Keep At It! Building Your Brand Takes Time.

Becoming known or developing a brand online takes time.

And a whole lot of effort.

Some of the people with the biggest audiences whom we all admire today were active for YEARS, steadily putting out content and engaging with others before anyone noticed.  If your content is quality, you’re careful to engage authentically in a human way with others, and you post consistently, you’re more likely to have success.

Of course, you have to also have a) the talent and b) learn how to hack distribution.

A) is pretty much in-born (although it can be improved upon).

B) will require you to learn how to use these platforms effectively.

Google how to do things, test, learn, Google again, practice, over and over.

But, don’t give up. Especially, if you’re starting to notice any of the following:

1) Increased page views

2) More engagement i.e. increasing number of likes, comments, shares, and mentions

3) Link-backs

These are all signs from the Universe and the market that you need to keep pressing on. Use these KPIs and metrics as benchmarks of success and let that propel you forward.

What you’re doing is penetrating the noise, but you need to keep going and building momentum.

I’ve been putting out content for years now. On a frequent and consistent basis, only in the past two years and even more-so in the last 6 months.

Only now am I starting to see a steady trickle of interest building.

So, keep at it! And pay attention to those indicators, which are showing you what is working. If you’re not seeing any of those things after consistently posting for a year or so, it might be time to pivot.

But, if you are seeing those results, persist and don’t get discouraged.

You’ll get there in time.

Should You Put Yourself Out There and Create a Personal Brand?

How much should you put yourself out there when you’re starting a business?

Should you develop a personal brand?

I think creating a personal brand and deciding whether or not to putting oneself out there is very much a personal decision that is up to the individual.

The first thing you’ll have to consider is whether or not you even want to have a personal brand. Many successful CEOs, founders, and businesspeople do not have personal brands and you’ve likely never heard of them. That’s a totally respectable and fair way to go about it.

Many people balk at the term “personal brand.” Some (usually older or more conservative folks in the business world) object to the term or the entire concept of a personal brand because they think it sounds narcissistic and phony. In their minds, a personal brand is something reserved for wanna-be gurus and charlatans or those “crazy millennials” walking around with their selfie sticks making silly Snapchat videos on their phones. There is a modern-day phenomenon of people who monetize an entire business off their personal brand. Unfortunately, some of these people create personal brands that are based on a false image they are trying to project through social media filters.

However, a personal brand is not a bad thing at all. If you don’t like the term personal brand, Vayner Media CEO, and branding expert, Gary Vaynerchuk suggests referring to it as managing your personal reputation. We can all agree that maintaining one’s reputation is important. All the more so in the age of the Internet. Even if you’re not saying anything about yourself or your business, it doesn’t mean others aren’t.

What is a personal brand? Contrary to what many people believe, a personal brand isn’t an excuse to shamelessly self-promote. Doing that is a quick way to turn people off. Successful personal brands are built on providing value and sharing quality content that engages the audience. Depending on your topic and audience, your content should educate, entertain, or inspire. Sometimes you can do all three!

It’s also very important to respond to comments and reach out to people who have greater influence or audience attention than you about collaborations. The one with greater influence has the leverage, so make sure to offer them something of value in exchange for whatever it is you want them to do for you.

A personal brand is your story. We all have a story to tell and even if you don’t think so, you can find a way to tell it in a way that is interesting to others. First, pick your area of expertise or your topic. It might be about your business or your field or it may be centered around a hobby or area of interest. Next, figure out the way you communicate best. It may be audio (e.g. podcast, audiobooks), written (e.g. blog posts, ebooks), or video. Then, find which distribution channels are the best way to reach your intended audience (e.g. Instagram, YouTube, Medium, LinkedIn, Soundcloud etc.).

I’m not saying that having a personal brand is for everybody. Not everybody wants to put themselves out there, be in front of a camera, have their writing published, or create content that is about who they are or what they do.

However, if it’s something you think you can get comfortable doing, then I strongly recommend trying it. Having a personal brand will be an increasingly more valuable asset in a 21-century world where content creation is democratized and the competition is fierce.

Alongside your company brand, you should consider developing your own personal brand as well. People have an easier time relating to other people than to entities or organizations (surprise, surprise). Sometimes the content from your personal brand can be the hook that reels people in and gets them interested in your business.

