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3 Quick Tips to Sharpen Your “Personal Brand”

“I have discovered that most people have no one to talk to, no one, that is, who really wants to listen. When it does at last dawn on a man that you really want to hear about his business, the look that comes over his face is something to see.”

~ Walker Percy

Today’s Social Media is caught in a paradox. Our beloved millennial generation (I’m one of them but on the edge of the spectrum) is caught up in the social media game. We’re “branding”. Trying to find a home. An identity. A meaning. Social media seems to be the go-to “branding” tool. After all, it has been proven to help businesses tremendously. But to some people it seems like a lot of weather and noise. We are divided on this. Some find it annoying. Some think it’s the key to future progress. Where’s the fine line?

There’s a mixed debate on how much it really does grow one’s brand. Does one’s brand grow no matter what if they follow a Social Media marketer’s strategy and / or gain a lot of followers or does it take off for reasons less tangible. It seems to be a moving target.

I believe the power of brand lurks in the shadows. It draws people in in mysterious ways. My belief is that nobody can tell you how to have a life online except for you. Your internal world is everything. People can advise, give tips, or post for you. But the ones that get the social media branding game and do it well, are consciously or unconsciously aware of these tips I’m about to share and they use to to their advantage. What if “branding” wasn’t about you as much as it is about how you are connecting to others? To connect to others we must first be connected with ourselves.

With that said I have 3 thoughts on branding and social media that I’d like to share and I hope you find helpful.

1. What is behind your Great Curtain?

You have to know whats going on inside and be connected to it. I always think of that scene in “The Wizard of Oz” when Dorothy and the gang discover that the “Great and Powerful Wizard of Oz” is actually a man behind a curtain directing traffic which in turn gives Oz very little real depth or meaning. The wizard wasn’t what they thought. He was hollow. Oz was a Potemkin village.

When you’re creating your social media presence and brand be mindful of not just what your business means to you and what you can do for others but more importantly you need to have some cognizance of who you really are. It’s important to live and learn but when your back is up against a wall people will want you to have some idea of your belief and value system. Knowing this shows. We reflect in others eyes how we see ourselves. Try this. For one week each morning take a moment and write down what your life means to you. What are you up to this week, this month, this year. How do you feel today? Feel those emotions and let them be. A brief 10 minute journal entry will do.

Here is an emotional chart to help you:


How connected overall are you to your emotions? As a second activity try going through the chart. First put a check mark next to each emotion you have felt and feel quite often. Next put a question mark next to the ones you rarely or never feel, and finally put a star next to the ones you sometimes feel or are a bit hazy on. This exercise builds mindfulness and gets us connected to what is happening inside.

Finally, it’s good to separately write down your beliefs, your career and personal goals (long term and short term), and your favorite activities. Try doing this and then hang this list on the wall or put it somewhere you can see it where it won’t end up in a drawer. This stuff needs to be physical. By writing this down, you will start manifesting them organically. But make this commitment to yourself. This will show up in your online presence and will ultimately make your “Oz” the real deal. You won’t be just that man (or woman) behind the curtain. Your show will have an inner life with lit up internal connection. People will believe you.

2. Embrace Criticism

“To avoid criticism, do nothing, say nothing, and be nothing.”

~ Elber Hubbard

If you are not receiving criticism in life, something is very wrong. Know why? Because the fact of the matter is if you are making noise you’re probably doing something right. Know what’s scarier than criticism? SILENCE. If noone in the living room of your house is commenting on the smell of food coming from the kitchen it’s pretty safe to say something isn’t cooking. If there’s no smoke there’s a very good chance there isn’t a fire.

This is where I split ways with famed entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk. He believes in documenting. While he is very right about documenting yourself, you have to have some idea of who you are and stand proudly for it in the face of criticism. It becomes easier if you’ve done the inner work in step one.

Embrace criticism and you come to view it as people making an effort to help you not bring you down. I could sit here each morning on youtube, flipping pancakes, and if I’m not really a pancake chef nor know anything about it, documenting me flipping pancakes isn’t going to interest people. You must know what’s behind your curtain and then you must embrace criticism. Silence is not golden when it comes to receiving feedback. Your brand and your social media will improve when you’ve come to grips with this.

3. Keep it messy

Look, I love minimalism. And it does seem to be the new trend doesn’t it? But I am open to the fact that many creative juices come from chaos. Especially in social media. A little secret I’ve learned. Messiness causes unpredictability.

When Ace Ventura Pet Detective was released in 1994 Jim Carrey was an immediate seemingly overnight sensation and movie star. Why? Because his “Ace” character was such a hot mess. One of my favorite scenes was the opening scene when he’s kicking the package down the street.

This was comedy and sheer unpredictability like we had never seen before. He was so filled to the brim with energy and brash unpredictability that we, the audience, had not a clue what he was going to do next. If you make mistakes, great! We all make mistakes. I was glad to see the great Rosie Leizrowice write about this in her recent column “Less Information, More Action: Building the ‘Ship It’ Muscle”.

She writes:

As a kid, I remember driving out to the desert to meet Bedouins (nomadic people who live in the middle east.) One thing which stuck with me is the way they approach their art. Bedouins believe that no human can make something perfect. So they are careful to always include at least one deliberate ‘flaw’ in everything they make. A dropped stitch, a scratch, an out of place line. That’s the attitude I try to adopt when I start something new: planning for imperfections and mistakes, not fearing them.

I emphasize this all the time. The most followed brands constantly keep us on the edge of our seat because they are unpredictable. If you are posting daily photos of blueberry oatmeal and fresh orange juice, that’s boring. It reminds me of my art class in 5th grade at Rohan Woods School. Mrs. Henske told our class, “You don’t often see an artist plop a mound of mashed potatoes on paper and walk away. That’s boring.”

Stop being clean. Be messy and live with the mistakes. Rosie also references the old adage which I love, “Move fast and break things.” Be like Ace Ventura. Kick that package. Mistakes make you vulnerable. Mistakes make you interesting. Mistakes make you unpredictable. Mistakes make you human. Mistakes allow people to connect and relate to you as a human. Connection is everything in a brand and in social media. Don’t believe me?

Ask Mark Zuckerberg about Facebook’s Mission Statement:

“To give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together.”


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