Chapter 7: Personal Branding on Social Media

Did you hear the joke that a girl who wears make up and posts a picture gets more number of friendship requests on Facebook than with the picture without makeup? Well, this is the reality of social media. A person who portrays himself/herself well on social networking sites is more popular than the others. It is not just brand that can market themselves on social media or strategize their presence; many individuals today in India have become celebrities or thought leaders because of their active presence and contribution to the social media ecosystem. It is a myth that personal branding is to do with celebrities and politicians only; the truth is we all have a personal brand and social media helps us enhance it. There is no reason why you cannot or you should not develop your own personal brand.

As believed every individual has his/her own uniqueness. This uniquness along with your appearance, your opinions, and your expertise & knowledge makes your personal brand. A brand differentiates and positions your product, service, or experience in customer’s mind; similarly a personal brand differentiates your personality within the blend of professional, personal, and social aspects of life. Social media has helped many individuals extensively to build a brand around their key skills.

I always wished my stories got published in newspapers; I had a lot of followers and fans, and I was known in the industry. And this happened only when social media came to limelight. Branding through social media is easier for authors, small business owners, entrepreneurs, employees, top management individuals, artists, and specialists. This chapter is all about positioning yourself on social media. There are two ways you can view personal branding online:

  1. Supporting Offline Brand Online: An example of this could be celebrities and politicians (they create a personal brand via mass media and use social media to amplify it).
  2. Creating an Offline Brand due to Online Popularity: Example Lakshmi Rebecca who first became popular on Internet via her online show (chaiwithlakshmi.in (refer case study number) and now shares a fair amount of credibility in the offline world.

Case Study 7.1: Shradda Sharma and Her Social Media Popularity

Shradda Sharma a 16-year-old girl from New Delhi uploaded her first video; a teary song sung by her, on her parent’s living room sofa, dedicated to her friend who was leaving her forever. One after another she uploaded five videos of her singing and within 16 weeks her YouTube channel youtube.com/shraddharockin became the highest subscribed channel of India. Thirteen of her have got about 7.5 million viewers and 50,000+ subscribers.

Ever since she was liked by many individuals:

  • Shraddha Sharma has become a popular Internet singer in the country, a brand created by herself and rejoiced by the audience. Her official Facebook page is managed by her fan at free of cost with more than 2,00,000 active fans.
  • She has been invited by popular reality shows such as India’s Got Talent (By Colors) and SaReGaMaPa (by Zee TV) directly for auditions (In reality, people struggle to get there; however she was invited due to her popular brand on Internet).
  • Her internet popularity story has been covered by the traditional media thus making her a household name.
  • With her increasing popularity, she has become the brand ambassador for Hair n Care and MTS MBlaze. The advertisements made by these brands revolve around her internet popularity story.

Social Media and You

Social media is very incidental to your personality and the opportunities are now global. The challenge today is to be always thinking of global village and going digital.

Table 7.1: Personal Branding Purpose for Individuals on Social Media

The above tabular column (Table 7.1) shows how from various perspectives social media can be used for branding an individual. Since this book is aiming at the social media and business opportunities, we shall concentrate on how a small and medium business owner, entrepreneur or an individual can use social media to position him/her and build a brand around their expertise.

Interview with Wilbur Sargunaraj: How Social Media Took Individual Artist’s Talent across the World

As per Wikipedia Wilbur Sargunaraj belonging to Madurai, Tamil Nadu, is widely known as India’s first YouTube sensation with nearly 5.5 million views to its YouTube Channel for his 160 music and instructional videos uploaded from two different albums “Wilbur Sargunaraj” and “Simple Superstar.” Some of his videos showing a common man’s feeling such as singing to “Mummy, Daddy” that he wants “the Love Marriage” has gone extremely popular on the web. Sargunaraj has also been touring the world with an aim of “making the common man extra-ordinary.”

I had an opportunity to personally interview this YouTube sensation to understand how social media has helped showcase his talent across the world and made him a globally renowned personal brand. The conversation below is in question and answer format:

Me: Which was the first video that went popular and how many videos are produced since then?

Wilbur: The first video that went popular was the Blog Song, a satirical music video on Blogs. I did not start entertaining people at the beginning of all the social media hype. I loved performing and had been doing it for a while…the old-fashioned way of networking and performing in person. Performing and touring was the “youtube” of the past, something I loved and did often. Now to get your music heard, all you have to do is upload it, tweet it, and facebook it, etc.!

Around 160 videos have been produced till then, however that’s since YouTube came along. I can’t count how many performances I’ve done since I was a little boy!