Zev Autumn selfie

If you’re a freelancer or a solopreneur, having a personal brand is essential. It’s what sets you apart from the rest and prevents you from becoming commoditized in the marketplace. A strong personal brand will get you picked for lucrative gigs. Not only that, but developing a personal brand can ensure that leads will come to you rather than you having to chase after them. If you’re an introvert or on the shy side, having a personal brand online that attracts people to come to you rather than the other way around is a G-dsend and this is probably the greatest time to be an introverted entrepreneur.

Let’s say you’re NOT an entrepreneur or a business owner. Is it still a good idea to have a personal brand?

Absofreakin’lutely!

In a competitive job market, it’s those with a strong online presence and establish thought leadership, competence, and credibility through their online content and published work that will get the job over equally qualified candidates who choose to rely solely on their resumes. When you apply for a job, one of the first things your prospective employer will do is look you up on LinkedIn. Are you going to have a blank, gray, faceless avatar staring back at them or a profile that hasn’t been updated in years with none of your recent work?

If you’re interested in developing your personal brand, but aren’t sure how to go about it, then I recommend this fantastic book by blogger and business consultant, Mark Schaefer: KNOWN: The handbook for building and unleashing your personal brand in the digital age.

In this handy guide, Schaefer takes you by the hand and walks you through the process of figuring out what to talk about, where to talk about it, and how to become known in your space or area of interest. There is also a supplemental workbook available with helpful exercises to get you started. Recently, I had the pleasure of interviewing him and that interview will soon be published in the Huffington Post and on my upcoming podcast.

If you decide to create a personal brand, be forewarned that it does involve some risk and vulnerability. You have to have the stomach to handle occasional negative comments. You also have to decide how much of yourself to expose. To a certain extent, being raw, real, and authentic will help you win attention and a following like never before and much of the business world is becoming less stuffy and buttoned up thanks to the Internet and startup culture. However, you have to figure out where to draw the line between what you feel comfortable sharing and what is too personal or NSFW.

Also, keep in mind that colleagues who think having a personal brand is unprofessional or self-indulgent might poke fun or criticize you for doing it. Some companies have strict guidelines about what you can or cannot say publicly, which you should be familiar with if you’re concerned about losing your job. Consider that now may not be the right time in your life yet to do it and that’s ok. Have an honest conversation with yourself about whether or not you are ready to start building your personal brand.

Have you developed a personal brand or are you interested in doing so? Do you communicate best on audio, video, or in writing and what channels do you prefer to use? Do you have any questions or tips you’d like to share?

Please let me know in the comments!

There is No Reason You Can’t Start Now

Perhaps, it’s because Yom Kippur (the Jewish holiday of atonement) starts tonight, but I’m feeling introspective and reflective right now.

I humbly urge you to start creating and sharing content if you haven’t already. If you already put stuff out there, then I encourage you to do it more frequently and consistently. Not everyone can afford a staff or a production team, but the good news is that you do not need one. All you need is a mobile device and a wifi connection. Oh, and talent, hustle, and ambition.

I’m not directing my plea only to businesses or professionals. I’m talking to the creators. The artists. The bored housewife in Iowa who always knew she had a talent for making others laugh or the retired accountant who really wanted to write short stories, but was told that it wasn’t practical. It is now practical. The Internet has made starting your own business practical. The market now rewards art and creativity more than before and we are all media companies now. Thanks to social media, blogging, email, and the mobile device, we can all create and publish content.

Creating content from your laptop or mobile device in written (blog posts, articles on Medium and LinkedIn), audio (podcast), or visual (videos, vlogs, graphics) form about the thing you enjoy can help you build a following, which you can monetize into a small business or side-hustle or leverage to raise money or awareness for worthy causes or other things you support and believe in. The cost and the barriers to entry are so low and the gatekeepers are far less relevant than they used to be.

It doesn’t take much money or time to create content and share it with others. Chances are if you’re honest with yourself, you likely spend a lot of time doing things that prevent you from spending time on things that can get you to the next level in your life or achieve goals, and I don’t mean only financial ones. There’s plenty of things I don’t get around to, but I know it’s because I haven’t yet made them enough of a priority.

And the truth is, this entire rant or manifesto or plea to create content is as much intended for me as it is for all of you. The fact is that I know I could be creating so much more while still getting all the other things I need to do if I decide to look in the mirror, drop my own excuses, and push myself to do and accomplish more.

Good Things Come to Those Who Work Their Butt Off and are Patient AF

We’ve all heard the expression:

“Good things come to those who wait.”

