Building a personal brand on social media can lead to many new opportunities, from building personal relationships with other industry experts to easily selling products and services with a single social media post.

So how do you grow from zero to thousands of followers?

Which social media platform should you publish on? How often should you post content? What’s the difference between great and mediocre content?

This post answers all of these questions and provides an actionable, step-by-step guide that anyone can use to grow their personal brand on social media from scratch.

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Social media personal branding is a marketing strategy where an individual posts content about a specific niche on a social media platform to earn followers. The end goal is to become recognized as an authority on that topic.

Given that people frequently turn to experts for product and service recommendations, there are endless ways to make money through personal branding, from affiliate commissions to selling proprietary products and services.

It might seem far-fetched that you can make millions of dollars by posting content on social media.

To help you understand the power of personal branding on social media, consider the following example:

Let’s say you’re interested in improving your cooking skills. 

Therefore, you start following cooking influencers on social media. 

After reading or watching a cooking influencer’s content for several weeks, you’ll likely trust them if their tips improved your cooking skills. 

If they later recommend a specific pot to improve your cooking, you’ll likely purchase the recommended product. 

When you purchase that product, the influencer might earn an affiliate commission on the product they’re promoting. Or, it might be their own product. 

So most businesses first build a product and then spend thousands of dollars on marketing to find buyers. Whereas individuals with a personal brand first build an audience. Then, they can listen to their audience’s needs and then sell them the right products and services with a single social media post.  

You can also build a personal brand in any niche, from marketing and startups to beauty or hiking.

There’s much more to building a brand on social media than simply publishing content. Where you post content, how often you post, and what you post all impact the success of your personal brand. 

This step by step blueprint lays out exactly how to build a personal brand on social media and specific pitfalls to avoid. 

Step 1: Select A Specific Niche

A common mistake many people make when they begin their personal branding journeys is selecting a broad niche. 

For example, “marketing” is a broad niche. 

If you target a broad niche, standing out as one of the top 1% of influencers will be challenging. 

To reduce competition, niche down.

For example, there are far fewer email marketing experts than general marketing experts.

And there are even fewer ecommerce email marketing experts than general email marketing experts.

Therefore, niching down is a great way to quickly establish yourself as an expert and earn traction in less time. And people are accustomed to paying a premium for specialized experts.

Think about it – if you’re an ecommerce store owner and struggling with email marketing, you’re much more likely to seek out advice from someone who exclusively posts content about ecommerce email marketing than a generic marketing guru.

As a result, you’re also much more likely to hire that person to help you with email marketing than a generic marketing guru.

Think about it – if you’re an ecommerce store owner struggling with email marketing, you’re much more likely to seek advice from someone who exclusively posts content about ecommerce email marketing than a generic marketing guru.

As a result, you’re also much more likely to hire that person to help you with email marketing than a generic marketing guru.

Once you’ve gained traction in a specific market, you can always expand to a broader market, like general email marketing. However, it’s much easier to start with a niche audience and then expand to a broader market than the other way around.

So how do you select a specific niche?

Start by writing down a list of general niches that interest you.

Then, go through this list of questions and give each one a ranking on a scale of one to five:

  • How passionate am I about this niche? If you don’t love the niche, you’ll give up when it gets tough.
  • How valuable is the audience? For example, a group of CMOs has more money to invest and spend than a group of high school students.
  • Do I have a unique advantage in this niche? For example, owning horses is a unique advantage if you intend to become a horse influencer. A unique advantage could also be your network or your skill set.

Here’s an example of this:

Once you’ve created this spreadsheet, look at the general niches you’ve come up with and narrow them down to more specific niche ideas.

Here’s an example: 

Then, select the specific niche with the highest score.

Step 2: Conduct Audience Research

Once you’ve selected a specific niche, you need to learn more about that audience and their pain points to understand what type of content would appeal to them.

To answer this question, create an audience avatar.

The avatar should include demographic information, like age, job title, etc., and pain point information, like their current problems and what they enjoy learning from their favorite influencers.

Here’s a template you can fill out:

However, rather than guessing as you fill out this template, take some time to conduct real audience research. 

Here are a few of my favorite ways to do this.

First, join industry forums, Reddit threads, and Facebook groups to learn about frequently asked questions and common problems. 

To quickly find these forums, you can search for groups on social media platforms like LinkedIn or Facebook:

Unfortunately, many of these groups are filled with spam and promotional content, though if you dig deep enough, you can usually find a handful of actively engaged groups.

Alternatively, Google now has a Forums tab that allows you to search for forums:

Once you find a few groups or forums with decent engagement, take some time each week to participate in the conversations and learn about the most commonly asked questions and popular topics.

