In a time where social media rules everything around us, and the lack of an online presence might as well imply that you’re not a real person, a lot of entrepreneurs realize the importance of maintaining a personal brand online.
You don’t have to be an influencer or a blogger to benefit from having a personal brand that people in your niche identify with and relate to. It’s a great way to build an audience and establish yourself as a thought-leader in your industry.
A common misconception that people have when it comes to personal branding is that you must pick one specific niche and stick to it forever, otherwise you alienate your audience. While having a niche is important to attract your initial audience, people will stick around when you’re authentic and relatable to them. When you have a personal brand and an audience supporting you it can be easy to let that brand consume your identity online and sometimes even stifle curiosity and growth in other areas of your life and personal development.
Instead of letting your personal brand define you, allow your brand to be defined by who you are at any given point in time. After all, people evolve, and you wouldn’t be a person if you didn’t change at some point in your life.
Change is natural and normal
It might seem like a quick shift from one idea to a completely new idea might alienate your audience, but that shift is actually okay, because you want your audience to be people to have a genuine interest in you and your brand. If they are true advocates, then explaining to them the reason behind the shift in content or rebranding will help them understand your process better and not cause them to feel as alienated as they would if you just jump ship from your original mission to a completely new niche or space.
For example, someone who is a food blogger might find a natural path to begin traveling and exploring food in new locales and places. This progression might cause them to transition to travel blogging which would attract a new audience of wanderlusting readers interested in not just their food but their travel as well. If you’ve maintained a good and transparent relationship with your audience, then this shift shouldn’t make them feel uncomfortable because they support your brand and your content.
On the flip side, someone who has allowed their personal brand to pigeonhole them might be uncomfortable taking on new projects that they are interested in because they don’t follow their own stringent brand guidelines. Not only does that do you a disservice but it also does your audience a disservice by not growing your skills and your offering to them.
Variety is exciting
Elon Musk is the prime example of someone who has not let their personal brand stifle their career growth and potential. After co-founding x.com in 1999, which later became part of PayPal’s parent company, he continued to pursue new ventures and is now one of the most renowned names in science and technology. He went on to found Tesla, SpaceX and about 10 other companies that are constantly pushing the envelope of new technology.
His fans and his audience are always on the edge of their seats waiting for what he’s going to do next. And while they’re not always necessarily his buyers, they are hyper engaged with his projects. This is a testament to the brand he’s built around his name and the engagement he drives.
Maintain a relationship with your audience
Along with establishing a personal brand, the idea is to build a relationship with your audience that is based on trust and intention to add value to them. Captivate people by your voice, style and authenticity even if they don’t have much interest in the product your selling, they still want to be your advocate anyways.
One way to continually assess your own growth and to make sure your personal brand isn’t stunting your growth is to do quarterly brand audits. Take a look at the content you’re creating, take a look at your current life, and take a look at what you were creating 3 months ago. If you’re continuing to learn and grow you brand, there should be a natural progression in the things you are putting out. As a personal brand, you should be steering the conversation and creating an organic audience of people who resonate with you and not letting your audience dictate the direction your career takes.
Do regular audience surveys to take a look at who your audience is and to make sure that you still align with the majority of your readers.
Having a personal brand can be extremely strenuous. Putting yourself out there and having to be “on” for your audience is not an easy task, so when you feel as though your interests or your attention might be drifting elsewhere, just be honest. It’s very likely that they’ll support and respect the honesty and if they’re true fans of you as a person (the entire point of building a personal brand) than they will continue to support you even as you take on new projects and explore other outlets.
At the end of the day, being pigeonholed is not the end of the world. People can always change and you don’t even have to wait for the right time or a specific catalyst to move in a different direction as long as you’re honest and authentic with your community and audience about what you’re doing. Having a specific niche means that you’re passionate about something and is a great way to build and audience that can grow and evolve with you as you test the waters and venture into new territory. The great thing about finding a niche early on is that people also change. It’s very likely that as you grow and change, your audience is growing and changing their interests as well which can work out extremely well for you as you test new ideas and see what continues to resonate with them.
If you do shift your focus and notice your audience losing interest, that’s okay too. You can either continue to grow and build a brand that you’re not 100% invested in for the sake of maintaining an audience. Or you can cut your losses and work on things that fuel you and attract the people who you align with.
Photo Credit Header: Mark Bartucca
Also published on Medium.