- Land freelance or consulting opportunities on the side
- Combine their job recognition with their personal brand for paid speaking engagements or other exciting endeavors
If you want to build a personal brand, make sure you spend some time building an audience.
Becoming an industry expert builds credibility toward your own site. One way to build an audience for your personal brand is to get some online exposure and boost your online presence by joining podcasts, webinars, invitations to conferences where your target audience hangs out.
The 101 Of Maintaining Your Brand
There is a baseline of launching your brand (which is easy to reach and often inherited by the new digital generation).
I’ll assume that you run a blog or maintain at least one social media account that generates enough interactions. Your best bet is building an omnichannel approach leading to your own website.
- Craft content on your end. Work on the user experience bit, different call to actions, subscription boxes, archives, newsletters and such.
- Post on social media. Repurpose stories and build an audience there.
- Invest in ads. Start small at first and ramp up once you get some traction.
- Consider guest posting. It’s an effective way to build backlinks and lead traffic back to your site.
- Find partnership opportunities. You may organize other forms of events that, again, lead to your website.
- Maintain your email list – it’s a resilient tool in your toolbox worth expanding – and we’ll discuss that further in this essay.
However, you can also work with bloggers or journalists who want to grow their traffic by bringing popular players and attracting their following. It’s a natural way to intercept a percentage of the new traffic and convert it to regular readers.
This is why you tend to see interviews featuring the same rockstars over and over again. It’s a closed loop, and once you get in, it’s easier to keep up the pace.
Boosting your online presence, which involves maintaining and posting at the right time on your social media accounts, updating blogs or websites, and getting online exposure, are factors that affect one’s personal branding.
What other specific personal branding hacks can help you boost your online presence?
15 Hacks To Boost Your Online Presence
Here are a few tips that you can use in order to get more opportunities for social engagements and/or online exposure that help boost your online presence.
1. Cross-Promotion With Friends
The easiest way to get in is cross-promotion with some of your friends.
This could be shaped in different forms: from publishing content on a fellow’s website through engaging together on social media (often referred to as a “sharing pod”) to sharing email contacts together or launching a joint webinar.
One easy way to generate traction is by generating additional activity online yourself. Getting a few extra retweets or shares on social media may be enough to rapidly increase your visibility in others’ feeds.
Most social media algorithms revolve around engagement over the first hour. Time your content well and partner up with your network for maximum exposure.
The rest is totally up to your content – but the first few interactions may break or make your overall presence across the network.
The same goes for interviewing some of your colleagues or close friends in your network who also want to work on their digital footprint.
2. Become an Influencer
Personal branding is often confused with “influencing” (especially considering the rising wave of Instagram and YouTube creators).
Influence marketing is a byproduct of investing time, money, and effort into developing a niche brand into a specific vertical. Becoming an influencer in a narrow niche is a productive hack to get some organic exposure, gather loyal followers, and interact with your community for future campaigns and business opportunities.
Most people who want to become “Internet popular” often target broad topics that are oversaturated. Ranking for “Internet marketing” or “Real estate” is incredibly challenging unless you already have a large audience and at least a decade of industry expertise and a few big wins.
Building a small community in a small niche may be easier.
- Start a blog and write long-form, educational content for your industry.
- Republish your content on a Quora blog, LinkedIn, Medium with a link to your site.
- Monitor your SEO and compile a list of keywords and search terms that you can write about.
- Keep your social profiles consistent and focus on your ideal audience.
- Cross-share content across multiple channels.
- Repurpose content for maximum efficiency.
- Build an email list or use a relevant channel to your audience (sometimes texts or Facebook bots blasting your articles to your community).
This would slowly grow your audience and industry journals may ask for your thoughts given your notable expertise.
3. “Ask Me Anything” Sessions
Use Taking Questions (Quora Feature) or a Twitter/Facebook chat. Alternatively, go live on any of the platforms that support that (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube to name a few).
Start relevant sessions on the topics that you understand well and can provide valuable insights on. Focus on painful problems your community is struggling with (often related to generating additional income, saving time, choosing the right platform).
