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When Branding Yourself, Avoid This Mistake

There's a lot of pressure to brand yourself in certain ways.

Key points

  • There's no shortage of people urging you to brand yourself and formulaic advice on how to build your brand.
  • Following one-size-fits-all branding advice can leave you feeling trapped if it doesn't fit who you really are.
  • The first step in branding yourself should be truly figuring out who you are before devising a branding strategy.
Ferdinand Studio / Pexels
People may say you are your brand. But are you making sure that your brand is you?
Source: Ferdinand Studio / Pexels

These days it seems like there's an endless stream of people on social media telling you that you need to brand yourself. This includes those who have branded themselves as experts at telling you that you have to brand yourself. While listening to what's being said on social media can be sort of like listening to what's written on the walls of public restroom stalls, it is true that clearly identifying yourself, which is the definition of branding, can help sell yourself, your products, and your services. And if you indeed want to jump on the brand wagon, you may be wondering how to go about branding yourself.

There's certainly no shortage of formulaic advice, such as writing periodic peppy posts pushing your brand on LinkedIn. Or commenting on Instagram, TikTok, or Twitter about every single piece of news related in any way to your brand. Or making sure your product or service is seen in every photo, every video, and every time you appear anywhere. There's also the advice that you should figure out what people want first and then develop your brand accordingly.

But before you say, "let's go branding" and follow any such advice, there's one thing you should do: Figure out who you really are and what you really, really want, in the words of the Spice Girls. Otherwise, if you brand yourself in a way that doesn't match who you are, you might end up being a wannabe.

Far too many people follow stock branding advice and try to be what they think others want them to be and do what they think they are supposed to do to brand themselves. This has included numerous people who have branded themselves as "leaders" but didn't really want to deal with the bleep that leaders have to do, such as, you know, help the people that they are supposed to be leading. And people who have branded themselves as experts in areas that they haven't really cared about or understood.

It has also included people who have done stuff to brand themselves that they've found highly unpleasant, such as writing periodic peppy posts on LinkedIn when they really don't like writing or really don't like being peppy. Such approaches may have worked initially to get folks higher positions, mo money, and mo attention. But in the long run, in many cases, it's brought mo problems, such as too much pressure to maintain processes and a brand that really didn't fit who they are. In some cases, some of these folks even had nervous breakdowns.

Branding yourself in a manner that doesn't fit your background, interests, expertise, and personality can be like shoving yourself into a pair of Spanx that's several sizes too small and lined with Crazy Glue. It can leave you feeling trapped, stuck, and really, really uncomfortable. Once you are trapped in a brand that you've mistakenly created, it can be a massive undertaking to either conform to the brand or extricate yourself from it.

Photo by Polina Tankilevitch from Pexels.
The best way to brand a product is to represent what it truly is.
Source: Photo by Polina Tankilevitch from Pexels.

The first step in branding yourself should be truly figuring out who you are. Ask yourself what you'd enjoy doing on a day-to-day basis, not just on a month-to-month or year-to-year basis. After all, you may have to live your brand and the strategy associated with it every single day.

Only after that should you then devise a brand and branding strategy that matches who you actually are. Don't listen to so-called branding experts who try to sell you a one-size-fits-all formula. For every person who has successfully used a certain branding strategy, there are plenty of others who have used different approaches to become successful. For example, how much did Sergy Brin and Larry Page really push their own personal brands before Google, the company that they founded, went big time?

And even though people may tell you that you've got to maintain a presence on LinkedIn, Instagram, TikTok, Twitter, or the social media platform du jour, there are plenty of celebrities who avoid social media—Kiera Knightly, Emma Stone, and Rachel McAdams, who once told People magazine in 2009, "I listen to the news on the radio. I don't have a television and I am really bad at e-mail." There are many different ways to achieve a goal.

That's why the best way to brand yourself is to be yourself. Choose a brand that is really, truly you. Select branding strategies that match what you really like to do as well. For example, if sending a picture of you with a piece of cake to 10,000 of your besties on Instagram isn't your thing, then maybe you'll be better off with a branding strategy that instead involves building deeper more meaningful relationships that in turn can lead to other deeper more meaningful relationships.

By being who you truly are your brand will emerge much more naturally. And even though some people may be great at faking authenticity, many potential customers, clients, partners, or followers can sense when you are being more versus less authentic. Plus, when you remain yourself, whenever someone contacts you, you don't have to quickly decide whether you or your brand should answer.

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