Well, I’m here to tell you that it’s bullsh*t.

No one ever achieved big things without working their ass off and going out and getting it. Every successful person I know has had to work hard. Even people who raise boatloads of cash or enjoy family connections will not be profitable without grinding day in and day out. Sure, there are people who win the lotto or were handed a lucrative venture, but you and I can’t point to anyone who earned lasting success by not giving it their all. There are many gurus and coaches on the Internet selling mastermind courses these days with “get rich quick” schemes who claim they have a hack for getting successful without all the work. Some of their suggestions may turn a profit for a short time, but will not bring lasting wealth. There really are no shortcuts to success. There is no simple formula, growth hack, or automated process that will enable you to win long-term.

I’m currently in the process of building a digital marketing agency as well as my own online presence and personal brand. Having interviewed many successful people for my Huffington Post column and studied many people who built a business, personal brand, or an online presence, the common themes I’m seeing and applying to my own life are as follows:

Patience: 

It takes so much patience to achieve any big, hairy, audacious goal. If you love it and it’s worth pursuing, you’ll likely have the fortitude to stick it out when the going gets tough. Oh, and it will get tough. We look at many successful people today as “finished products.” We didn’t see them before they achieved greatness. We don’t see the countless hours of painstaking effort and unglamorous amounts of dedication they put into refining their craft. It doesn’t make for good TV (or whatever medium you use for entertainment these days). There’s always this temptation to try to jump ahead several steps before you’ve made it. And it can be discouraging when you go through a dry-spell. You need to remain humble and continue to do things you may feel you shouldn’t have to still be doing if you want to get to the place where you aspire to be. It’s called paying your dues.

Persistence:

If you’re patient and appreciate every small victory, you’ll have an easier time remaining motivated and persisting toward your goals. Let’s take influencers as an example. Many of them churned out hundreds of blog posts, videos, and podcasts that barely got any reads, views, or listens before they seemingly “popped” out of nowhere. They didn’t get discouraged when no one was paying attention them because they believed in themselves and persisted. The truth is even if you do everything right and you produce quality work or churn out great content frequently and consistently, it will still likely take years of doing it before you break out and become well-known.

Consistency: 

This one is so crucial. They say a big part of success is just showing up. I’d like to suggest an addendum to that old adage: A big part of success is just showing up consistently. Even if you’re talented, produce great work, have good ideas, and spend time honing your craft and working toward your goals, you will not go very far if you’re on-again, off-again, hot and cold. This is true for many endeavors in life, but specifically, when it comes to building an online presence, no one wins the market’s attention and becomes known for anything if they don’t consistently put out value. Even if you have one big piece of content that goes viral, you’ll be a one-hit wonder that no one remembers and have no brand recognition unless you consistently follow up and engage your audience. Every drop in the bucket counts. The key is consistently working on your goal and not allowing yourself to get distracted or make excuses.

Sometimes life gets in the way or we see something that looks like it might be more interesting or exciting, but the show must go on. Only by sticking with it, remaining patient when we don’t see results for long periods of time, persisting in the face of obstacles and applying ourselves consistently, will we achieve any of our dreams.

Don’t Underestimate the Value of Attention

“Isn’t there a way to narrowly target only the people who will buy from me without our content being seen by anybody else?”

This is a question I’ve received several times in my role as a social media marketer.

The answer is no, but it’s interesting to analyze what lies behind the question. Often, the asker simply doesn’t understand how social media works or doesn’t fully appreciate the interconnectedness of the Internet as a whole. More importantly, this question reflects a lack of appreciation for the value of attention. It also reveals a misunderstanding of how marketing and sales work together to drive prospects from brand awareness to purchase.

Now, it’s true that smart marketers aim to target their efforts toward a specific and well-defined audience. This helps them determine their strategy, tone, style, and which channels and tactics to use. Marketing for “everybody” is marketing for nobody.

However, while an overly broad approach is counterproductive, so is an approach that is overly narrow.

Attention is a very precious commodity. With so much competing for our attention spans, it’s more precious than it ever was before. Attention is also extremely valuable. If you don’t have it, you stand little chance of becoming known or found by your target audience. However, if you do have people’s attention, then you can leverage it for greater opportunities.

Many people question the ROI of social media marketing. How does building a following or getting likes, comments, and shares boost my bottom line? And yet, most of those same people completely see the value of appearing on a popular talk show, running a television advertisement during prime time, or appearing in a prestigious or widely read magazine. Social media doesn’t deserve to be judged with an unfair double-standard, especially when it has a unique ability to target effectively and provide data analytics reporting in real time — things traditional channels cannot do.