You can run an AMA session on Reddit, in your blog, on social media or anywhere else. Relying on larger networks may result in additional exposure. If you have an active email list, definitely send a newsletter and announce your session.
The same goes for relevant webinars since some folks prefer different forms of content.
If you actively participate in Facebook groups or Slack communities (or you partner up with other bloggers), you can organize scheduled interviews that revolve around the same AmA format.
4. Start a Podcast
Speaking of different content, starting a podcast is a good way to position yourself in your niche and invite other guests as well.
There are over 1,000,000 podcasts out there. 55% of the US population has listened to podcasts and 45% of all monthly listeners have household income over $75K – which is a great target audience for promoting your own products or services over time.
Podcasts are underutilized now. With over a billion blogs out there, podcasts represent about 0.1% of the addressable content market.
There are plenty of industries that don’t offer valuable podcasts yet. Start one and record a few shows upfront. Once you start bringing some industry experts in, it would result in additional traffic and some interest in your knowledge.
My WordPress podcast started on Anchor.fm (later acquired by Spotify). The platform allows you to record the whole episode or multiple pieces right in the mobile app, edit, and cross-publish on multiple podcasting platforms.
You can even interview other members and use the conversations within your episode.
5. Write on Contradictory Topics
OK, this isn’t one of my favorite strategies but it works REALLY well.
Some magazines and blogs love featuring contradictory opinions. If you feel like writing unique perspectives on topics that are overall straightforward, this may result in some link juice and traffic to your sources.
Your content may be intentionally tapping into emotional conversations if you want to “play the bad guy” or cause a confrontation. I wrote a LinkedIn post on “PHP is not dying” which gathered 100,000+ views over the course of 2 weeks (and many hundreds of comments and shares).
Or you can play a martyr and defend a vocal minority. This may be truly instrumental in specific circles.
Openly discussing problems that don’t get enough attention will spark engagement and calibrate the social/organic algorithms in your favor.
Some bloggers may want to introduce or quote you as well. Twitter is commonly used for reporting on recent news and conversations that wouldn’t be publicly available elsewhere.
Most journalists are looking for opinions that are not really “common sense”. If readers can guess what an article contains, they won’t bother reading it in the first place. Contradictory and curious opinions are often desirable.
6. Write Roundups
Writing roundup posts sharing quotes and insights by a number of influencers would be a good way to connect with other industry professionals.
This would help with your exposure and some of the interviewed candidates could invite you to their own shows or blogs. Plus, you can apply for a guest post or send an interview draft using the roundups as a reference.
One of the best reasons to use roundups is connecting to other influencers. First, you get to contact them directly (in exchange for publishing them). Second, given enough attention and shares, this may result in backlinks, shares, or additional opportunities for you.
7. Interviewing Services
Look for industry blogs online open to interviewing different people.
Smaller blogs and magazines lack manpower and regular content in order to maintain their sources. They are often inclined to interviewing less popular folks willing to share their tips and insights.
Additionally, there are services such as How to Find Interviews as a Radio Guest, Talk Show, or Podcast Interview Guest Expert – Free! that promote radio shows or podcasts looking for guests. You can sign up and monitor their feed until you land a few interview invitations.
Help A Reporter is another popular source that usually focuses on quotes and citations. While not a complete interview, it’s a great way to get featured in reputable sources by bringing some fresh ideas to a new article.
8. Grow An Email List
Email is not dead – and it’s still one of the best possible ways to build a community.
There’s a little known secret amidst public relations professionals. Unless you convert your readers, there’s hardly any value in the short-term.
Average email open rates are anywhere between 15% and 25%, and building a brand can grow this to about 35% on average. While this may seem small, consider the longevity of a tweet or an organic Facebook post (whereas organic reach is around 5%).
Email lists make it easy to regularly keep in touch with your audience in a reliable manner – with weekly newsletters or a series including your top books or tools you’ve discovered. More importantly, you can feature your other stories across the web and maintain your community in one place.