Another way to better understand your audience is to follow other influencers in your niche and track their most successful content topics and formats. 

It’s particularly helpful to read the comments on the influencer’s top-performing posts, as these comments give qualitative data on the most interesting content topics to that audience.

For example, this post from B2B SaaS marketing influencer Gaetano DiNardi led to some very insightful comments and conversations:

YouTube also offers a helpful search feature that allows you to sort a channel’s videos by most viewed. For example, if you want to build a personal brand as an interior designer, you could sort by the most popular YouTube videos from this interior designer:

Then, click on the top performing videos and read through the comments section to understand why the audience liked the video and other questions they still have regarding that topic. 

Reading through comments may seem like an inefficient use of time, though it’s one of the best ways to improve your content marketing strategy, as it allows you to better understand who you’re writing to. 

Even after creating an audience avatar, continue reading forums and comments to better understand your audience

Step 3: Select One Social Media Platform

Start by targeting one audience avatar on one social media platform. Each social media platform attracts a slightly different audience and requires a slightly different content style. 

The formula for content marketing success is a high volume of high quality content. Therefore, invest all your resources into one platform and help it take off before adding more platforms to your content strategy.

To select the best social media platform, review your audience research notes. Which platforms does your ideal audience spend the most time on? 

You can also do competitor research and determine which platforms your competitors post content most frequently.

Additionally, consider what content you enjoy creating (e.g., video, written text, graphics, etc.).

For example, if you don’t feel comfortable on video but love writing, select a social media platform where written content does well (e.g., Twitter or LinkedIn). 

If you don’t enjoy creating content, you’ll quit, causing your personal branding efforts to fail. 

So consider the social media platforms your audience enjoys and the type of content you enjoy creating.

Step 4: Generate Content Ideas And Formats That Work

One of the main reasons an individual’s personal branding efforts might fail is because the content topic isn’t relevant to their audience.

This is why audience research is critical.

Therefore, refer back to your audience research notes and determine the most common audience pain points and the list of top-performing content from other influencers in your niche. 

Once you have a list of the most popular content topics, it’s time to create content on them.

Yet you might have realized a problem.

If everyone else has already created content on that topic, why should anyone watch or read your content on the same topic?

It’s foolish to avoid creating content on popular topics your audience engages with, yet simply restating what everyone else has said won’t help you stand out as a memorable source of inspiration.

The solution to this dilemma is to identify a content format that allows you to deliver a unique perspective on a popular topic.

The best way to do this is to write about your own personal experience with that topic. 

For example, Dan Go is an entrepreneurial fitness influencer with a strong personal brand on Twitter. A common topic in the entrepreneurial fitness industry is sleep, so he posted about his own experience with sleep tape: 

You can also post about how you’ve helped others solve common problems in your niche and what you learned from the experience.

For example, Paddy Galloway is a YouTube strategist with a strong personal brand on Twitter. His target audience is clearly interested in earning more views on YouTube.

This Tweet about how he helped Red Bull produce a video that earned over 18 million views and actionable lessons from the experience is a great example of this content format:

Another great content format that leverages your personal experience is writing about your failures and what you learned from them. 

For example, Alex Lieberman has a strong personal brand in the startup niche, and he wrote about his experience failing with a new startup idea and what he learned from it:

To make these experiential content formats work, include lessons learned from each experience and actionable takeaways.

If you want more content ideas, we have another resource that discusses ten proven content formats that you can use for social media personal branding.

Step 5: Publish Consistently

During the first few months of your journey as a content creator, you probably won’t earn much engagement. 

Realistically, you’ll probably spend hours creating weekly content and only receive a handful of likes and comments.

This is normal. Most content doesn’t perform well immediately, though it has a great ROI in the long run.

The key to content marketing success is publishing content consistently for many months.

Even after building a substantial following, consistently publishing content is critical to keep your audience engaged. 

As you get started, set a goal of publishing at least five social media posts per week. 

Block off a few hours one day per week to create your content, and use a social media scheduling tool like Hootsuite or Buffer to ensure it’s published throughout the week.

Source

You can also use a content calendar template to organize your content ideas for the month and plan out a publishing schedule.

Step 6: Collaborate With Other Influencers

Content marketing is a long game and won’t produce immediate results. However, collaborating with industry influencers and other people with established personal brands on social media can help you grow faster. 

Even if you currently have zero followers on social media, here are some ways to collaborate with established influencers.