Getting the exposure, the eyeballs, the attention is the first step. Even the most targeted digital marketing campaign can’t and shouldn’t avoid attention from those who may not buy anything — right now.

sales funnel hubspot
HupSpot

Marketing is like a funnel, which can be sifted and segmented from the widest to the most narrow. Awareness sits at the top of the funnel. A small subset of those at the top will become leads and a small subsection of those leads will be nurtured into sales or “conversions.” Depending on the particular campaign, a conversion might mean a monetary sales transaction or it might mean a sign-up or a subscription. Either way, getting attention and establishing a relationship with prospects is the key to garnering more sales as well as loyalty that keeps your clients or customers coming back for more. Attention can also lead to other good things, like a job offer, a book deal, a speaking engagement, and more.

The way you get attention is by providing value. This could be accomplished by sharing content that educates, entertains, or empowers your audience. By providing value through your content, you earn your audience’s attention and give them a reason to care. Too many people undervalue or underestimate positive attention because it’s part of long-term branding rather than short-term sales. Therefore, it’s super important to be able to maintain perspective and put every part of your marketing strategy in its appropriate place. Knowing where everything belongs will also help you contextualize and personalize your content for your audience throughout each stage of the sales funnel or buyer’s journey.

Before you can get your audience to buy anything, you need to have their attention. Word of mouth — friends telling friends — is often the best way. Most people tend to value the recommendations of trusted experts, friends, or family than they do an advertisement from a company. Social media marketing allows you to further amplify and leverage word of mouth to get the attention you need like never before. Take advantage and utilize this technology to the fullest.

Who Cares What They Think?

Recently, a client sent me the following message:

“Most of the people that I’m getting attention from on Facebook are all the people I am not so interested in sharing that part of my life with.”

When I explained to her that it’s impossible to ONLY reach the people whom she wants to buy her service without also attracting the attention of others, she replied with a text that revealed what was truly worrying her:

“It’s just weird when I walk down the street and ppl are like u started a business?? If it doesn’t work out I would die of embarrassment.”

So often, what really holds us back is a fear of failure or, more truthfully, a fear of what other people will think or say if we fail.

But, as I explained to her, what will happen will happen regardless of whether people know about it or not. And, if you want to get on the radar screens (or mobile, tablet, or desktop screens) of your target audience, there’s no way you will be able to escape also getting attention from people who know you or people you don’t necessarily want to know about your business venture. Today, it’s impossible to hide if you want to make an impact and attract any sort of attention.

And, if they judge, so what? Most people who judge or poke fun are people who are jealous, insecure, or too cowardly to do something themselves. Most people lack the courage and conviction to try.

Let your metric for success be: Putting yourself out there and making the attempt.

That’s already so much more than what others will do. A huge part of sucess is just showing up — and showing up day in and day out, again and again. Persistence and perseverance is a common thread that weaves together between most success stories. And a great number attempts — even failed ones — will increase your likelihood of doing something that actually succeeds. As Seth Godin says, “the one who fails the most, wins.”

Don’t allow your fear of failure or the negative comments of the naysayers get in your way of trying your damnest to make your dreams a reality! If it doesn’t work, you can always learn from it and try something new. But, don’t waste your time worrying about the thoughts of others, many of whom are simply not brave enough to do what you are doing.

Don’t Give Up: You Never Know Who You May be Inspiring with Your Content

Feedback

When you write a #blog and put content out on social media day in and day out there are times when you may feel discouraged or ask yourself: Am I really making a difference? Is my work actually making an impact on people? And, then you get an amazing message like this!

It’s messages like this that inspire and encourage me to keep on going. Even if you only get a small number of views, you never know who may be positively affected by your online content. And, while I obviously do like making money💰(who doesn’t?), feedback like this makes my day like no paycheck ever could.

Ultimately, building an online presence or a brand or a business takes a great deal of patience. In the beginning or even for the first few months or years, it may feel like things are moving too slowly or nothing is happening, which is why it’s so crucial not to give up too soon. And, don’t knock that one or two views or those five or six followers, because you never know whose world you may be changing for the better.

Your Excuses Aren’t Helping

I’m sure you have excuses for why you’re not yet where you want to be in life.

We all have excuses.