The best way to build an email list is through freebies. Think of ebooks, checklists, workbooks, free short email courses, freemium access to a community. Freebies can be hooked to existing blog posts and designed as separate landing pages you can link to in other guest posts you author.
Once you launch a new product (or training resources), your email list is the go-to place to blast.
Additionally, certain networks prioritize early attention more than others. The activity in your LinkedIn feed over the first few hours determines the success of the post in the coming week. YouTube’s engagements in the first hour are crucial, up until the 24-hour mark when the algorithm has calibrated itself.
9. Live Videos
Live videos have been wildly successful for generating a loyal audience.
Facebook Live is among the best methods to start with. If you’re on Twitter, Periscope is the service owned by the parent company, which streams well within the feed itself. Instagram Live can tap into your existing network and even services like LinkedIn experiment with live over the past year.
(Not to mention YouTube which is video-first by design.)
Live videos have been used by numerous influencers, actors, athletes over the past two years. Real-time engagement and answering questions or interacting with your audience beats every other content format out there.
You can organize a live session early on – similarly to how webinars are scheduled. And even record your videos as an “evergreen webinar” further on, enriching your email list. This would ensure that enough viewers will show up and interact, plus the added benefit of collecting questions ahead of time.
Since streaming to multiple platforms at once may seem exhausting, tools like Restream.io enable creators to multicast in multiple places. You can connect Facebook and Twitter (Periscope) in the same stream and even attach other networks (Twitch) or multiple accounts at once. If LinkedIn live is enabled for your account, Restream also supports streaming there, although (at the time) comments are not fetched in the global feed.
Unfortunately, Instagram would still require a separate device for streaming since their APIs are not open. But hey, you still end up with 2 devices across multiple networks instead of several.
10. Own One Channel
Start with one channel – and own it.
If your content (along with your business model) revolves around B2C, Facebook, Instagram, TikTok could be the best mediums you want to leverage.
For B2B and more comprehensive solutions, LinkedIn, content marketing, and PR are often effective choices to start with.
The best marketing strategies are omni-channel. You want to dominate as many channels as possible. But first, start with one – and develop it as best as possible.
- If Instagram is the channel of choice, learn how to design carousels – and reels that recently became popular. Tap into the hashtags that make sense. Follow other influencers in your field and comment on their stories. Reciprocity is extremely common and effective in the field – use it wisely and expand fast.
- For Facebook, running a page or a small community where your followers can interact with you works really well. Join other relevant groups and help out as much as possible. This will have an impact on ongoing growth. Paid ads are affordable – and worth relying on. Facebook Live streams targeted to your audience can be truly impactful. Plus, you can start quickly by inviting your network to bootstrap the first group of followers.
- LinkedIn is all about thought leadership, posting every other day, leveraging Documents (in a slides format) or LinkedIn video. Direct outreach works well and the organic visibility is really effective. Make sure you touch base with several influencers and cross-promote your own content.
- Content marketing is about keyword research, link building, and organic growth. Build high-quality content and share it with your audience on a regular basis.
Start with one channel and find out what drives growth. Double down and use it as a trampoline for further action.
Produce the most powerful, well-thought, well-designed content there – and the rest will follow.
11. Distribute Across The Network
Once you have a channel that works well, apply the rule of distribution to repurpose content across other channels.
Videos are the easiest format to start with – extract the audio and turn it into a podcast or go to Rev.com and create an entire blog post out of your talk.
But the same paradigm is also applicable to other channels.
- Instagram carousels working well? Cross-publish on Facebook and redesign for LinkedIn too. Create short, informative posts for Twitter and keep expanding.
- Facebook Live being effective? Upload the same video in a native format across other networks.
- LinkedIn posts generating traction? Keep a spreadsheet with all your posts and combine them into blog posts once you’ve got several publications on the same topic. Additionally, focus on listicles that could easily turn into slides or tweets.
Think of the easiest ways to redistribute existing high quality content into new content formats native to different programs.
