June 2020

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8 min

Ask me anything about personal brand

In the last few weeks, a lot of my friends have had to look for a new job. So we talked a lot about CVs, cover letters, personal brand and portfolios. I noticed I was answering the same questions over and over again so decided to set up an AMA session on Twitter.

How do you decide what’s on brand?

Some people will tell you they can’t discuss certain topics on social media because it’s not “on brand”. Well, if it matters to you, it IS on brand. Hence the importance of building a brand that is genuine, and in line with your personal & professional values.

Don’t fear having a variety of topics that together make “your brand”. My job is branding & design. My cause is gender diversity & inclusion. So I support access to education for girls in Cambodia. And I tweet about design. All of these things make “my brand”, but that’s just a fancy word to describe the person I am. If you meet me in real life, it’s also what I talk about.

You don’t have to talk about one thing only. You’re allowed to show humanity and care about more random stuff. That’s more likely to get people to take an interest in you actually. That being said, don’t go on forever about utter nonsense just because no one’s stopping you.

If you lose followers for something you believe in, it’s fine. You’ll attract other people who care, people interested in all the things you have to say. It’s like having friends. You don’t have to support their odd taste in ice cream and yet, you’re not banning them from your life.

Now, if your social media accounts represent a company you founded and not just your freelance activity, the rules are slightly different. Your brand has values, personality and processes. Stick to them. They should be just as genuine as your personal accounts. But maybe prefer your personal account to share your wider opinions about casual things. Like, is broccoli on pizza a thing?

And remember your content marketing shouldn’t interfere with business. It’s adding personality to your brand and can help people choose you over your competitors. But that’s not your product — unless it is.

How can I define my personal brand?

The easy answer is that you’ve got it all in you already. But realistically, you might not be aware of it yet. So, first, what do you care about? What’s your background? What do you want for the future? What’s your personality like? What do you want to attract?

If someone interviewed you, what would they find out about your story that’s unique, that goes beyond a list of places you worked at and schools you attended? What have you witnessed in life that’s taught you things?

Here’s an example: I’m multicultural, born and raised in France with Serbian roots. We spoke Italian at home. Then I went to study & work in the UK. Why does it matter? That’s all part of my story and it’s relevant to my work because it means I’m used to adapting to different cultures. I know what it’s like not to fit in & think in several languages.

What else? I’m visually oriented. I have a background in film & photography. So I know about storytelling, having an idea and pushing it all the way into something that just started with my imagination. I can do great things from very little.

I also like to see people grow. Particularly women. So I tweet about gender diversity. I support charities investing in Cambodian girls’ education, Women Make’s community for women makers & Frauvis, a community for black women in tech. Because the people I want in my network are people who share my values. People who support the causes I care about.

I talk about these things online because I want people to relate to what I care about, so I know we have things in common. We’d work well together. That’s what you need to define for yourself. Who are you trying to attract?

It can be hard to do it on your own though. So talk to people. It’s easier for them to spot things about you than it is for you. You’ve been in your own shoes for too long.

These are the sort of things I can help you with by the way. I can interview you, pull those gems from you and turn them into strategic assets. So that you can articulate your story.

How do I choose which social network to go for?

The worst idea you can have when starting your marketing is opening multiple social accounts without knowing what you’ll post in there. Or to just rely on your friends & relatives to share it with their contacts. Content marketing is strategic. You don’t just show up and try.

The reason you need a strong content plan is that each social network has its own unspoken rules and audiences. Each of them will serve different purposes for your brand. So there’s literally no point posting the same stuff across all of them.

Facebook works well for groups, magazines & local businesses. Anyone can comment freely in there. It’s a much wider & frequent audience than Twitter. But it doesn’t mean it’s necessarily relevant to everyone.

Instagram works perfectly for impulsive purchases in fashion, beauty, wellness & travel. There’s no need to feature your blog posts in there, as Instagram doesn’t allow clickable links apart from the one in your bio. So think value-based imagery.

Twitter works perfectly to give your brand a voice. It’s a place for conversation. It’s relevant to share people’s work as much as your own. The way you engage with people here will say a lot about your personality.

Do I really need a designer for my site?

With all the user-friendly no-code solutions flourishing every day, that’s a great question. So first, what are your objectives? What budget do you have? What a UX designer does is create a visual interface based on the elements of your story, your values, your services & products. This interface will make sense to users outside of your own brain.

Also, a well designed interface helps you gain trust. If your site is trying to get traffic or money, it needs to be trustworthy. Having a coherent user flow, with not too much/not too little info is key.

Now, if you want to be autonomous and update your site yourself, ask your designer to work within the constraints of a platform you’re comfortable using. But be open for new solutions. Wordpress isn’t necessarily the easiest one.

If you’re a freelancer and all you need is a space to send people to, with info about your expertise, the projects you’re interested in working on and why you’re relevant to their business, a Squarespace or Shopify site will do. Especially if you don’t have a big budget.

A designer can still spend a day or two figuring out what’s the best layout/design hierarchy & information positioning for you. I do that sometimes, it’s not my favourite thing but it’s a quick win for clients with small budgets.

If you want something fancier, you do need a designer and potentially a developer. Few people do both things really well. And when they do, their day rate is high, for good reason.

Speaking of, don’t freak out about a dev or designer’s day rate. Think about how much you’ll be making thanks to your investment in their services. What is the ROI you’re targeting? Only that defines if it’s worth hiring a designer or developer.

How do I know my site projects the right vibe?

That comes up often because people want to be taken seriously without sounding unapproachable. It’s a common issue. There’s what you want to project, what you think you project and what you actually project.

The only way to make sure that you site tells the right story about you, you need feedback. It’s all about this external perspective. Ask people who know your business and others who know nothing about it. Both sides will bring you valuable feedback.

It’s particularly true if you built your site on your own. It’s ok not to have the budget to afford a designer’s services. But you can still ask UX professionals to send you feedback and ensure the user flow makes sense. Even if you have to pay them an hour or two, it’s really worth it.

Vibe aside, there’s also what you want to be known for. For example, I have this friend who’s helped me many times on both my sites to fix code & FTP issues. And yet, he asked me the other day “do you do design?”.

I was a bit stunned at first. Of course, I do! But then I realise, does my site push that at the forefront? Can I be a bit clearer? Feedback is the only way to get the kind of realizations you thought you didn’t need. The same thing applies to the vibe you think you project.

Should brands use emojis on social?

A question submitted by Alyssa X on the perception of brands who try to appear friendly. Is that always a good thing? It depends. But the first thing you need to know about emojis is that’s they’re not accessible. Screen readers can’t always read them and depending on cultures, they’re interpreted differently.

Now “is this childish or cool” is the same thing as “is this on brand?”. It’s definitely more a techy start-up thing than a traditional corporate thing.