Me: How did social media help you?

Wilbur: Social media played a great part in rallying the community of Wilbur World Wide so I didn’t have to travel from city to city to get my music heard! It’s being adjustable and malleable. Changing with the times and using technology to its greatest capacity to get your message and art out into the world has benefitted me!

Me: Which social media platforms has benefitted you the most and how?

Wilbur: I have a personal blog and a Twitter account, but I am still exploring its potential and believe I will soon use them more extensively. Facebook is the platform I use the most and I have my Twitter account linked to it as well. Facebook really is a first class platform where I have found the most success in social media. Maybe I like it because I’m not limited to a certain character amount like in Twitter and there is more of a relational and community aspect to it. The ability to showcase photos, music, and being able to highlight links and content is really superb.

“YouTube,” I must say has revolutionized the way we perform as independent artists! How else can we get our music videos out there? No big record labels or music TV channels are going to approach the common person so having YouTube to get my content out is priceless in this day and age.

Me: If I have to ask you pick one social media platform that has worked most for you, which one it would be?

Wilbur: I believe that all social media platforms work hand in hand. Some could argue that YouTube would be the most that could benefit you but if you take Facebook away from YouTube, I find you lose a good chunk of your following. Twitter is so hot in India now and a friend of mine in the film industry said that people are gauged by the amount of Twitter followers they have! This is all very fascinating for me as I come from the era of tapes! Yes I know that dates me!!!

Me: How much credit you give to social media for your success?

Wilbur: I totally give social media the credit, but there is a balance! As I said in an interview on BBC radio last year, “social media and technology is just a way that brings me face to face with my fan base and allows me to develop community.” I have been able to travel around the world and meet with the Wilbur World Wide community because of social media! I’ve had some amazing conversations on Facebook with fans who have gone through hard times and just want someone to talk or listen to! I was even encouraged by a fan from Calcutta when I was going through a serious sickness last year.

Me: Any message to Young India?

Wilbur: Social media is important but do not get addicted to it. Technology in this day and age can be abused. Think about it! If you are on the internet all day and not developing face-to-face relationships, look what you are missing out on! We were created as relational human beings! We were meant to be in community! How many people miss out on the moment while they are at a concert or special event…“I have to take a picture of this and tweet it”…. and you know what happens…they miss experiencing that moment! How many thousands in the stands missed seeing Usain Bolt cross the finish line in 9.6 some seconds because their heads were down on their mobile phones or gadgets! They missed the moment! We truly have become the culture of “I” Me! Me! Me! Look at me! Are we self promoting the trivia these days?

Personal Branding on Social Media—How?

1. Identify Your USP

Before you plan to establish yourself on social media you need to chart out your value proposition and understand your expertise, core competencies, and define how you stand out from the crowd. Choose a topic, in which you want to become a thought leader, this needs to be relevant to your business, your career or your talent. Something, which makes you compelling and that you live with your passion. Remember, you are responsible for the niche you select and this will make your identity.

In 2008, when I decided to use social media as a personal branding tool I decided to position myself as a social media and digital marketing expert, I kept my USP broad because social media is a niche and digital marketing is a broad category so I had loads to do, say, and share in this space as both are relevant to each other. And that’s what my first thought on positioning myself on web. With time, I understood social media is where I wanted to be and my conversations, discussions, and all the activities on web started revolving around social media.

Think several times before you identify your niche or before you pick up the area or subject you want to become an expert at. You should really be good at it (not a compulsion, but that’s the first step of success).

2. Do Some Research

In the previous chapters of lead generation and online reputation management, you should have learnt about the importance of process of listening. The research done here is to benchmark some of the key players in the industry you want to excel at. Identify key players in area of your expertise and understand the following contexts:

  • Their presence on all the social networking sites.
  • What is the USP defined in their description of the profiles.
  • The flashy element of their presence: display pictures, background of Twitter, and design of their blog.
  • Level of activities they do every day (number of blog posts, number of tweets, number of visitors to the blog (through alexa), number of presentations and videos they share, number of people who share their updates, the kind of content that become popular, and responses to the queries they raise.

This will help you understand their presence from contextual and popularity perspective.

When I was positioning myself I followed the following personal brands and their blogs: scottmonty.com, jeffbullas.com, and erik qualman (@equalman) whose footsteps I followed while understanding what to write, what do discuss, how to promote, and how to become a thought leader.

3. Establishing a Credible Presence

Many of us have our presence on social media. We have been using social networking sites on day-to-day basis to converse, network, and share. Having a credible presence in social media is a lot different than just having a presence and here are few ways that can help you make your profile credible.