Can you do it quickly?
If you create a content calendar and produce weekly posts for your top network, automate the rest of the process so it fits within an hour or two a week. When possible, use a virtual assistant to help out with creatives and formatting.
12. Publish Consistently
If you don’t believe in quantity, check out John Hall’s book, Top of Mind.
In a world full of content producers whereas the lifetime of a tweet lasts merely a few seconds, consistent publishing is paramount. There are two critical reasons you need to remember:
- Not every post will generate traction. Some of your best posts may go unnoticed unless the algorithm picks them up on time.
- Your personal brand revolves around building a strong audience – or “Superfans” as Pat Flynn would call them. Being on their radar at all times makes the world of a difference. Think of Gary Vee and him showing up all the time at industry conferences, through his comic strips on LinkedIn, on his Daily Vee – or whichever channel you use.
Make sure you’ve got your process streamlined ahead of time. Consistency and repetition will lead to a snowball effect over time, and taking a break for a few weeks will make a significant difference in your digital presence once you pick it up back again.
13. Comment on Industry News
Your personal brand revolves around key skills of yours.
Do you focus on business mentoring? Digital marketing? Health coaching?
Whatever your focus, your audience needs to remember that you keep your finger on the pulse. This means that:
- You follow – or better yet, are involved with – the news in your industry
- Other influencers are related to you in a way – which means you may share a story from an event you met back in the day
- You attend industry events and speak at some on a regular basis
- Training courses, university programs, etc are something you are familiar with, can recommend or criticize within the realms of the good tone
- The most popular books in your segment sit comfortably on your nightstand
Industry insights come in different flavors. But when a news story hits and publications cover a certain angle, be prepared to share your two cents.
Oftentimes, a publication doesn’t dive deep enough into a certain area. Sometimes, it’s the lack of depth from a journalist, a short-form piece that can’t cover a ton, or business/political relations that can’t disclose the full picture.
Be the guiding light of your followers. Keep them posted and disclose your personal take on a story, including projections or concerns that may arise in the future.
14. Speak at Conferences
Thanks to COVID, one of the most notable disconnects with my audience was the lockdown that impacted the events season.
On-site meetups and conferences go a long way whenever you attend in a speaker’s capacity. The recognition of an industry leader plus the live interactions with attendees, hallway conversations, and post-session Q&A are truly powerful when it comes to building a strong brand.
Even with limited on-site opportunities, remote conferences are becoming more popular. Webinars as well. Podcast appearances work just the same – so make the most out of your time and keep an eye on speaking opportunities.
Keep in touch with conference organizers in your area or your industry. In addition to warming up your existing audience, you’ll gain new followers over time.
15. Write a Book
When it comes to building a strong brand, it’s all about leverage.
Everyone can tweet or post Instagram stories. Content writing is doable as well (with varying success as strategy plays an integral role).
But what about endeavors that take time and effort to author?
I underestimated the value a book would carry until I authored the 126 Steps to Becoming a Successful Entrepreneur. Even though I had my book signing events in Los Angeles and San Francisco, I hadn’t put too much time or effort into promoting the book.
And yet, two years in, I still meet readers or receive comments and questions via email from people who recognized the book and found invaluable tips that helped them persevere.
A book is often a good excuse to create some buzz in the form of PR, podcast interviews, and more. It’s also a great touch point after a conference session when attendees want to learn more and dive deeper into your techniques.
I took a pretty tactical approach when authoring a book. In a truly content hacking approach, I gathered 150 Quora questions I wrote over the years, and organized them in a consecutive order. It took me several weeks to complete the book – as compared to over a year of writing if I had to start fresh.
Think about sessions you’ve led during training courses, former blog posts of yours, or even social media statuses. Putting bits and pieces together can shape the majority of the story and get 80% of the work done sooner that you would have realized.
Does Growth Hacking Involve Faking Online Presence?
While I don’t want to blame anyone directly, it’s not uncommon for some small businesses to “fake” their online presence.
