Building a personal brand has become common practice in the marketing world. You don’t have to look very far into LinkedIn to find marketers posting about industry topics, commenting on current affairs, or advertising their content platforms like blogs or podcasts.
Yet no matter how popular the practice, there’s still no one-size-fits-all strategy to follow in order to jump in on the trend and build a successful personal brand.
So what should you do to get started, and how can you drive results for your business, your content platform, or simply make your online persona more visible?
In the latest episode of Ungated Marketing, Daniel Murray, Marketing Operations Leader and Solutions Consultant at Clearbit, and host of The Marketing Millennials podcast, tells us all about building and growing a personal brand.
Building Your (Personal) Brand
Daniel Murray has been building an extensive career in marketing operations. More recently, he became a household name in the marketing industry after launching his podcast, The Marketing Millennials.
But even before the podcast’s success, Daniel had already begun building his personal brand on LinkedIn, where he now has close to 80.000 followers — a “decent-sized following” he credits as having helped launch The Marketing Millennials podcast and contributed to its fast growth. The podcast’s following has since surpassed Daniel’s and is around 280.00 followers, and has become its own self-sustaining project, independent from the “Daniel Murray” brand.
Whether we’re talking about building a personal brand or a brand around a self-launched project, Daniel has useful tips to share to get started.
Finding Your Passion
Regardless of posting on your personal profile on social media or on a project page, Daniel’s number one advice is to pick a topic you’re passionate about.
On the one hand, he explains, you “have to love consuming that content to be able to produce good content.” For him, “it’s hard to write about a topic if you’re not consuming outside things to get ideas,” so it’s important to emerge yourself in something you’ll actually enjoy reading and, later, writing about.
On the other hand, picking something you’re passionate about helps maintain what is Daniel’s second piece of advice — consistency. “You have to be passionate [because] through the bad days, and the good days, you’re just going to keep posting.”
Daniel thinks of consistency as the hardest part of building your brand and as something people often overlook.
He compares it to working out: “[People] don’t show up at least three to five days a week. It’s like you coming to tell me, ‘I want to be fit and I’m going to run a 5k,’ and then you run once a month and, in a year, you’ve run 12 times. You’re not going to be fit for that.” Similarly, you’re not going to grow an audience if you post something just once a month, so you need to commit to being consistent on the platform(s) you choose to be present in.
There are several ways to ensure you’re publishing consistent content — you can set up a monthly content calendar to follow, or create a batch of content at once which you then divide by a number of posts. Daniel’s method includes keeping a note where he jots down all ideas that come to mind that he can refer to at all times. He then picks something people haven’t seen yet, or he repurposes a topic he’s already written about but is still relevant.
However, as he explains, “a lot of social is reactive, [so] I think there are proactive things you can do, but you have to [keep up] with the times and trends and stay up to date.” So, to keep a consistent publication, it’s important to come up with your own ideas, but also keep an eye open to what’s happening around you to be able to jump in on pertinent conversations.
When taking on such an endeavor of building a brand, you’re likely to already have a social channel with a higher organic reach than others. It can be LinkedIn, Instagram, Twitter, or even TikTok. It doesn't matter; what matters is to identify this top-of-funnel channel and leverage its content on your other platforms.
Daniel exemplifies: “While you're creating a TikTok audience, it would be good to create long-form videos to YouTube. For LinkedIn, it would be good if someone [...] did long-form blog posts or newsletters and stuff like that. And then push it to a LinkedIn page.”
At the end of the day, it’s about creating top-of-funnel content for your main channel, which you can then divide into smaller pieces of content and repurpose them to push across other social media. This way, you’ll not only be maintaining much-needed consistency by feeding your different platforms regularly, but you’ll also be utilizing just the one piece of content multiple times, which makes the creation process simpler.
Overcoming Imposter Syndrome
Putting yourself out there isn’t easy. Even if you’re not creating video content, merely sharing your thoughts in writing on LinkedIn or elsewhere online can feel daunting. It might also make you second guess yourself at times, and wonder if you should be sharing anything at all.
Even seasoned experts like Daniel get hit by imposter syndrome now and then. “Marketing is just a hard profession because it's so ever-changing. Even if you’re one of the best out there… Everybody that I've met that are even way better marketers than I am have imposter syndrome, because there's so much to know in marketing that just can't know everything. It's hard.”
But just because you feel it, you shouldn’t let it stop you in your tracks. Daniel shares how he overcomes imposter syndrome when he feels it creeping in: “It goes back to having a strong group of people in your corner and also writing down your successes to make sure you’re always just celebrating those. I think you have to take a step back and be like, ‘oh, look how far I've come and look at how many people I've helped,’ and reflect on that.”
How to Grow an Audience
Another part of the process of building your brand is to grow an audience for the content you’re producing. And the first thing you need to do is identify your target audience. Who are you trying to reach? If you’re a marketer, your audience is likely to be other marketers, but you can narrow it down even further. The Marketing Millennials’ audience, for example, is “anybody who wants to learn marketing or wants to understand it,” but Daniel admits, “I'm not trying to attract a CMO, I'm trying to attract marketers that are in the learning phase of marketing.” It’s anybody, but that anybody is probably more specific than that.
