I’ll never forget the first time I ever called myself a founder in front of a crowd full of people. My business partner and I had just arrived at a technology summit in San Francisco. As we walked through the corridor and past the check-in booth, we gave each other sideways glances. We were the only women in the room.
I remember feeling uneasy because it was the first time I ever gave someone my “elevator pitch.” My voice shook and I could feel the sweat on my palms, stomach tied in knots (mom’s spaghetti… you get the idea).
As the word “founder” left my mouth, I felt surprised. Me? I didn’t feel qualified.
Truth be told, I was brand new at this thing. A total novice. I had just graduated from college one year prior and had taken a giant leap into entrepreneurship with my long-time friend and business partner.
In order for the company to grow quickly enough, we had to raise capital. We wrote a business plan and created our pitch deck. It felt like we were in investor meetings every day. As a first time founder, I remember feeling terrified. I felt like an impostor in those meetings—and it showed. People questioned my place at my own company, the very company I had built.
Is she really the right person for this position? She doesn’t have what it takes. Will her inexperience keep the company from growing fast enough?
All of these objections began circulating in conversation. I was devastated. Any founder knows the incredible sacrifice it takes to build something from the ground up, and here I was in jeopardy of losing it all.
However, I knew deep down that I had talent. I had grit. My unique personality and professional expertise were critical to the company’s success. I just needed to communicate this in a way that my colleagues and potential investors could understand.
How I Embraced Personal Marketing
First, I decided to take a hard look at my digital assets. How could I leverage social media as a way to secure my position at my company and make me appear more credible to investors?
I started a personal website and began blogging about the things I knew well (social media, branding, and my own personal story). I optimized all of my social media profiles to represent the kind of founder my colleagues needed me to be (the person I truly was). Then, I began marketing myself on Instagram and LinkedIn. Eventually, over time, I was able to cultivate a highly engaged audience across multiple platforms.
Slowly but surely, my work began to pay off. I had used social media as a way to clarify the message I wanted to send and shape the way people perceived me as an entrepreneur.
Not only did I feel more confident in meetings, but I also noticed that my personal marketing efforts were giving my company more exposure. More inquiries. More awareness. More recognition.
It was the most powerful form of marketing I had ever executed.
This is personal branding.
When founders optimize their online presence and market themselves in a purposeful way, they can position themselves as “industry experts.” These people are credible thought leaders. A person that people can trust.
When a company’s message comes from a living, breathing person, we are more inclined to believe it. We can trust and relate to other humans in a way that is impossible to do with a faceless company.
Your personal brand is the secret potion that will make your company and its offering terribly irresistible. It gives your audience a clear understanding of who you are, what you do, and why you do it.
Personal Branding vs. Personal Marketing
However, it is important to understand that there is a distinction between personal branding and personal marketing. While your personal brand is essentially how you appear to the world, Personal marketing is how you share yourself with the world.
Personal marketing is a combination of sharing your life, marketing your business, and telling your personal story in a way that attracts your target audience. The challenge lies in blending these three together in a way that’s effective. In a digital economy, we know that everyone is competing for clients and customers, so, the only way to give your company a competitive edge is to become a savvy personal marketer.
When it comes to personal marketing, Instagram stands apart from all other platforms as a place to promote brand engagement with users. Here are three ways you can use Instagram to become a stand-out personal marketer:
1. Use Your Personal Instagram Profile to Market Your Business
Many entrepreneurs make the mistake of keeping their personal profiles private or not using them to market their businesses at all.
Don’t do this.
Entrepreneurs who leverage their personal influence drive more traffic and generate more exposure for their companies. While you may think that your small follower base will make no difference, you would be wrong. As you become more comfortable with personal marketing, you’ll find that your efforts will ensure that you remain top-of-mind with your audience.
Using Instagram Stories
Instagram Stories are an effective way to sell your product/service because it humanizes the entire customer journey. I always encourage entrepreneurs to use the “show-don’t-tell” approach. Does your business change lives? Make your customers’ lives easier? Solve a specific problem? Great! Show them how—and do so with a personal flair.
Incorporate the way you conduct business into your IG stories. For example, if you own a consulting firm, you can show your audience how you help your clients by taking them behind the scenes. What kind of resources and tools do you use in your approach? Do you have any tips or tricks that your audience may find helpful in their own lives? Is there any software that you’ve found helpful in your business? Share even the smallest tidbits of information, especially if you believe that these tips will help your audience succeed.
Here are some examples of my IG posts/stories where I give my audience pro tips.
The show-don’t-tell approach ensures that your content remains helpful and the least “salesy” as possible. A good rule of thumb is to provide value 80% of the time and ask your audience to take action 20% of the time. For instance, you can ask them to click the link in your bio to sign up for your newsletter, download your opt-in, or simply purchase your product or service. Instagram stories are a great way to inspire your audience to engage with your company in a personal way.
Using Instagram Posts
There are some important things to remember when planning your next Instagram post. For one, use images or videos that are clear and high quality.
Also, remember that since fewer people are consuming content on desktop-based platforms, it’s a good idea to write long-form Instagram captions in conjunction with your blog posts. Focus on writing your captions for your smallest viable audience who needs to read it, as opposed to your collective 1,000 Instagram followers.
For example, I may write a long-form caption that is speaking to a specific topic that not all of my audience may find necessary to read. This is perfectly OK because the 10 people who find it important are the 10 people who likely become client or customers of mine one day. Those 10 people are far more valuable to me than the approval of 1,000 people who aren’t likely to take action.
