2012: The Year of the Personal Brand

Personal Branding

Some might argue that 2011 was the year personal branding really stepped into the forefront as one of — if not the — most important ways to take control of our life. I’d argue that 2011 was just a fraction of the overall growth this industry is going to see in 2012, and beyond. Google, Twitter, and Facebook have all seen enormous growth in personal branding related discussion, searches, and information. 2012 should bring more of the same. In fact, it is estimated that 70% of all new jobs are filled through networking with existing people in your social circle. To me, that signifies that there is no better time than the present to increase your social circle, network, and form meaningful relationships. But… how is that done exactly? Here are a few things you can work on in 2012 to increase your brand, your presence, and ultimately, your bottom line.

Grab a book

Like most entrepreneurs I know, I’m an avid reader. I always have a book with me when I’m on the go. There a dozen moments every day in which we’re waiting for someone or something. This is a great time to grab your book and read a few pages. I generally read for 30 minutes or so before bed as well. This is a great way to ease the body into sleep, all while helping to retain information you just read. Studies show that reading before bed helps the brain shift what you just learned from short-term memory to long-term memory. Something to think about.

Here are my two favorite branding-related books of 2011… give ’em a whirl.

“UnMarketing” by Scott Stratten

This is by far my favorite book of this year. The focus is on social media, and how to craft solid relationships one at a time. Scott is a big fan of Twitter, and it shows throughout the book. He gives real-world examples, and generally they revolve around his — or a company, like Zappos — use of social media. The footnotes are hilarious to boot. I’d highly recommend this one.

“The Thank You Economy” by Gary Vaynerchuk

I’m a huge fan of Gary V. My fan-dom blows past the “this guy is cool” routine and borders on full-blown man crush. I hang on every word, and I couldn’t be more thrilled when I catch him on TV or speaking at an event. “The Thank You Economy” shows just how powerful personal branding is, and it puts the entire niche into new perspective. At least it did for me. Gary equates what we’re seeing now with a revolution in which brands have to market to consumers on an individual level — a personal level — to stay competitive in this rapidly changing global economy. One of the many examples he gives are the small town businesses of yesteryear. When you went to the butcher, you went because he provided a quality product, knew you and your family (as well as your neighbors), and treated you well. With the explosion of social media, you’re going to see a bit of a return to that way of thinking in the coming years.

Socialize… a lot!

I meet at least a dozen people at every event I go to that I’d absolutely love to sit down with for lunch. I can’t wait to pick the brain of a fascinating person.

I’m not sure where I heard, or read the “have lunch with one new person each day” quote, but it really had an impact on my life. Of course, I don’t have time, nor the connections to have lunch with one new person each day, but I like to sit down with new people as often as possible. Where most go wrong when hearing this is thinking that they should only sit down with people who can somehow help them. Help with a business problem, provide cash or insight, or promote their product. This is flawed thinking. The goal here is to have meaningful tw0-way conversation. If you legitimately enjoy conversing with someone, you’ll get more than enough information to spark new ideas, or help yourself with existing problems. As conversation flows your brain starts working harder. This is where my best ideas come from, as well as some of my closest friends.

Utilize social networking sites as they were intended

How long do you spend each day on Twitter? 10 minutes? 30 minutes? Instead of talking, make 2012 the year you’ll listen to the conversation going on around you, and join in when you can provide value. Twitter is supposed to be a conversation… not one man broadcasting his thoughts out into space. Join a conversation on Twitter, LinkedIn, or Facebook, and help out with problems others are facing. The catch? You can’t ask for anything in return. Be helpful, courteous, and a good listener, and you’ll go far on Twitter. People love it when someone is genuine, and just wants to help for the sake of helping. These people are going to remember your kindness and you’ll be amazed at just how big your favor to them might pay off in the long run. Think of it as putting a quarter in the bank each day. It doesn’t seem like a lot of money, but in a year, you’ll have quite a bit of extra change. Just remember, it’s a marathon, not a sprint.

If I could impart one idea on you in closing, it’s this; make 2012 the year that you selflessly help others, without requiring anything in return. Start a conversation, and be genuinely interested in what the other person has to say, rather than just waiting for your turn to talk. We create relationships one action at a time. How many more relationships would you have today if you always chose the right actions?