Once that’s out of the way, and you’ve started creating content to reach your identified audience, you can focus on growing it and taking your brand to the next level.
Daniel’s LinkedIn Playbook
Throughout the years, and harnessing his experience in growing both his personal brand and The Marketing Millennials brand, Daniel put together a playbook on how to grow an audience on LinkedIn.
Here are the main takeaways from his playbook.
What You Want to be Known For
The first piece of advice Daniel has to offer is to find out what you want to be known for. He thinks a lot of people associate building a personal brand with posting about their work at a specific company doing a specific job when they should be thinking beyond that. “What if [they] go to a different industry? What happens [then]?”
You might want to be known as the marketer who does X or Y, but for Daniel, you should establish that independently of the job you have at the moment.
Doing Unscalabe Things
The second tip Daniel shares is putting in the effort to do unscalable things, which people often overlook, especially in the beginning. What he means by that is: “They don't reply to messages. They don't get on zoom calls. They don't reply to comments. They don't take the time to go comment on [other people’s] posts and then they realize, ‘why aren't people coming to my post?’”
When he started out, Daniel was commenting on as many posts as he could. He admits that, as his brand grew, it became more difficult to do so. However, for people who are just starting out, these “unscalable” efforts are essential to growing an audience.
Finding Your Niche
Going back to what you want to be known for, you can take it one step further and find out what your niche is. There are several ways to do that, As Daniel explains: “You can niche down the topic. You can niche down subtopic. You can niche down a group of people. So you can be like, ‘I want to be only talking to CMOs.’”
The key is to start small and then expand. “If you start being the number one in Portugal, then you can be like, ‘okay, now I want to go to the US. And now I want to go to this topic.’ [...] I think starting niche helps narrow your focus on writing and then your focus on what you're doing. And then you can start picking up the outer circle of who you're trying to bring into your audience.”
Content Consistency and Consumption
Finding your niche can help with Daniel’s last piece of advice on audience growth — content consistency and consumption.
Much in the same way as you should pick a topic you’re passionate about to start building your brand and find ideas to write about, you should also consume what people inside your niche are writing about. As Daniel says, “if you’re going to be good on a platform, you have to consume what great people have done on that platform.” He recommends “seeking out the top 10 people in your niche [...] and commenting on those posts because every post to me is a conversation. If you think of it as a mini conversation you’re having with that person, [it will] give you valuable insights.”
And then, there’s consistency. We’ve already talked about it being vital to building a brand, but it’s just as important to scaling that brand’s audience. If you’re not a constant and consistent presence on LinkedIn — or any other channel, for that matter — people won’t rely on you as a content source, and your audience just won’t grow.
Audience vs. Community
When talking about building a personal brand, the question might pop up about what a person is really trying to grow. Is it an audience, that consumes and engages with the content, or a community, where people don’t just interact with the content but also with each other?
Daniel thinks, if you play your cards right, you’ll eventually do both.
“I think an audience is great because you reach a larger amount of people and you are educating a larger amount of people about a topic. And community is great because you build a place where people could talk to each other and get information from each other and learn from each other.”
He also believes that a community emerges almost organically, as “the raving fans” amongst your audience. “I think as you build the audience, you'll get a couple of community members that start growing out of it. But I think reaching the most amount of people to push out your message is always the goal in marketing.”
Here, again, consistency comes up as the guiding principle. For Daniel, “you have to keep building and building and be consistent because otherwise, people go somewhere else. So you have to keep nurturing [them] and keep growing.”
The Challenge of Marketing to Marketers
The content Daniel produces both for his personal pages and for The Marketing Millennials podcast is aimed at other marketers. One could think that marketing to other marketers would be easy.
That’s not quite the case.
In fact, marketing to marketers can well be harder than marketing to other people.
Daniel shares this view, and he tells us why: “Marketers get marketing. So you can’t just do all the traditional stuff that people do to convert people.” Not just that, but marketers are also very word-of-mouth driven, in Daniel’s opinion, even more so than other people. So, they’re very likely to talk to each other and get their peers’ opinions on certain topics or tools, which can make coming across to them as a relevant voice more difficult.
The good news is that, as a marketer yourself, you have the upper hand.
Daniel explains how, in content production, one of the biggest mistakes people make is not having someone creating that content that speaks as your target audience does. “People are just creating content without talking like that group of people. And that's where it comes to fail. That's why you see the [businesses] using influencers and creators and stuff like this more and more, because they understand their audience better than anybody.”
He adds that “the best way to market to any group of people is you need someone with expertise in that group to talk to them, [so] if you're going to talk to marketers, you really need someone who is a marketer to talk to them. Otherwise, it feels like marketing.”
So, at the end of the day, who better to speak to marketers than marketers themselves?
The path to a successful personal brand is not linear, and there is no saying how long you’ll need to get to your desired destination. However, following Daniel’s tips is a good place to start.