This is something I am still trying to perfect, and will be the first one to tell you I am nowhere near where I want to be. Regardless of your career, it can feel impossible at times to position yourself as a thought leader or expert in a particular area. Choose too small or segmented of a niche, and you run the risk of hurting future job prospects or pigeonholing yourself down a specific path. Either way, anyone will tell you it’s a slippery slope and there is no “right” way to market yourself.
I will try to give you a few “rules to live by.”
- Do some exercises. A Venn diagram never hurt anybody. Find the intersection of what you like, what you are good at and what people will conceivably pay you for. Anything in there is your sweet spot and should be further considered.
- What do you want to be known for? — It doesn’t matter what your interests are or what you like to do. More importantly think in the mind of your audience, or as Stephen King would say, your “ideal reader”. Who is your target demo and what do they like? What content do they want to see and what are the hot button issues they want to hear your voice on?
- What are your goals? This may seem repetitive, but if your goals aren’t in line with who you want to become, you may have to go back to the drawing board. For example, if you were to set up a site to help yourself stand out and gain some visibility in a very crowded field like marketing where it is very difficult to separate yourself (me), you’d better want a career in marketing and have your goals reflect that (like becoming a consultant, director/VP of marketing, etc).
- What is success to you? Another vital tidbit to consider. Success looks very different from person to person. Success could be positioning yourself as an expert for a better job or opportunity, or becoming fully self-employed and a true entrepreneur. Even in the same industry these sites, social media pages, ads (whatever you’re working with) should look very distinct from one another.
- Where do you want people to find you? You can put out the best content with the perfectly curated message, only for it to fall on deaf ears. First, make sure there is an interest for what you’re putting out there. Then (like point #1) figure out who you’re going after (and who you want coming to your site/page), then find out where those people live online. Is there a forum where they all discuss the latest trends and news in that industry? Become a regular commenter and ingratiate yourself to your community. Once you do that, you can eventually make them aware that you are into similar things and start sending qualified traffic your way. If it’s any good, they’ll be more likely to share.
- Know what to share and what not to. An “influencer”, wow I hate that word or someone with a “persona” is going to be expected to share far more of themselves and their personal struggles and experiences than someone who is just trying to raise their profile to be more attractive in a future job. Know the distinction. If you want to be the next Tony Robbins, have at it. Otherwise, treat your online persona as an online resume, and don’t post anything you wouldn’t want a future employer or client to see. Also, make sure you’re only posting/producing content that is relevant to your niche. You may love clean energy (so do I) but Exxon Mobil probably isn’t interested (if being an oil tycoon is what tickles your fancy).
- Find the right medium. For a Youtuber it’s pretty self-explanatory (Youtube), but for most everyone else it can be pretty tricky. For most companies Twitter and Linkedin should be used most heavily, followed by Facebook. Every rule has its’ exception, as an ice cream shop or pizza joint should absolutely be using Facebook more heavily. Finding the right medium also doesn’t have to be on social media. For some it will be over the phone or in person, which may be a bygone era, but we’re simply talking where you’re doing your promotion and casting a net to draw people in. Every person and every business have to have a website at the bare minimum for legitimacy’s sake. LinkedIn may be changing that, but if marketing yourself involves anyone giving you money, you will want the website. Also, in today’s increasingly digital age, having a website is basically like having an online portfolio.
- Knowing how often to post. This is also critical. A comedian or comedy troupe trying to get their start would want to post as much original content as possible on Youtube. Meanwhile, in a more professional setting, posting daily could make you look like a petulant child who demands attention. Your strategy needs a cadence. Should you post daily or weekly? This also depends on your “ideal reader” again. How often do they consume content and for how long in a session? Do as much of your own market research as you can. As for the cadence, even the comedian could benefit from a planned posting day or time. Once you start to build a following, people will want to know when to expect your content. Posting everyday at 5pm from the get-go would eliminate any potential hiccups and ensure you don’t get lost in the shuffle. If you give anyone a reason to forget you, they will.
- Putting it all together. Now that you know who you want to be, your audience and where to find them, how much to share, what mediums to use (and in what proportions) you’re ready to go.