  1. Invite them on a podcast: Not all influencers are open to podcasts, so to make this strategy work, look at influencers who frequently appear as guests on other podcasts. Even if you aren’t trying to grow a podcast, you can repurpose clips and quotes from the interview as social media content. 

For example, Andrew Kirby frequently interviews respected industry experts and then extracts insights from those interviews to transform them into social media content.

  1. Document their strategies or write a case study for them: One of the biggest challenges with building a brand on social media is persuading people to trust your advice. So instead, ask industry experts if you can document their strategies or case studies. For example, Jon Youshai asked YouTuber Ryan Trahan to reveal his thumbnail design strategy. Then Jon posted Ryan’s process on his own Twitter account:

This strategy works particularly well if you target influencers with service-based businesses. For example, if you’re trying to grow a brand as a PPC expert, you could ask another influencer with a strong personal brand in the PPC space if they have a case study they’d like documented. 

Most service based businesses and influencers rely on case studies to win clients, but creating them is time consuming. 

So many influencers are happy to have you write the case study for them, and then they’ll share the finished post. When influencers share the content, you get more exposure, and their followers will likely follow you as well if they realize you consistently deliver original content from the influencers they already like and trust.

  1. Influencer round-ups: Most influencers won’t cross-promote content if you don’t have many followers. However, many micro-influencers are willing to respond to a simple, one-question DM. You can ask a single question to five to ten influencers and then compile their responses into a single piece of content. 

You can even do your own research and compile advice from various influencers into a single piece of content. Think Media used this strategy when compiling this video of genius YouTube advice.

However, influencers are less likely to share it if they didn’t personally agree to give you an original quote. 

These collaboration strategies work because they promote the influencers’ opinions and beliefs and require little from them. 

Not all influencers will agree to these collaborations, but a percentage will. To improve your response rates, ensure each pitch is personalized and specific to that influencer’s interests. 

For example, if you ask an SEO expert to do a podcast, research their specialties in SEO. For example, do they have a unique approach to link building? If so, mention that you want to discuss that link-building strategy.

The more specific your pitch is, the more likely they are to agree to your collaboration.

Step 7: Talk To Your Audience 

After earning your first few followers, talk to them to understand their problems, the topics they’re most interested in, and other insights that can help you improve your content strategy. 

First, respond to all of the comments on your posts. This will encourage people to engage with your content in the future because they will know that it’s a two-way conversation.

Matt Gray, who has built an audience of over 330,000 followers, says that responding to comments is a key strategy he used to build his audience:

Then, create automated DMs for people who comment on your posts. In the DM, ask them what they’re struggling with to better understand the type of content they want from you.

Step 8: Create A Content Repurposing Strategy

Once you’ve built an engaged following on one social media platform, posting the same content ideas across other social media platforms is the easiest way to multiply your audience.

However, it’s important to optimize your content for the intended social media platform.

For example, Instagram has a slightly different content style than Twitter. If you’re currently posting Twitter threads, rework the same content ideas into more visually appealing Instagram posts.

Chase Diamond is excellent at content repurposing. Often, he first writes a Twitter thread:

Then, he repurposed it on Instagram and optimized the post for the platform by including a short, visually appealing video. This video captures the scroller’s attention, and then they can read the text repurposed from the Twitter thread:

While you can learn the nuanced differences of each social media platform yourself, you’ll probably find that hiring a content repurposer or an expert on that specific social media platform to repurpose content for you makes more sense.

For example, if you’re currently posting on LinkedIn and want to grow your following on Instagram, hire an Instagram expert to repurpose the content.

This person should know how to repackage your LinkedIn content in a more visually appealing manner that’s well optimized for the Instagram algorithm and the average Instagram viewer.

You can use a platform like Upwork to find platform specific experts or even a generic content repurposer. 

While you’ll likely see a higher ROI from hiring a platform-specific expert (e.g., an Instagram expert), managing multiple specialized platform experts (e.g., Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, etc.) can become challenging. 

This post contains all the best practices you need to build a personal brand on social media, but it might take some time to find your own style and figure out what content resonates with your audience.

Unfortunately, this testing process can feel overwhelming at times. Talking to other individuals experiencing similar challenges is a great way to work through them, so seven figure founders Tim Stoddart and Charles Miller founded the Copyblogger Academy – a community of entrepreneurs building their personal brands online. 

Members can ask the community, as well as Tim and Charles, for feedback on their work. They can also watch nine full courses on various marketing topics, like personal branding, content marketing, SEO, and email marketing. 
You can join the Copyblogger Academy today risk free to see if it’s the right fit for you. If you’re not 100% satisfied, we’ll give you a full refund in the first 30 days, so join today to get more personalized help building your personal brand.