Branding is such a crucial component of success. Think of some of the largest companies in the world -- from Nike's "swoosh" to Apple's icon -- everyone is familiar with the brands they created.
Today, building your personal brand is just as important as building your company's brand -- in fact, it might even be more important. Consumers want to hear the story behind the founders -- the failures, struggles and the success. This means putting yourself out there and marketing yourself in addition to your business.
My company is launching a new division next week -- an influencer marketing agency -- and it was made possible, in part, to the personal brand I have built. The contacts I have developed over the years with large brands, agencies and influencers all happened because of my personal brand. Here are eight tips to help you build up a strong personal brand this year.
1. Be visible and accessible.
You can't hide in your office behind your computer and expect to build a personal brand. You need to get out and make yourself visible and accessible. Attend industry conferences, even if it's just to network and socialize. Make your social media profiles open to the public and allow incoming messages. Hold live video Q&A sessions on social media and interact with your followers. The more visible and accessible you make yourself, the stronger your personal brand.
2. Show the real you on social media.
Don't use social media as a 100 percent marketing channel. It's fine to throw an offer out there or promote your company occasionally, but focus on showing the real you. If you come across as a robot or unauthentic you will push people away. Consumers love to see the other side -- what you do on the weekends, where you eat, what your hobbies and interests are, etc. This makes you appear more human, which attracts more people to you.
3. Understand your industry inside and out.
Your business is only as good as the people running it, yourself included. It's important that you understand your industry inside and out -- common sense. But, this also means staying up to date on latest trends, breaking news and your competition. When you do this, it helps to position yourself as a thought leader in your industry, elevating your personal brand to a higher level.
4. Practice 2-way networking.
A lot of people network the wrong way. They focus on their own needs and personal benefit, completely ignoring those needs and wants of the other person. Focus on 2-way beneficial networking, making sure to give the other person an opportunity to benefit from the relationship as well. This approach will help you secure more connections and opportunities, which will all contribute to strengthening your personal brand.
5. Maintain a detailed database of contacts.
As your personal brand grows, so will your list of contacts. It's important that you keep a detailed list of all your contacts. Who the person is, where you connected, potential opportunities and how you can help them are all things to keep track of. While it can be a great resource to search when you need something, it can also be referenced when you have an opportunity. Your relationships will become much stronger and beneficial when you approach a contact with an opportunity that helps them without asking for anything in return.
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6. Become a trusted source of breaking news and relevant information.
You know your personal brand is strong when you become a source of information. Strive to be the person media outlets and journalists contact when they need expert advice or information on a popular topic or breaking news. Start by sharing news and information that you feel is useful on social media and send it to your email list. This can also help to build your following, which leads to people viewing you as a trusted authority in your industry. Ultimately, this will attract more people to you.
7. Develop a strong value proposition.
Every major company has a value proposition and you should too. What makes you, as a person, attractive to potential customers or clients? What is it that makes you special? What should someone work with you? Once you have this established, make sure your audience knows what it is.
8. Give back.
Aside from feeling good and giving you personal satisfaction, giving back can help you build your personal brand. Whether it's donating money to a charity or volunteering your time to a cause that's important to you, this type of deed can benefit your personal brand. You can highlight your charitable deeds on your website and even issue press releases to attract positive attention. People remember selfless acts.
This piece originally appeared on Entrepreneur.com.