In this user story, we talk with Zoë Björnson, a Product Marketing Manager at about.me. We discuss the growing trends she and her team are seeing on the frontlines of personal branding. Zoë shares tips for creating a unique personal brand, and shows us examples of those creatively demonstrating to the world who they are.
For some professionals, thinking only about the company or brand they work for is more important than thinking about the creation of their own personal brand. What do people think about when they hear your name? It’s a daunting task to brainstorm about your personal brand, dig through feedback from peers, nail down highlights, and then articulate your newly formed personal brand effectively to the masses.
But the truth is, personal brands impact us just as much – if not more – than corporate brands. Cheryl Burgess and Mark Burgess, authors of The Social Employee, recently shared their finding that employees have on average 10 times more social connections than a brand does.
“The question is no longer if you have a personal brand, but if you choose to guide and cultivate the brand or to let it be defined on your behalf,” writes Shama Hyder in her Forbes piece on personal branding.
You can think of about.me as your address on the web, your all-in-one digital profile. The startup spun out of AOL in February of 2013, and after two short years grew to 2.1 billion profile views per year and 5 million users. The product is meant for those seeking to boost their personal brand. It’sa single, unified profile page where they can house their digital identity.
As a Product Marketing Manager at about.me, Zoë Björnson focuses on finding creative ways to share about.me with new people and help keep users happy. She also manages the startup’s social media, email marketing, and editorial content.
“In a nutshell, about.me is the best place to look professional and centralize your online presence,” explains Zoë. “We make it easy to create a seamless presentation of who you are and what’s important to you.”
Graduate from a resume to cultivating a personal brand
Zoë points to the words of Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon, to help those she talks to understand what a personal brand really encapsulates:
“Branding is what people say about you when you are not in the room.” – Jeff Bezos
“Your personal brand is your reputation, how others can recognize you, but most importantly, it can be your vision of who you want to be,” said Zoë. “A personal brand is important to have because it helps you stand out, online or off. By finding a creative way to present yourself and how you work, you can differentiate yourself from others.”
Your personal brand is how others recognize you. It's your vision of who you want to be.Click To Tweet
Is cultivating a personal brand just for those with experience in branding, like PR professionals or expert marketers? Zoë suggests we ignore the assumption that personal branding is only for a handful of us.
“I think that just about anyone should have a personal brand. It can help you create a recognizable style of work – whether that actually means your design aesthetic or how you work on a team,” she explained. “Personal brands are especially helpful for those running their own business or freelancing. There are so many people out there doing the same thing as you. Your personal brand can be a way to really get noticed.”
There are so many people doing the same thing as you. Your personal brand is a way to get noticed.Click To Tweet
When professionals view their personal branding through the lens of a resume or CV, they miss a key element of personal branding – the fully human picture.
“A CV can only go so far,” said Zoë. “It has no personality and is only a drop of water in the ocean that is you. With a strong personal brand, you can give a little life to your CV and people can see you beyond a piece of paper with a bunch of bullet points. Your personal brand is you, inside and out, not just your hand-selected bullet points. A personal brand makes you more human, and people like to work with other real people.”
What goes into a personal brand
Chances are, if you are thinking about your personal brand for the first time, there are a number of differences between the current brand you’re showing the world and what you would like it to become.
“The truth is, you’re probably already been building your brand without even knowing it,” explained Zoë. “Have you posted an Instagram lately? What about a Snapchat story? Have you retweeted anything on Twitter? Even the font you choose for your CV is a snippet of your personal brand!”
If everything you do is a representation of your personal brand, it’s important to be aware of whether your digital footprint is on right path. Will the brand you are cultivating help you reach your career goals? Are you purposeful when you share links to articles? Is your personal brand ever-evolving or are you stuck in a rut? Do you tell the world who you are and where you’re headed?
“Anyone who wants to be recognized for attributes of their personal brand – including their work ethic, aesthetic, and timeliness – should be cognizant of what people might say when they’re not in the room,” said Zoë. “There’s no need to “make it” before you start building your brand. Your personal brand will help you make it because it will make you recognizable.”
