Everyone has a brand, including you. You’re a freelancer, that right there is the start of your brand. If you are involved in social media at any level, whether personal or professional, you have a brand. Think about it, every time you interact with someone or say something in public, you’re establishing your brand.
Did you help someone out? You just established yourself as a helpful person and that adds to your brand. Do you complain a lot? You’ll become known as a whiner. Are you the go to guy in your field of work? That’ll add to your brand too.
With every personal and professional interaction, you’re subconsciously branding yourself or your business for your customers. Social media is now considered one of the most important outlets of establishing a brand. If you aren’t utilizing the power of social media, you’re doing your business a disservice. Social media has the power to cement your brand in your audience’s mind. Yada, yada, yada.
Importance of branding
As a freelancer, your brand is the most important aspect of your marketing efforts. It sets you apart from other freelancers in your niche. It helps your clients identify you as someone who’s business values match theirs. It helps you establish an emotional connection with them which, when done right, can turn into loyalty. Imagine having a client who’s so happy with you that he only wants you to handle his work.
A brand isn’t just a symbol or logo. It is an amalgamation of your core values and beliefs. Through branding, your clients know your values, what you believe in, stand for – and what you don’t. Your brand tells your consumers why you’re different and better than your competitors.
Get your branding right and you won’t have to prove your mettle to your client’s time and again. Your brand will tell them for you.
Personal vs. Professional Brand
Your brand could be anything that your customers and target audience identify you with. It could be your name, a symbol, your company logo or tagline – anything that is your identification mark.
At its most basic level, branding is divided into two types: personal and professional. A personal brand is one where the name of the individual is more recognized. A professional brand is about a company and can represent more than one person or even just one as is the case in most freelancing businesses.
Freelancers often have a tough time figuring out whether they need to establish a personal brand focused around their name or a professional one based around their freelancing business. Both have their pros and cons.
If you’re a one man show whose name carries more recognition than your company, then a personal brand is the best option. It’s easy to recognize, people relate to it more easily and trust it more. On the other hand, a personal brand is vulnerable as there’s no off time where you can shut off and not be scrutinized. Because your name is your brand, anything online that has your name on it gets attached to your brand even if you don’t want it to.
A professional brand is the right choice if your company is the face of your business. For example, you may be a team of freelancers working as a business. Depending on your goals, you can either all use the company logo as an image or create separate accounts for your business. This way, more than one person is the face of the brand and this is also where it gets complicated.
It also means that there’s no one point of contact and the action of one reflects on the business and it’s partners and has the potential to ruin your reputation should something go wrong.
Using Social Media to Establish your Brand
One of the easiest ways to establish your brand these days is through social media. It doesn’t cost anything and has the potential to reach thousands. It’s also the most treacherous way to establish your brand. One wrong step and you could ruin your reputation and damage your brand. But do it right and you’ll be reaping the rewards.
Decide which Social Media Networks to Use
The biggest pro and con of using social media to establish your brand is the sheer number of services available out there. In order to effectively brand yourself, decide on three that are most relevant to your business.
For freelancers (and most other businesses), the top three social media networks are Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. The interesting thing about these three is that they all have different vibes and uses.
Facebook is the ultimate social network. You can create a group, start a page and even use your own profile to connect with your existing and prospective clients. People can join your group, like your page or add you as a friend to start interacting with you.
Twitter is more like the office water cooler. People hang out there to share things, make connections, network and generally have fun. The action and reaction time on twitter is in real-time. Tweet something and you’ll start getting replies from your followers immediately.
LinkedIn is more formal and aimed at professional networking. It is where you put your business foot forward. If you’re looking to make some serious connections, then LinkedIn is the place to be.
The one common thread between these three networks (apart from them being social networks) is that they can be effectively used to establish your brand.
Establishing your Brand Online
The first step of establishing your brand is to stay consistent with the information you display on these networks.
Display identical information on all of them. If your profiles on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn all display different information then your brand will become known for its inconsistency.
Social networks ask for the same information no matter where you’re signing up. Instead of having different information on them, it’s simply easier to use the same on every network. Not only will it save you the headache of thinking up a new ‘About me/us’ section of the profile, people will recognize you regardless of which network they run into you.
To stay consistent, pay attention to your:
Your profile picture is the visual representation of your brand. If you have a personal brand then using your own picture is the best option. If you have a professional brand then you may use your company logo.
To make sure that the same picture is displayed on the website even outside of your social networks, use a service like Gravatar. It uses your email address to recognize who you are and display the picture you’ve linked to that email address.
If you use multiple emails, they can all be linked to your Gravatar account. The best thing about it is that you only have to do it once. Then you can leave a comment on any website or blog and you’ll be showing the same image as you use on your social media networks.
When setting up your profile, make sure your bio is the same across all networks. Facebook and LinkedIn give more space for everything in the profile section. Use it to go in detail of your business.
Twitter though just gives you a few characters. Create a short version of your profile that still lets people know that it’s you.
Link to the same website and blog in your profile and the same with interests, location etc.
Your tagline should be present in the about section of your social network profiles. It’s the second thing visitors look for in your profile after the image.
A tagline tells you what your business, website or blog is about and how it is relevant to your audience. It’s your online elevator speech.
Contact information is another way to keep your brand consistent. Include the information on every social media profile, your website, blog and even communication programs like Skype.
Your email signature is another great tool to help introduce and establish your brand. Your name, occupation/designation, tagline and contact information should all be listed in the email signature along with the image you use in your social media networks. This way, if you’re contacting someone from your networks, they’ll know who you are and vice versa.
Doing the legwork to establish your brand through social media isn’t hard. It just takes time in the beginning but once everything is set up, it pretty much automates itself.
Make these changes to your social network profiles today and then all you need to focus on is your online behavior and interaction with target audience.