AAM Minute - Topic At Hand

Build Your Personal Brand: Boost Your Career Potential

Lee Frederiksen, Ph.D., Hinge Marketing


Your Personal Brand

Your personal brand is your reputation and its visibility. You might be known within your firm as a hardworking, responsible team player who is an expert in digital marketing accounting services. Unless a large number of people are aware of your compelling reputation, however, it does you little good.


To create a strong personal brand, you need to leverage a good reputation with high visibility, and the more that reputation is for specific expertise, the better.


There are two possible strategies to pursue—as a social media advocate or as a Visible Expert®. Each approach will lead to greater prominence, for both yourself and your firm. Which approach is right for you? It may depend on where you are in your career and the effort you are willing to commit.


The Benefit of Serving as Your Firm’s Social Media Advocate

As a marketer, you probably act as the social media advocate for your firm, personalizing the company’s brand with your name and face. If you are serving as an online brand ambassador, you are doing more than boosting your firm’s reputation.


Hinge Research Institute partnered with Social Media Today to explore the effectiveness of social media advocacy programs—for both the firm and the employee (see Understanding Employee-Advocacy on Social Media). We found that the majority (60.9 percent) of professionals spend less than five hours per week on social media for business. It is just one of the many hats they wear. Not surprising, any additional time spent on social media helps firms increase their visibility, brand recognition, and more. But, the benefits do not stop there.


When we asked professionals whether their advocacy on social media platforms had helped or hurt their careers, we discovered a tremendous positive career impact. A clear majority (68.9 percent) said their professional engagement on social media had helped their career. (Almost no one experienced any negative repercussions from their participation.)


For the social media advocate, eleven concrete benefits emerged. Expanding professional networks and keeping up with industry trends were two of the most common benefits cited. Approximately half of respondents also noted the ability to attract new business and opportunities to develop professional partnerships. Below is the complete list of dividends people earn from social media advocacy:


Evidently, even doing a little work to increase visibility on social platforms will open doors.

As an added bonus, social media advocacy is an especially effective strategy for helping younger members of the firm gain prominence. Looking through the generational lens, we found millennials were more likely to view engagement on social media as an opportunity to advance their career (more so than Gen Xers or baby boomers). Perhaps that is because social media is a natural fit for them. They grew up with it.


As social media advocates, millennials start increasing their visibility earlier, which is useful because, just like retirement savings, the benefits to your personal brand compound over time.


Taking it to the Next Level — Becoming a High Visibility Expert

Serving as a social media advocate is a strategy almost anyone can pursue. But, to reap even greater rewards, more is better—more visibility, that is. People who devote time to becoming nationally known for their expertise have proven this.


Take, for instance, Alan Fine, an expert in establishing captive insurance companies. Over the years, Alan increased his visibility in this niche market by committing himself to conducting additional research, writing articles, and speaking at different events and seminars. Today, clients come to him (either through referrals or online research) and his firm, Brown Smith Wallace, because he can make the complicated subject of insurance company taxation accessible and understandable.


To accrue the substantive rewards of a highly visible expert (for yourself or for someone within your firm) requires a clearer strategy. First, you must devote your career to a particular area of expertise. Then you must invest in developing visibility in that area. A Visible Expert® can expect to write considerably more than his peers. He or she also will need to actively pursue speaking opportunities, such as presentations at conferences and webinars.


“It takes time,” says Alan. “It is a matter of devoting yourself to developing the expertise in that area.”


Another highly visible expert, Chris Mercer, made a name for himself as a valuation expert, appraising businesses for mergers and acquisitions litigation. Mercer used speaking engagements, newsletters, and book writing to increase his visibility. The content he created gave his valuation practice, Mercer Capital, the clout to compete with big-name firms.

Going beyond the anecdotal evidence, our Visible Expert® research discovered that the higher the level of an individual’s visibility, the more someone is willing to pay for their services. The chart below shows the relative hourly rates buyers will pay depending on the level of visible expertise.


At Level 1, an expert is recognized by clients and colleagues but is relatively unknown beyond that. At Level 5, we are talking the global superstars whose names are synonymous with their industry, such as investment guru Warren Buffet. Levels 2, 3, and 4 are stair steps along the way of expanding visibility.


Next Steps in Building Your Personal Brand

It is clear that building a personal brand is a worthwhile endeavor for yourself, your colleagues, and your firm, and the good news is, it is not an all-or-nothing pursuit. Start by building your personal brand as a social media advocate for your firm. Later, increase the value of that brand by putting in the extra effort required to become a highly visible expert.