Unsure where to begin when it comes to personal branding? Consider it nothing more than a gainless vanity project? It’s not as daunting as you might think and is well worth the investment – in both your brand and your profile as a trusted thought leader.

Bad publicity vs good publicity

As another sorry troupe of B, C, D and sometimes Z-listers traipse into the jungle, all in the name of I’m a Celebrity…Get Me Out of Here! (and shameless opportunism), it got me thinking about the value of online followings.

Many business leaders still resist the pressure to make a meaningful debut on social media. And, frankly, it’s understandable. I mean, why put yourself out there? So much can go wrong.

Observing celebs trying to resuscitate failing careers, (or just grab a big payday to cover that unforeseen tax bill!) in the Australian wilderness is a cookie-cutter example of the risks personal branding pursuits carry, even in the case of Caitlyn Jenner, whose family empire is built upon the shrewd monetisation of selfie culture.

Celebs sign up to this torturous show every year. Why do they do it? Although the financial rewards are obvious, for every celeb who resurrects their career or wins the public over, there seems to be one who shoots themselves in the foot – and not during a trial!

Back in the real ‘real’ world, social media is often no less of a snake pit. We all saw what happened to Rory Cullinan, former chairman of Royal Bank of Scotland’s investment bank – a perfect example of a business leader harming his brand and reputation with just a few misguided words.

Cullinan’s daughter leaked some disparaging messages he sent via Snapchat whilst apparently bored at work, and that was that. He was searching for a new gig a few weeks later.

The social media jungle

For many a business leader, navigating the sprawling vines of social media, with its techy jargon and potential pitfalls, can feel like their very own Bushtucker Trial, complete with snapping crocodiles and poisonous bugs.

Considering this, staying within the confines of bricks and mortar office life may seem preferable. But shying away from the spotlight isn’t entirely without risk either; in fact, disregard the social media jungle and you’re likely to miss out on valuable opportunities.

You may see the benefits of platforms such as LinkedIn, but simply don’t understand the ins and outs in the way your marketing team do. After all, posting a monthly update on Instagram is many tropical lagoons apart from a well-maintained, killer online strategy. One quippy tweet is not enough when honing a social media presence with real business value.

Don’t have the time to take a crash course? No worries. The right approach combined with the appropriate use of experts – in-house or external – can make for a strong online presence that builds faith in your brand and leads to a deeper connection between you and your audience – be it customers or employees, or both.

A matter of trust

In the cut-throat digital world, image is everything, and the old saying that there’s no such thing as bad publicity no longer holds true.

If investors, customers and employees can observe brand values being broadcast from the top down, it instils trust and boosts your profile: research by Weber Shadwick has shown that a whopping three-quarters of employees view executive social media engagement as a means of increasing a brand’s trustworthiness.

In addition to this, when business leaders carve out a notable online presence, it often yields valuable sales opportunities.

While going for the jugular will turn your audience off, sharing valuable insights and content with contemporaries and consumers alike, strengthens your credibility and brand presence. Both parties are keen to hobnob with figures exhibiting genuine business clout; when handled effectively, there’s no reason these positive exchanges can’t translate into tangible commercial prospects – unlike the dubious perfume or comeback single Nadine Coyle is sure to release after she’s booted out of the jungle.

Authenticity, relevancy and consistency

Once you start generating high-value content – with or without help – the real gains can be made. But how do you cut through the dense forestry of personal branding? How do you offer something desirable?

Readers can sniff out inauthentic content from a mile off, so if your social media output doesn’t sound like you, the whole exercise is a waste of time – many a successful ‘influencer’ can thank natural story-telling for their popularity.

You’ll need to interact with your audience in a genuine, relatable way, tailoring your approach to your target market. If you’re a B2B leader, for example, you may opt to post on platforms such as LinkedIn, viewing this audience as most relevant to your brand.

Of course, a watertight strategy must be set in place before you tread that rickety jungle bridge to base camp. Content needs to be delivered consistently, offering real value on a regular basis.

Positive connection

Committing time to cultivating a prominent online presence doesn’t just benefit business: it benefits you.

Interacting online helps you to stay in touch with every aspect of your company: it provides a treetop view of the whole corporate rainforest. DDI’s High Resolution Leadership study demonstrated that social CEOs were 46% more influential – more than a step in the right direction.

But, and it’s a big but, it takes commitment to establish and maintain a hefty online following.

The fact is, business leaders are hindered by a lack of time, so many consider outsourcing the hard graft. But understandably, they may feel apprehensive.

I know it’s a scary thought, allowing others to speak on your behalf, especially in the Wild West that is the internet. However, it can be done. It’s all about establishing a process and rules based on your values, beliefs and personality.

The right partner will take the time to get to know you and generate valuable content on your behalf.

They will weave audience insights and social media savvy together, creating a strategy that reaps results and, well… makes you look good.

Want to find out how this process could work for you? Get in touch with a member of our talented team today.