Choosing the right platform and username: Owning a web presence is the first thing that you should do and for that you should have your own blog with its own domain name and self-hosted. This domain name could be www. yourname.com or www.uniquename.com. With the same username you should also register with other social networking sites such as YouTube for videos; Flickr and Pinterest for images, Twitter for communication, LinkedIn and Quora for professional networking, and of course Facebook. A self-hosted blog booked on your domain name is important as that is your home-to-personal brand (unless you are an artist and YouTube is where your crowd is) and shows your thought richness as the content shared here is traceable on Google search and visible from the scratch to the visitors.

Choosing a common username for all your social media profiles is essential; it has to be professional and straight forward. They look highly organized as you show them on your email signature, visiting cards or resume. My usernames are generally booked under “soravjain” domain:

  • Blog: SoravJain.com.
  • Facebook: Facebook.com/SoravJain
  • LinkedIn: LinkedIn.com/in/SoravJain
  • Twitter: Twitter.com/SoravJain
  • Youtube: Youtube.com/SoravJain
  • Slideshare: Slideshare.net/SoravJain
  • Pinterest: Pinterest.com/SoravJain

A Pleasing Display Picture: Your profiles on social media must always carry a clear distinct image of yours. An apt image is the first step to evaluate credibility of a profile and a profile without image is always considered fake. Avoid using images of flowers, cartoons, landscapes, or any object. Profiles carrying any of these images are not much recognized and usually not responded. Use your profile suiting your positioning, you will always notice people on LinkedIn have a picture in professional attire where as people casually pose for a photograph on other social networking sites. A singer posing with mic is a great idea, if not so dramatic.

Complete Profile: Complete all the necessary details as per the requirements of a social networking site to make your profile complete. An incomplete profile lags behind. Identify those words associated with your niche and specialization; use those keywords while describing your profile on all possible social media channels and optimize them to put your personal brand in front of as many people as possible that displays your knowledge, credibility, and influence in the most professional manner possible. Each of these social media channels gives you opportunity to integrate or mention your presence on other social media channels.

4. Start Offering Value

Execute your consistent message via online and offline ways and look for opportunities to establish yourself as a thought leader. Considering your key niche as per the positioning, one can start offering value by writing interesting blog posts, uploading videos, sharing relevant photographs, sharing a lot of industry insights and opinions, and giving tips relevant to the expertise. Foy my use, I use social media channels in different ways mentioned in tabular column to share and obtain value relevant to social media and digital marketing (my expertise and my positioning). The same model can be adapted by small medium business owners, budding entrepreneurs, job seekers, and employees.

Sharing content has no specific policy or limitations; it is up to you how you put across your thoughts in front of public (Table 7.2). You need to think like a publisher and get out of the safe zone of sharing regular things, get out of regular process and think of something that gets shared and talked about. As Seth Godin mentions in his book “the Purple Cow,” “No one stops to look at a black and white cow but a ‘Purple Cow’.”

5. Discover Influencers and Network

All the above tactics increases your credibility and visibility on web, visualize yourself walking into a conference with no experience and you definitely are scared to speak out because the other members in the conference room are experts. Similarly, before you start networking with an individual on social media you need to be stuffed up with the regular process of contribution. On regular basis, you then start connecting with influencers in your niche on Twitter, join communities or make friends with like-minded individuals on Facebook and LinkedIn, start sharing their content, start responding to their thoughts, regularly follow to the industry-based conversations and join in the same with your opinion Daily search for relevant professionals or target audience on LinkedIn and find out opportunities via references, LinkedIn answers and groups to make professional network with them.

Networking with influencers must also be followed by networking and building up conversations. with the already growing fan base or one who rejoices your contents. For you are their influencer and this is the chain that needs to be continued on a day-to-day basis.

  1. On Facebook: Join communities, subscribe to influencer’s updates or make friends with them, advertise your community on Facebook.
  2. On Twitter: Follow relevant influencers, follow industry-based hashtags and find out like-minded individuals follow them, follow who your influencers are following, participate in the live tweeting of industry-relevant updates to increase visibility.
  3. On Blog: Regularly comment on other bloggers’ blog. Recommend other authors via your blog (give them a referral link), join the network of bloggers.
  4. On YouTube, Pinterest, and Slideshare: Subscribe to others updates and regularly share and comment on them.
  5. Ensure you use the right set of words while tagging and describing your content. Make your titles on Blogs, YouTube, and SlideShare search engine friendly.
  6. Promote your presence on social media through email signatures, visiting cards, resume, and places where your personal brands get visibility in the offline world.

