As a society, we’re obsessed with brands. Nike, Apple, Coca Cola, Google – we’re drawn to them like football players to HS cheerleaders. And in the social media world, we’re even more obsessed. We’re constantly hearing conversation focused on brand, telling us how to build one, how to leverage one, and whose brand is bigger and more influential. But even with all the talk, most of us still have a hard time understanding how not to shoot our brand (and ourselves) in the foot on a daily basis. We forget that people are watching and publicly strangle our brand while we’re supposed to be building it. Whether you think you’re a personal branding pro or you’re just learning the ropes, here are seven ways people kill their personal brand every day.
See which offenses you’re committing. And then stop.
Your brand isn’t going to create itself. You need to identify what you want your personal brand to represent and then put the steps in motion to attain it. Ask yourself: What’s unique about you and what do you want to convey to people? Who do you want to be and how will you build it? It doesn’t matter if you plan to brand yourself via speaking engagements, being helpful on Twitter, by creating lots of authoritative content, or by being the girl dancing on the bar. What matters is that you get off your butt and make it happen. If you plan to brand yourself through speaking, then be pro-active about pitching. Stop putting it off. If you’re going to do it through blogging, then get off Twitter and get started writing and promoting those posts. The world isn’t going to wait for you so shutupandgettowork. [Fun Fact: That site was created over the weekend by Julien Smith and received 200,000 visits yesterday. That should tell you something.]
2. Being Crotchety In Public
If you haven’t gotten the meme, being negative to earn attention is so three years ago. People want to do business with Likeable Laura, not Sketchy Sam. We want to engage with people who have positive things to say about the brands they love and constructive things to say about the brands they don’t love today. If you’re using your Facebook account to yell at people, your Twitter account to throw things and your blog to be an unfounded-bully, you’re killing your credibility with nastiness. Criticism is good, but use your words wisely and don’t make the bad stuff all you’re putting out there. Too much negativity and people start to wonder what’s wrong with you not the person/brand you’re criticizing.
3. Being Inconsistent/Unfocused
Brands are built on consistency. Whether you love it or hate it, you trust that Burger King will taste the same at the drive-thru, the airport and at 3am while on vacation in Ireland [Not that I’ve done that.]. Of course, brand consistency goes way further than hamburgers and chicken nuggets. As consumers, we rely on those consistency cues to make attention decisions. We’re watching the brands you say you love and hate to see if you feel that way tomorrow. We’re watching to see if your brand is the same on your blog as it is on Twitter, as it is in real life. Because if it’s not, we then have to figure out which version is real. And then we start second guessing you. Search Engine Land has built a reputation as being the “go to” place for search news by consistently providing great content. Mashable has become that for social media news. If that quality began to drop tomorrow, it would fracture the brand image people held for both. If you’re not being consistent, you’re not creating a unified brand.
While it may sound like a good idea to embellish your skills and qualifications when talking with people, your brand won’t recover when you’re found out. If someone in your network hires you after hearing about your social media savvy or your standout search engine optimization skills only to discover you don’t have those skills? Well, that’s going to be something your brand won’t recover from. Don’t lie about your qualifications or what you’re capable of doing. The truth always comes out. We’ll still love you if you admit you can’t do it all. We won’t love if you promise you can and then drop the ball.
5. Bad Time Management
If you’re on Twitter lamenting about how you can’t finish client work, how you having to pull an all-nighter to get on track or how conferences have put you totally behind, you’re not giving off the best impression to people who want to hire you. After all, if you can’t keep track of your own work and time, why would they trust you with one of their projects? While we all love to use social media to complain and procrastinate, do it too much and people still start to wonder if you’re someone they can trust.
6. Mimicking Someone Else’s Brand
It’s tempting. It’s tempting to mimic a personal branding tactic you see working for someone else in the hopes that it will also work for you. However, by doing so you essentially blow a hole through your own personal brand by adopting tactics that are not authentic. You can’t build your personal brand while pretending to be someone else. It just doesn’t work. People can tell when you’re being you or when you’re being your best impression of someone else. To create a successful personal brand, you want to find yourself.
7. Reading This Blog Post
I already told you that your brand isn’t going to make itself while you sit around and ponder your thoughts. So why are you still here? Get building.
Those are some ways I’m constantly seeing people kill their personal brands. What kills it for you?
About the Author
Lisa Barone co-founded Outspoken Media in 2009 and served as Chief Branding Officer until April 2012.