This is a guest post by Parker Davis. Parker Davis is the CEO of Answer 1, a leader in the virtual receptionist and technology enabled answering services industry. He believes that the application of data analytics, investment in technology, and fostering a positive company culture together create highly efficient and scalable growth companies. In 2016, Answer 1 will achieve record revenues while also being awarded the Top Companies to Work For in Arizona award. Parker is also the Managing Partner of Annison Capital Partners, LLC, a private investment partnership. All opinions expressed in this piece are the opinion of the author and not necessarily shared by Bitbond.
Can you think of an industry authority in your field? A true thought leader, the go-to guy or gal, the one who gets things done? In most industries, this isn’t all that hard nowadays. Many folks are harnessing the power of the internet and social media channels to get their message out there and build a name for themselves.
The truth is, there’s not much innately special about these folks other than sheer hard work and the determination to succeed. Everyone has to start from a base of zero, and they were no different. It’s just so hard to see through the mists of time back to where it all began for them. But there’s no doubting the simple truth: everyone has to start from a position of no influence and work their way up from there. Here’s some ideas on how to get started if you would like to make that same journey yourself.
1. Define Brand ‘You’
Like it or not, you are a brand. Even if you are anti-establishment, anti-authority or just plain anti-slogan, your opinion says something about who you are and what you think … in other words, just another aspect of ‘Brand You’.
It seems a bit unfair that people make their minds up about you within the first few minutes of meeting you … (and some say this can even be a matter of seconds!) Unfair, but true. We all do it.
So if people are going to make their mind up about you anyway, you might as well decide on the image you wish to project… and then be consistent.
This doesn’t have to be about fakery, or trickery, or anything of those things… unless of course, you want it to be!
Perhaps you are all about authenticity. Embrace it! Think about how you look, what you say and what you do project your authenticity. If there’s something about you that is inauthentic, chances are people will be able to pick that up too. Look for it. Leave behind what you no longer need. Move on.
As Tom Peters noted some time back, writing for Fast Company’s article, ‘The Brand Called You”, we are now in the age of the individual. While the challenging of building your personal brand might seem daunting at first, there’s never been a better chance for every single person on the planet to take advantage of new technology and communication platforms that build a brand image that will speak for them.
What’s more, you are no longer defined by the company who hands you your paycheck. You might be an employee, but that’s not all of who you are. Not even close.
You are your own brand. You.
2. Be Instantly Findable Online
Ok – so you’ve put in the hard yards to create your personal brand, discover who you are and setting about creating a unique presence. All well and good.
So how do people find you? If they can’t, you’re in trouble.
We live in a connected, digital world. To take your place as a thought leader in your industry, you need to be instantly findable amongst all the noise. This will mean creating a rock-solid profile online, a profile that showcases who you are. And this profile must be consistent with your brand.
Some will argue that you need to start a blog, and there is no question that it will help, especially if you make the focus for your blog that of the industry you wish to position yourself within. However, if that’s a bridge too far, you can start with strengthening all your social media profiles, and make them consistent across your brand.
For most professional people, you can’t go past ensuring that your LinkedIn profile is up to date, engaging, and reflective of the image you wish to project.
Beyond this, you may want to add social media platforms that are especially relevant to your field.
A lot of Design and Creative people love Instagram for the opportunities it offers them to showcase their work. Techies and photographers seem to have taken a liking to Google+. A lot of small businesses and shopfronts have great luck engaging their customers on Facebook. Researchers have channels such as ResearchGate. And the fashion, music and education industry experts gain a lot of exposure through YouTube.
And then some lucky people seem to be able to make a go of it by melding these all together!
Ultimately, it’s your brand. You need to choose the platforms that work for you.
3. Start Making Waves in the Outside World
Industry thought leaders need to have something to contribute. But there’s already enough hot air stuffing up the planet. What have you got to offer that’s going to be distinctive from everything else that’s out there already?
Don’t despair if nothing immediate comes to mind. The old saying goes that there is nothing new under the sun, and it does have more than a ring of truth to it.
To make a new contribution, you don’t have to go out there and totally reinvent the wheel, throwing out everything that was good about what came before in an effort to be wildly original. What would be the point of that?
Every one of us has a distinctive take on the world, a unique perspective we can bring to the key issues that are currently impacting on our industry.
Your message will resonate with a certain number of people out there – and they will be your tribe, your people, your cheerleaders for Brand You!
To find them, you need to start sharing your ideas and thoughts with other like-minded people. And as Liz Ryan notes, even if you don’t feel much like you have many great ideas to begin with, the act of just keeping a journal can be invaluable in helping you get the creative genius flowing.
Start brainstorming ideas, any ideas, even if they seem crazy at first. Try and come up with a target number of ideas any day, industry-related or not. In this game, practice makes perfect, and just like a muscle you need to develop, your creative brain needs regular exercise.
Once you’re happy enough with the ideas your creative brain is dreaming up for you, air them out in the outside world. You might just share them with a friend at first. Then, gradually widen the circle you share with. It might be your co-workers, or a LinkedIn group, or the small group at a training course.
Keep working on extending the ripples of your ideas outward. You never know where they might end up!
4. Extend Your Influence Through Innovation
Now you’ve started to gain some momentum, it’s time to keep it going. You know what they say – a rolling stone gathers no moss! Keep experimenting, keep shape-shifting, keep changing, in order to push out the boundaries of your influence.
As Jayson Demers, writing for Entrepreneur.com says, you need to innovate to truly stand out in your field. At the heart of innovation lies experimentation. You can’t be afraid to try new things, nor to fail. The learning is in the process.
Focus on the outstanding problems in your industry – you know, out there on the edge, the ones that your customers and suppliers grapple with. See if you can’t come up with some interesting ideas for solving them … and better yet, do this in partnership with the people it will benefit.
When you do strike gold, make sure people know about it! Don’t be a wallflower. Publicize your efforts and your successes. Share your learnings so that others may learn from them also.
Be a true leading light, and the rest will follow.