Do You Need A Personal Brand?
By Nicholas Mizera
People make investments everyday. While most carry a risks like lost time or money and only pay off when cashed out, investing in yourself pays dividends that can last your whole career. That’s why there’s no time better than now to build a personal brand. After all, with social media and industry networking at an all-time high, it’s all about self-promotion. Putting your expertise on blast can elevate your position within your field and enhance your business. And with every new follower who buys into your carefully curated persona, your stock rises ever higher.
You could argue that most of North America’s captains of industry have built brands to stand out from their competition. Think Fredrik Eklund, a luxury real estate wunderkind whose notoriety has helped him close more than two billion dollars of deals, according to the network carrying his reality TV show, Million Dollar Listing New York. Eklund commands 129,000-plus Twitter followers and a staggering Instagram following of more than 595,000. Even more impressive, Eklund launched a newly built Tribeca building with a single Instagram photo back in 2014. The image led to more than $100 million of sales in just its first month, he claimed in an Inc. article, “Social Media: The Bottomless Bank Vault”. His only overhead? The time it took to upload — no PR firms, no budgets. Not bad.
Taking a closer look, Eklund and others who’ve increased their influence within an industry play by a similar set of rules. They advocate a confident persona that rarely strays from the topic of their expertise and they utilize channels where they can control their message, including social media, blogs and books. A dash of personal flair to keep things authentic and they suddenly seem larger than life, yet utterly relatable.
Whether as a hobby or simply an escape from your typical nine-to-five, some influencers prefer to create forward-facing brands that have nothing to do with their day jobs. Examples include Warren Kinsella (Canadian lawyer and political pundit by day, rock ‘n’ roll musician and writer by night) or any number of social media influencers, including Toronto’s Amy Patel, a Bay Street investment banker that doubles as a fashion stylist, using her social platforms as a means of self-promotion to create different opportunities. Having a side hustle can reduce burnout, stimulate creativity and help you fall in love with your actual job, though you risk seeming professionally ambiguous to a boss who may not care to understand.
Personal brands often fall on either side of the work-life divide, but telling your whole story with a brand that maintains that polished professional appearance and seamlessly blends it with the things you’re passionate about can help set you apart within your industry. Jobvite’s 2015 Recruiter Nation report suggests cultural fit is a top-three hiring factor, with recruiters giving preference to individuals exhibiting everything from good humour to interesting passion projects. Take for example Toronto city councillor Norm Kelly, whose freewheeling Twitter act lifted him from relative obscurity to Internet sensation.
One can also leverage their industry to get ahead in their area of interest. Alibaba founder Jack Ma’s business connections helped gain him notoriety in the art world for his other love, painting. (His debut painting recently sold for US$5.4 million at Sotheby’s, by the way.) Closer to home, lawyer Tom Caldwell took inspiration from his Bay Street stomping grounds to create fashion label Thomas Henry Made, netting him an appearance at Toronto Men’s Fashion Week.
Hitting that sweet spot — where harmless tidbits of your personal life serve to highlight your skills and expertise — is a recipe for enhancing your clout both online and off. In fact, that’s exactly how Eklund puts it in order to stay fresh in what can otherwise be a conservative and boring real estate industry.
People need more than a company line. They need a real connection, even a virtual one, and today’s technology makes that easier than ever to achieve. With an attention to promoting a strong message, authenticity and striking a balance between your profession and your passion, maintaining your personal brand can be as simple as living life.