Dos and Don’ts of Building A Personal Brand on LinkedIn
At this point, it is not debatable whether LinkedIn is a legitimate platform for generating B2B leads. Some might even argue (myself included) that it is the best-of-class. The simplest way to leverage LinkedIn for IT lead generation is to create a window into your business, it’s people, and the value that they bring. This is what is referred to as “Personal Branding.” For extroverted IT Founders and Serial Entrepreneurs this showmanship might come natural, but that is a rare breed in the IT Industry. For everyone else that is looking to dip their toe into the water of personal branding and lead generation on LinkedIn, here are some “dos & don’ts” for you to follow.
DO: Create Valuable LinkedIn Content Consistently
If you want to build your personal brand, you need to have some kind of unique point of view and offer original thoughts on your subject matter. Sharing other people’s blog content or your company’s static website content might work once in awhile, but it offers no incentive for people to follow you to see what you have to say next. Creating consistent content that has legitimate value is not easy, which is why those who pull it off have the highest rate of success.
The best way to get started is to choose the medium (article, video, audio) you feel most comfortable with, a topic you have a lot to say about, and dive in head first. For me, I prefer to write because I found that it is the easiest way to channel complete thoughts without straying from my message. By now you probably noticed that I am not an authority on grammar, punctuation or writing composition at all (nor do I claim to be). Even still, this shortcoming is conquered by my subject matter knowledge and ability to boil down my thoughts to provide as much actionable detail in as few words as possible. With practice and consistency, you will find your unique voice and creating content will become a natural part of your daily workflow.
DON’T: Put Yourself & Brand Before The Content
One thing that can work against you in building your personal brand is putting the brand and your objectives ahead of your content. If you have taken the time to develop thoughtful and insightful content that is valuable to your audience, you want people to consume it without friction. Don’t try to pitch your services or cleverly self-promote anything before the point in which the content is consumed.
One medium that this can be most challenging in is video. If you are creating video, you probably realize that you (and your personal brand) are front and center with nothing to hide behind. While this can lead to high brand engagement, I also found it to be the most repelling when done poorly. In fact, I wish I had a nickel for every selfie-style LinkedIn video I have seen of someone jogging on a treadmill while talking or some other ridiculous act of hubris. If you want to build a personal brand based on subject matter, avoid the temptation of showing off your “lifestyle” or whatever weird ulterior motive you may have. In my opinion, it just gets in the way of good content.
DO: Actively Engage In the Business Community
Once you have a cache of content that contains valuable information to your audience, your next step is to actively participate in the community to get your content noticed. There are plenty of people on LinkedIn that are looking for answers or recommendations that you can provide your valuable insight on. If there isn’t anything coming across your feed, search the hashtags of your industry verticals or any topics that your customers likely post about.
When you come across a discussion on your area of expertise, look to add to the conversation, not spin it into a sales pitch or stuff it with links. If what you say makes sense, the readers of your post will likely view your profile to ensure you are a reliable source of information and explore more of your work. Assuming you have a complete profile, they themselves will take the initiative to find out what services you offer and reach out if they are interested. This might appear far-fetched, but I can assure you that it is becoming increasingly more common and I see more success with these tactics each and every week.
DON’T: Post Updates When You Have Nothing To Say
If you are looking to actively engage on LinkedIn for the purpose building a personal brand, it can be difficult to self-edit. Sometimes the conversations are simply not there to join. When this occurs, it can be tempting to stretch your opinion a little too far just to throw your name into the mix and stay relevant in the moment. This is something that I see happening more in my feed as of recently and it is my number one reason for “un-following” someone.
Always take the position of quality over quantity when it comes to LinkedIn posts. This means that if you can’t find your way into a conversation naturally and provide value then don’t say anything at all. While this might be bad for your overall brand impressions, it will definitely help you retain your audience. You won’t lose followers for not posting content, but you will likely lose followers for posting poor quality content on a consistent basis.
DO: Build A Separate Social Following For Personal Brand
If you are a Founder/Owner of an IT firm, you have the challenge of building two brands; your own and your company’s. If you are creating content on company assets such as a Blog, LinkedIn or Youtube channels it is important to cross-link as much as possible. Make sure that consumers of the content have the option to explore details about the company or you personally, whichever they choose.
This can easily be done by linking to your LinkedIn profile in the Author box of your blog posts or in the description of your Youtube videos. I found that people prefer to go the route of my personal brand when interacting with me. For example, I get far more messages on LinkedIn (which I sincerely welcome) than I do the contact form on our website. In today’s world, people want access. Make sure you find a way to give it to them, but on your terms.
DON’T: Over-Invest In An Asset You Can’t Exit
While I believe that personal brand is incredibly important for an IT Founder/CEO, it is also important not to over-leverage it. Consolidation in the Managed Services industry is a popular trend and while you may not have the intention to exit your firm right now, that doesn’t mean you won’t in the future.
If your entire marketing funnel hinges on the use of personal accounts to drive organic or paid brand impressions then you need to rethink your strategy. These assets are not transferable and thus have no value to anyone but yourself. Building an audience around your company brand first, then siphoning your personal audience from that will allow you to maximize the long term value in any scenario.