No need to “make it” before starting to build your brand. Your brand will help you make it.Click To Tweet
Three tips for building your personal brand
Zoë and members of the team at about.me have seen over five million people use their product as a landing place for their personal brands. Zoë shares her top three tips for building a unique personal brand:
TIP 1: Be authentic.
“A personal brand works best when it’s your personal brand – no one else’s,” shared Zoë. “If you don’t like editing photos before you post them, don’t. If you wouldn’t use that word in real life, don’t use it in that email. If you’re always taking selfies, then by all means, post that selfie!”
Zoë encourages professionals creating their personal brand to avoid trying to be anyone else, both online and offline.
“It won’t help you in the long run. Showcase the real you and people will take notice. The strongest personal brands are the most honest, candid, and authentic,” she said.
TIP 2: Don’t do too much.
“Don’t do all the social medias!” laughed Zoë, clapping between each word. “Again, it’ll only hurt you. Figure out what you do well and do that. If you stretch yourself too thin across all of the platforms that are at your disposal, you won’t be memorable on any of them. Hone in on what resonates with your audience and you have the most fun with and keep doing that.”
TIP 3: Make it easy.
By making it easy, Zoë doesn’t mean for you, silly – she means for people who want to connect with you.
“It should be easy for people to learn more about you,” she explained. “A well-designed business card with the right information goes a long way, as does a short and sweet (but informative!) Twitter bio with a link to where I can learn more about you if I choose to.”
“If someone takes a liking to what you’re doing, they shouldn’t have to go on a wild goose chase to find out how they can connect with you or see more of what you’re doing,” she added. “Make it easy for people to learn more and connect with you.”
Examples of taking your personal brand visual
As the web is morphing to a more visual context, our team at Piktochart believes there is a more powerful way to tell a story than words: visual storytelling.
“Because of how our brains work, visuals, when done right, are so much easier to digest,” said Zoë. “When you tie in personal branding, using visuals can help others get a better understanding of who we are, quickly. Even something as simple as what photo you choose to represent yourself across the internet can be a defining factor in how people see you and your personal brand.”
Zoë has seen that people have used about.me’s gallery add-on to get super creative with their photos to make them not just just an image, but actually an important piece of their personal brand.
“One of my favorites is Aiman Najjar, a freelance developer who uses his photo gallery to showcase his knowledge of various tools and programs,” said Zoë. “It’s so much more visually intriguing and informative than just reading it on a page. It also gives me a better sense of his personal brand and how he works. “
Zoë points to another favorite – a page from Anja Svetina Nabergoj, a lecturer at Stanford University’s Hasso Plattner Institute of Design.
“Anja uses her gallery so that visitors can learn more about design thinking before clicking on her Spotlight, the call-to-action button on her page, to ask her about D.thinking workshops,” shared Zoë. “Anja’s visuals give me a stronger sense of who she is and what’s important to her – her work in design – before I decide to move forward and connect with her.”
Zoë is quick to point out visual storytelling isn’t off limits to people without a design background. She uses these tools to jazz up her digital designs and stand out:
“Pablo lets you easily create engaging visuals to share on social media,” she said. “Perfect for visualizing quotes or making your content stand out. If you want people to take note of your content online, use visuals to do so. These images will also showcase your personal style, enriching your personal brand.”
Zoë is also a fan of our tool here at Piktochart. “Piktochart is great for recent graduates who want to get creative with their CV or resume,” she said. “I’ve always loved seeing innovate resumes when browsing about.me, and Piktochart’s templates are perfect for anyone who isn’t a graphic designer, but wants to showcase their experience with flare.”
“Video isn’t next, it’s here,” declares Zoë. “I use Quik to edit short videos of my travels. I love how easy it is to use, while still making your content look professional. I’d recommend anyone who has an interest in exploring video content creation to use it so you can start building your portfolio.”
Are you planning to develop your personal brand in 2017? Which of Zoë’s tips will help you get started on your journey? What kind of creative visuals do you think will help tell your brand story more effectively? We’d love to hear from you!