But, excuses don’t move you further toward your goals. Excuses don’t pay your bills. Excuses won’t help you win. While it may feel good in the short term, making excuses is distracting you from making progress.

In my line of work, I’m used to hearing people talk about wanting to grow their business or personal brand. They want more people to know about them. They want their phone to be ringing off the hook and the orders to be coming in. They want more customers or clients or more ideal customers or clients. They want to become more well-known or take their business to the next level. But, when they find out how much work is involved and how much time, money, and effort is needed to build a brand and grow an online presence, they’re not always up for it.

How do I get more customers? How do I get more awareness for my brand or company? How do I become the ‘go-to’ person for X, Y, or Z?

The answer is always the same. Put in the work.

It’s going to take a lot more work on top of whatever you’re already doing. The good news is that if you have a smartphone, it’s easier (and cheaper) than it was before to talk to the world, connect with others, and gain a following. The bad news is that there is more competing for our attention than ever before. The only way to be relevant and get on the radar screen of the people you’re trying to reach is by putting out content for social media and mobile devices that gets attention and provides value. Yes, it takes work to churn out blog posts, shoot vlogs, podcast, and connect with people on social media, especially if you can’t afford to hire a team that will do it for you. But, who said achieving success comes easily?

And because there is so much competing for our attention, it takes more effort to rise above the noise. It’s harder than ever to get people to pay attention to your ads and your content truly has to be quality as well as relevant and well-timed. Yes, it’s all hard, but it’s the only way. The only alternative is making excuses and wondering why nothing is happening.

If giving up is not an option, then stop making excuses and start taking action. Start doing. Start now.

Authenticity: What Does it Really Mean Anyway?

There’s a lot of talk about authenticity these days.

Every brand strives for it, especially on social media. We’re told millennials, in particular value it and expect it from the companies they do business with.

Aside from being a popular buzzword, what does ‘authenticity’ really mean? And what does it mean to be authentic?

Be genuine and up front.

Being authentic means not disguising or hiding your agenda. If you’re in it to make money, then don’t hide it. Be honest about your intentions. For example, don’t claim to be a conscious company like Tom’s Shoes if you’re only going to jack up the price above market value so that you can keep profit margins high. Don’t pretend to care about causes (or worse, tragedies) only in order to curry favor with your audience and make a buck. Authenticity means your brand only aligns itself with products, people, and causes that embody your values. Corporate responsibility is great, but please don’t pretend to give a f*#% if you don’t. Trying to put one over on your prospects and customers will only backfire. Everyone knows companies need to turn a profit so don’t hide it. Be real about your purpose and direction.

Give sincerely.

Unfortunately, one of the most common blunders in business (and other areas of life) is to give insincerely, or only in order to get something in return. Aside from being dishonest, this tactic is particularly ineffective, because people can often smell the insincerity and it turns them off from working with you. If you’re only helping others with a “what’s in it for me” mentality, people will notice right away or you will eventually be exposed.

The good news is brands who do a great deal more sincere helping than asking often win a great deal more sales than companies who don’t. We live in a word that is over-saturated with mediocre content and often tunes out ads mentally or with technologies such as Ad Block and fast-forwarding on DVR. Therefore, sharing engaging content that is relevant and educates, inspires, or entertains is the best way for a brand to stand out, grab attention, and stand head and shoulders above the competition.

It’s not “fake it till you make it.” 

We’ve all heard the expression, ‘fake it till you make it,’ but it’s not really the best strategy. Now, I’m not talking about trace amounts of imposter syndrome, which we all feel at times, particularly when we are at the start of our careers. I’m talking about posing as an expert before you are one. Today, becoming known and developing a brand is not only easier than ever before; it’s almost a necessity. Establishing thought leadership and credibility is valuable currency, but if you talk about things you don’t yet understand or fail to deliver on your big promises, you will later end up looking foolish and compromise your reputation.

So, stay in your lane and tell the true story of you or your brand. If you do one thing particularly well or have a great deal of knowledge about a subject, stick to creating content about that and don’t try to swim in waters that are above your head. And, if you don’t yet have an area of expertise, find ways to inspire or entertain others as a means to break through to the market.

Above all, be passionate and real and people will feel it. I’m not just espousing the cliche “be yourself.” Obviously, this is not the best idea in every case. What I am saying is be up front about your intentions, provide value in a sincere manner, and stick to what you know and care about, and you will come across as authentic and believable and people will want what you have to offer.