Entrepreneur Magazine: The Power of Online Perception by Briar Prestidge
“You look like you’ve been busy, from Instagram?” I said to my friend, an award-winning photographer in the region. “Nope, I’m bored. That’s just the perception,” he replied. “Everything is scheduled.” As a digital, personal brand strategist, I should know this and how easy it to ‘fool’ -or maybe ‘to perceive’ is a better term– people online.
My friend is probably just seated on the couch at home, stuffing his face with last night’s dinner in front of T.V. However, by the look of it on Instagram, he’s ruling the roost with two corporate clients. Perception is powerful, and it’s amazing what our brains can be tricked into thinking, especially online. Why did he do this? To be seen as ‘in demand.’ When a potential client sees him in action, they will more likely want his services.
In today’s digital world, your online brand makes up 50% of your personal brand. They say your personal brand is the third thing people say about you– after they say your name and what you do. Ask yourself, and others, how do people perceive you? And is your online representation the best version of you?
Since positioning my own, online brand and pumping out thought leadership, I’ve been amazed with the opportunities presented– including new and better clients, free PR and industry recognition. Heck, it even resulted in the birth of my personal branding agency. People started coming to me and saying, “OK, we see what you’ve done online– how can we do this too?”
For one of my clients –a TEDx speaker– we are positioning her on the American market. For this, we have had to redesign her social media profiles so she looks like an international speaker, increase her brand awareness though social media strategy and design her media kit– now she’s starting to look ‘established.’
For another of my clients, there was nothing about him online (no PR and no social media channels showcasing his expertise, despite having set up three start-ups previously and recently launched another). Seeking investors had become an issue- they had wanted to see online history.
I used to squeamishly cold call before my personal brand. Now, much of my business development is now done over social media- identifying and creating what I call ‘digital partnerships.’ These are people who share the same, or complimentary target audiences. These are people you could collaborate with on an event or interview. Maybe they hold the gateway to a client, or they are a potential client.
Your first impression isn’t your handshake anymore, it’s your social media profile or anything they find about you online.
When a potential client ‘Googles’ you, what do they find? Through articles, PR, and well positioned branding, you can position yourself as a person of influence, knowledge and power. Whether you are working for a company or you’re an entrepreneur, here is what you can implement today:
Your social media profile picture and cover photos should reflect your target audience. If you want to attract a high-profile audience clients, have a professional shot wearing corporate attire. If you want to target entrepreneurs or creatives, let some of your originality show. If you want more speaking opportunities, use a picture of you giving a keynote.
The copy on your profiles should be written to give people on your profile a brief overview of your experience, product or service, and Simon Sinek’s ‘why you do what you do’. What can people expect if they follow you? What value will you provide? Add some personality for extra zing.
People want to see history. To create an established persona, have multiple business social media channels. For many of my clients here in the region, I’m recommending an integrated Instagram and LinkedIn strategy. If you don’t start producing content and growing your community, you will be left behind:
Instagram is a visual channel so incorporate a content strategy that is a mix of professional photos and candid photos to tell your ‘business’ story. Keep your personal and business profiles separate- your clients won’t want to see photos of your cat or your niece, and as you’re going to be showcasing your expertise, your friends won’t want to hear all your industry advice.
LinkedIn is at a stage of monetisation– the algorithm is very free (perhaps where Facebook and Instagram used to be 3 to 5 years ago.) We have seen a shift of people having ‘profiles’ to guiding personalized ‘channels.’ Create videos and articles.
Importantly, don’t contribute to the noise, rather rise above it. Inspire, educate, inform and entertain. With every piece of content you push out, question your purpose– does this establish me in the light that I want to be perceived in? Does this add value to my target audience?
Branded marketing collateral such as a family of ‘memes’ for your thought leadership quotes, event announcements or workshops will add a professional touch across your social channels.
Your online brand can have a huge impact on how you are perceived. Through your social media strategy and brand positioning, you can elevate your brand above the competition, leading to new and better clients, and industry recognition.