When we focus on creating content for our smallest viable audience, our efforts go much farther because we have the opportunity to 10x our credibility in the eyes of the people who matter the most (our potential clients and customers).
Here’s some of my long-form captions:
In order to be effective at personal marketing, it’s important to remember that we’re not creating content for ourselves, we’re creating content for our audience. Every time someone asks you a question about something you know well, write it down. This is your next Instagram caption or IGTV (this post explains how to dominate Instagram video marketing).
Always create content that is informative, personal, or entertaining (it must be one of these three). Post only with the intention of providing value, and your message will excite your prospects about the possibility of working with you in the future.
2. Get Comfortable With Sharing Your Lifestyle
When it comes to personal marketing, remember that any pieces of content that contain you as the focal point will always receive the most engagement.
Don’t be afraid to share more about yourself: your work, passions, and hobbies. People want to see you, the person behind the company, more than anything else. It’s those small personal details that help you become more relatable–and being relatable ensures that your audience will trust you. The more they trust you, the more likely they are to become loyal brand adopters of your company.
A good way to become relatable online is to find common ground between you and your audience. What types of things can people connect on? These may be common likes, dislikes, or even pain points. Highlight the experiences you enjoy.
For instance, you can talk about the kinds of exercises you like, what you and your spouse enjoy doing on the weekends, and even some of the things that make you tick (or sick!). All of these topics may not directly relate to your business, but that’s exactly why they work.
Here are some examples of IG stories that I shared when I moved into my new apartment. I shared the behind the scenes of moving day, and it had absolutely nothing to do with my business, but it received some of the best engagement.
How you connect with people in real life should be mirrored on social media if you want to be successful at personal marketing. This means you should talk to the camera exactly like you’re talking to your friends, write captions as you would speak in real life, and share photos that reveal your lifestyle in an authentic way.
Never be afraid of saying the “wrong” thing. People like people who take strong stances. Share your opinions. Be polarizing, and say exactly what you mean. You may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but you will hyper-attract a like-minded audience that thoroughly enjoys your content and shares it with their friends. This is how a loyal community of followers is built.
James Smith is an excellent example of someone who has built a personal brand that is known for being polarizing and opinionated. His mission is to expose the flaws and common misconceptions in the fitness industry. He curses regularly and pisses a lot of people off, but he has built an extremely loyal follower base and an incredibly successful online business because of it.
Taking a more active role on your personal Instagram may seem daunting at first. It can be difficult to put yourself out there, especially if this isn’t something that comes naturally to you. My best advice is to make a strong effort to silence your doubts, insecurities, and fears about what other people think of you. These fears will inhibit you from being the fully expressed, authentic version of yourself, which is exactly the version that people need to see.
3. Use Instagram to Tell Your Story
Your content will become more effective when you use storytelling as a way to share your personal life as it relates to your business.
You can use Instagram Stories to create this kind of narrative. Start from the very beginning. Where did you go to school? What did you study in school? And how did your education (if any at all) affect where you are in your career today? Share photos and videos that highlight these milestones.
When you compile all of this content together on one Instagram Story reel, you can then save it under your highlight section with a label that reads “my story.” When new users visit your profile, they can access this compilation and learn more about who you are and what you do right from the get-go.
Rachel Bell, a business coach and mentor, has a great “my story” tab in her highlights section. She takes her visitors on the journey of where she started, and what it took to get to where she is today. By being transparent, she is able to cultivate strong feelings of trust within her audience.
Use Storytelling in Your Instagram Captions
You can also use the storytelling approach when it comes to your Instagram captions. Now that we’ve determined that long-form captions are a good way to provide value, use a story to hook your audience and draw them in (just like I did at the beginning of this post). Jenna Kutcher does an excellent job of writing a narrative that allows her brand to convey important ideas and key messages.
Source: Jenna Kutcher
How Will Your Business Solution Benefit Others?
A business provides solutions. Your job is to share with your audience how those solutions will benefit them in the long run. For instance, I am a personal brand strategist, right? When I use Instagram, my goal is to express to my audience the benefits of having a personal brand through my own personal story.
Because of my personal brand, I was able to do X.
Because of my personal brand, I was invited to Y.
Because of my personal brand, I was awarded Z.
Everything I communicate on my Instagram is supporting the belief that having an intentional personal brand and marketing plan will positively impact the person who wants to build their career.
Now, you have to do the same for you and your business. You can leverage your own personal story to highlight how your business can solve your customers’ problems.
The most powerful form of marketing lies in the power of your personal brand. Once you begin to market your personal brand consistently over time, you will then build a loyal customer base and drive profit for your company.
It May Take Some Time to Market Yourself, but You Can Do This!
Many entrepreneurs believe this will be easy. They assume that writing a few blog posts and sharing a few stories on Instagram will give them a quick return on investment. This is simply not the case.
Remember, personal marketing is the consistent act of sharing your genuine self with the world. Personal marketing is not an overnight solution to getting more awareness, credibility, and recognition for your company. It’s simply an effective means of getting there, and the road is a long one. Many of the most successful personal marketers are the ones who remain consistent on social media for months, and even years.
They don’t fear what people think of them, or if they sound “annoying” or “salesy” on Instagram Stories. They push. Persist. And they engrain their message into our minds.
If your mission is purposeful and you have a genuine concern for the needs of your audience, you will succeed as a personal marketer. Your company will enjoy the benefits of a loyal customer base and increased brand equity for years to come.
Are you using your personal instagram profile to support the growth of your business? What has been the most challenging part of getting personal on social media? Tell me in the comments below.