Imagine if you spent years in an industry building your personal brand and then focused the community you built around your personality toward the creation and development of a new product brand. Imagine also that after 4 years you decided it was time to move on from the brand you created to look for something new. Would your personal brand have to completely start over? Not if you built it on a solid foundation.
This is exactly what I am going through at the moment. After 4 years as co-founder of Bundlepost, I decided it was time to move on and let the incredibly talented team take it to the next level. My name and personal social accounts had become synonymous with the company and frankly restricted its ability to grow and transcend Robert the person. I take the blame for that. Nevertheless after 4 years working 80 hours per week in a tech startup, I knew it was time to downshift from fifth gear.
As I further discussions with multiple next opportunities, I think it makes sense to take a look at what starting over in social media marketing looks like. Is it really starting over, or is it a migration based on a solid foundation that was laid from day one? The fact is that if you have a solid foundation from the beginning, transitioning from one organization to another shouldn’t be starting over at all.
What will outlast your current career in social media?
Starting your personal brand and social media marketing strategy off with a foundation for today and the future is critical when your career changes. Here are a three things to focus on now and for later that can position your personal social accounts for the inevitable change that you will experience in your career.
1) The Authentic You – It’s pretty likely that you have heard the phrase “Be authentic” in social media and here it is again, but let me be a little more specific for you. Being authentic is showing and being the real you with your community in a totally human way. Just being polite isn’t authentic, but sharing your life and voice with your community in ways you do in real life is what endears people to you and enables them to create a connection and affinity with you and what you’re about.
When you exclude your real picture from your profiles, edit out personal information and daily life from your postings it makes it difficult for most people to make a deep connection. Being vulnerable to a certain extent is human and therefore authentic and something that outlasts your current industry, position or organization.
Does that mean that you have to be like me and share every single piece of your life online? Absolutely not! What it does mean is that sharing as many parts of you that you are comfortable sharing and interacting as yourself, frequently and with your true personality is required if you expect your personal brand to outlive your current employment.
2) Real Relationships – When you no longer have a customer relationship with your connections because you are not with the company any longer, will you have any real relationships left in social media? Relationships within the social graph need to be deeper than just a customer connection if you intend on keeping them as relationships when you shift organizations. If the connections you have are solely fostered with an intent on selling them something, you will likely need to start over completely when and if you join a new organization. This shouldn’t be the case.
Real relationships surpass employment, customer connection and acquaintance status. They become friendships that are not just monetary based, but transcend to long-lasting relationships that include personal connections, shared interests and genuine concern for one another. Building real relationships in social media means the difference between starting over and growing from where you left off.
3) Topical Authority – Providing selfless relevant value to your connections on specific topics is basic to effective social media marketing. Understanding the general as well as the niche angles of this process enables you to have focus, yet be broad enough for the future.
It’s important that the topics you share and create content around are not too niche that you end up solely creating thought leadership and reputation around things that you can’t leverage in a different position or industry later on. You do need to be targeted in the topics you should be known for, but be careful not to pigeon-hole yourself into categories that end up being a liability later. Be broad, yet focused and don’t forget the human interest elements that are interesting to your audience in favor of being “all business”. The non-business interests that drive your audience can be just as powerful as the niche market topics.
As I look back over the last four years, these are the main things I did right that are proving invaluable today. Investing in these three critical areas from the start will ensure a solid foundation and enable you to transition your personal social media brand when specific employer or industry changes occur.
There are two other people I know well that I have watched accomplish not just one, but a few career/employer transitions in this way. I suggest you connect with Andrew Smith @AndrewSmith1443 and Daniel Hebert @DanielGHebert for two additional examples of this process done well.
Who do you know that has also transitioned their career well, while keeping their personal brand in tact?