Increase in level of activities with increased level of networking, will help your personal brand grow on social media with time.

Case Study 7.2: How Lakshmi Sarath Left Her Full-Time Job and Became a Travel Expert via Social Media

Lakshmi Sarath started blogging around 2004–2005 on backpakker. blogspot.in, to keep up with her writing skills; she started writing various personal blogs on another newly created blog, but was very serious with travel blog that opened a world full of opportunities after she had quit her job as a VP—Head of South, Big 92.7 FM. Ever since then, she took blogging seriously and travelled across world and made numerous friends due to her regular blogging on travel experiences. As she started blogging on travel, her passion for travelling developed, became stronger and she was passionate enough to close down all the other personal blogs and stick to the Travel blog merging it with her photography blog. Lakhsmi has covered over 25 countries, 5 continents, and nooks of India in her blog.

Besides completing 500 blog posts, Lakshmi is an active Twitter user with more than 2,000 followers, hosts a community page on Facebook and various boards on Pinterest, an inactive YouTube channel and she has been using all of them to promote her blogs on travel.

Lakshmi’s passion for travelling which she developed via blogging earned her a lot of respect and opportunities. Because of social media, her identity as 15 years experienced Media professional has been changed to a travel writer and blogger. Here are some of her achievements which she earned via her new personal brand developed via social media:

  • Lakshmi is invited by the following tourism boards: Singapore, Jordan, Ireland, and Poland to name a few to cover a story on their country and culture.
  • She is regularly invited by many luxury travel and hospitality brands to cover a story on them in return of either money or experience.
  • With years of experience in writing gained via blogging, she started a venture with a partner called “Content Shop” which helps both travel and non-travel related clients to develop interesting contents for their web presence and marketing collaterals.
  • She became a columnist with “The Metro Plus,” The Hindu, one of the widely read national newspaper in India.
  • She is also a passionate photographer. Her photos from the blogs got published several popular publications and books, websites, newspapers, magazines, and blogs such as Deccan Herald, Hindustan Times, Sunday Express, Bangalore Mirror, and Rediff.com.
  • Lakshmi consults for travel companies and resorts such as Club Mahindra, Jungle Lodges and Resorts, Orange County Resorts, Hoysala Village Resorts, Nature Zone, Munnar to promote their destinations through blogs and social media. She is the editor of the Club Mahindra Travel Blog called CLAY.

With rising popularity in online world, a story on Lakshmi Sarath has been covered by many magazines and newspapers.

The Rise of Twitter Celebrities

With growing popularity of Twitter in India and about 33 million Twitter users (refer table 2.2) there are many who are considered celebrities and thought leaders in their industry as they share a fair amount influence in the area of their expertise. Twitter is a channel that relishes short conversations and opens a global horizon of networking without any barriers of networking restrictions as one can talk to anyone globally. Some of the thought leaders who I have come across while my journey I would like to mention in this book (Table 7.3)—who have tweeted and blogged enough about happenings in the area of their expertise to become a thought leaders in the industry they belong to.

How Sajeev Nair Used Social Media to Establish His Brand and Create a Marketing Channel for His Book “Tathastu”

Sajeev Nair, a successful entrepreneur, Diamond member of Amway in India, turned transformational success coach and author wanted to create a digital presence positioning himself as a motivation trainer and to share his knowledge level based on the research he has been doing on the influence of luck and coincidences in the lives of successful people. Before establishing his presence on social media he had authored two bestselling books in Malayalam and was contributing as a columnist in various journals in the same language. His aim was to create visibility on social media before his third book “Tathastu” was launched which was targeting the global audience.

Mr. Sajeev created his presence on the following channels:

Facebook.com/iamsajeev, a community with 11,000+ fans twitter.com/iamsajeev with daily motivational tips, stories and quotes, updates about book sharing of blog post and showcasing the leisure life style of the entrepreneur. He used YouTube.com/Iamsajeev to show his training skills with more than 10 videos uploaded and 90,000+ viewers, He used sajeevnair.com/blog to showcase his writing skills. He entertained audience using slideshare.net/ iamsajeev with some motivational presentations.

Results

  • All in all, with common username and with regular content sharing on motivation, life, success he positioned himself on social media as a success coach, trainer, and author.
  • Social media has helped him connect with his reader base of both Malayalam and English books.
  • Sajeev has extensively used social media to talk about his book and promote it regularly.

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