Sure, some of them have been mentioned online. You can look them up by typing their brand name in Google and appending “site:huffpost.com” or whatever site was promoted there. Example:
You can use the search form available on each of those websites as well.
Another option is using Moz, SEMrush, Ahrefs, Serpstat or any other marketing tool able to compile backlinks to a certain domain. It’s worth noting that they don’t index each and every website out there and their database may be incomplete.
I’ve seen similar fallacies with development companies listing Google as one of their clients. Many of them are just paying for Google Drive or GSuite or serve ads through Adsense (which is definitely off-track).
Some businesses have actually been mentioned on authoritative sources through different mediums:
- Submitting press releases that get published/mentioned.
- Participation in a roundup post or another listing.
- A mention by a co-founder or the marketing director.
- Working with a contributing writer or a columnist for a link or a quote.
- Republishing content through a content partner or a blog aggregator.
Oftentimes, they extend the validity of a mention through a long-distance relationship with the website:
- A comment published in the comments area of an article.
- A general mention of a startup incubator or an area where the business is active in.
- A business relationship (freelance, consulting) with a contributor/columnist.
- Another distant relation such as a conversation at a conference or anything in-between.
If you aren’t sure, look them up and verify whether they have really been mentioned or not.
Online Growth Hacking Done Right
Growing traffic relies on your target market, but it’s also a combination of using known channels such as organic search (SEO) and social media fanbase among others, for added visibility.
Some growth hackers use darker paths to gain popularity, but this isn’t really sustainable at scale. Watch out. Sooner or later, people and algorithms will flag you, and you’ll have to start all over as a result.
What works at scale is less shady techniques that boost your efforts a bit until you pick up some traction.
Here Are The Less Shady Techniques
The “friends and family” circle — Instead of using fake accounts, get your colleagues and close friends to upvote, like, share your content early on.
Sharing pods — Other context-driven communities relying on reciprocity. Pods exist for networks like Instagram and LinkedIn, with people commenting and liking statuses right after going live, an effort that benefits everyone in the group.
Paid ads — $5 can go a long way when scheduled properly. This works extremely well on Facebook.
Groups — Facebook and LinkedIn, cross-posting content for initial traction. Most networks measure efforts over the first hours, the more engagements you generate at first, the broader the distribution later.
reddit, Hacker News, Product Hunt — Time-bound communities for sparking interest and traction.
LinkedIn, guest posts, comments, Quora — Long-term engagement across networks.
Repurposing — Crafting content reusable across different networks. A 5-minute video works for YouTube and LinkedIn. You can trim it for Twitter and Instagram. Order a $5 transcript from Rev for blogging or social media statuses. This works wonders.
Lead generation — Email capture, Facebook chat bots, browser notifications, and other instruments to retain leads over time. You need to build a community. You can maintain a Facebook group or a Telegram channel to keep them entertained over time, but every future post or launch will receive a lot more free traffic as it keeps accumulating.
All in all, personal branding may speed up the process of founding a company and generating some leads for an existing one. Becoming a thought leader and an educator in your field (through blogging, social media, Quora participation) you can increase your exposure and value within the community.
Bonus: Educating vs Entertaining As An Influencer
Note that followers and engagement don’t necessarily translate to business opportunities.
Personal branding online usually covers one of the following three areas:
- 1) Real-life celebrities
- 2) Entertainers (tabloids, fun videos, memes, life tips, and inspirational advice)
- 3) Educators
Most of my consulting calls revolve around lead generation and branding for B2B businesses. While I’m not a leadgen guru, a common misalignment is the inconsistent public behavior that doesn’t indicate what someone does for a living.
And people often refrain from “being boring” and bet on the virality factor.
This MAY work in some cases – but consider what your prospects look for in a consultant, freelancer, agency owner.
Watch the video and let me know your thoughts.
What personal branding hacks do you leverage? Or are you currently struggling to get opportunities for boosting your online presence?
Make sure you check out my collection of marketing guides for additional tips and tricks in the space.