Personal Branding

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Successful Personal Brands: Case Studies

Two examples of high-tech entrepreneurs who have built a successful personal brand are Elon Musk and Guy Kawasaki

Elon Musk

  • Elon Musk is a high-tech entrepreneur who is responsible for the Tesla vehicles, which are technologically advanced electric vehicles.
  • He is also the founder of SpaceX, which "designs, manufactures, and launches advanced rockets and spacecraft."
  • Tesla has become one of the most often mentioned car brands on social media, and Elon Musk is synonymous with Tesla. In fact, some experts believe his personal brand "overshadows his own companies."
  • Experts believe that the reason Musk has been so successful at building his personal brand is because he "loves getting personal on social media."
  • On social media and through traditional media, Musk has shared his story and his vision of transforming the automotive industry. He has combined his story with that of Tesla, which makes people think of one when the other is mentioned.
  • He immediately responds to questions and issues on social media concerning both himself and his brands, which makes him relatable to the average consumer.
  • Musk has also involved his audience in his story by making customers who purchase his cars feel like they are a part of transforming the automotive industry. As Sam Cawthorne stated, "They’re joining Musk on his quest to move humanity forward. And in doing so, they become the heroes of their own stories."
  • Overall, Musk's work ethic and commitment to connecting with consumers are what have driven his personal brand. He is very deliberate about "putting information out there and actively working on how he wants people to perceive him."
  • Musk's willingness to accept responsibility for his mistakes and to be forthcoming with information about his brands have created trust between him and his audience, which has in turn led to his strong personal brand.

Guy Kawasaki

  • Guy Kawasaki is a serial entrepreneur who is focused on the tech world. He is "chief evangelist at Apple, founder of Garage VC Fund and Fog City Software...advisor to Motorola and chief evangelist of Canva."
  • Experts say that Kawasaki has built his brand by teaching and sharing his passions with others and in fact, his sole reason for writing his first book was to "add value to people's lives."
  • The first step toward building Kawasaki's brand was to find his meaning, He stated that "it’s crucial that you have a meaning behind your brand. This applies to both businesses and to yourself."
  • The emotional connection between a brand and the consumer is what matters. Kawasaki stated, "Without a greater purpose or meaning behind your work, people will struggle to engage. Even if you know they can benefit from your product, they don’t buy because you’ve failed to connect on a more personal level."
  • Second, Kawasaki advises entrepreneurs to "be themselves." He stated, "Be true to who you are in everything that you do. It’s about finding the audience that wants to hear your story, rather than trying to create a story that appeals to everybody."
  • Third, Kawasaki says that one of the best ways for an entrepreneur to build a brand before anyone knows who they are is to find an influential person who believes in them. Kawasaki had Steve Jobs to fill this role and Jobs" loved Kawasaki’s energy and passion," which led to his role as Apple evangelist.
  • To build a personal brand, an entrepreneur needs to showcase those who are their supporters and in return, those supporters will showcase the entrepreneur, which creates a stronger personal brand.
  • Engaging the audience it the fourth tip Kawasaki has for entrepreneurs looking to build a successful personal brand. He stated, "The sale comes second to engagement when it comes to personal brand building. You’re looking to offer something valuable that engages your audience. This builds trust."
  • Finally, Kawasaki built his personal brand by following the three pillars of a personal brand, which are "trustworthiness, likability, and competence."
  • To build trust, be authentic. Kawasaki said, "If people don’t think you’re authentic, they’re not going to trust you."
  • Likeability is harder to pin down, but Kawasaki believes that finding the audience that connects with an entrepreneur's story is critical to becoming likable. He said, "Figure out whos going to connect with your story and you have a group of people who’ll like you."
  • Finally, competence is critical because it shows that an entrepreneur is not just likable, but can back up the brand with expertise.
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Personal Branding Experts

Leonard Kim, Nicolas Cole, and Ryan Foland are three personal branding experts established in the US. Kim is a managing partner at InfluenceTree. Cole has an impressive portfolio that he developed by working with thought leaders. Foland specializes in brand communication and currently oversees UC Irvine's social media and marketing strategy.

Leonard Kim

  • Kim' Twitter handle is @MrLeonardKim and he has 605k followers.
  • His Facebook page, @LeonardKim, has 6,700 likes and 6,824 followers.
  • His Instagram handle, @mrleonardkim, has 19.2k followers.
  • Kim is also active on Quora and Medium, with 39,116 followers and 36k followers, respectively.
  • He has a LinkedIn account with 12,151 followers.
  • He also has a Pinterest account with 20,160 followers.
  • Following are some strategies and advice by Kim to people for developing their personal brand:
    • One should be easily accessible: One's personal contacts should not be absent or obscured on their social media.
    • Lots of pictures: There should be an abundance of pictures to go with one's blog, website, or social media handles.
    • Identical social media handles: One's social media handles should be identical or nearly identical in order to increase the following on each handle.

Nicolas Cole

  • Cole's Twitter handle is @Nicolascole77 and he has 7,783 followers.
  • He also has a Facebook page, @NicolasCole77, with 2,553 likes and 2,714 followers.
  • His Instagram handle, @nicolascole77, has 49.7k followers.
  • He is also active on Quora and Medium, with 60,615 followers and 51k followers, respectively.
  • Cole mentioned following key strategies in a detailed answer on Quora to the question "How can I create my personal brand without any money?":
    • Building credibility: Rather than doing something for media and press attention, work should be done in order to build trust and credibility.
    • Being visible: With every piece of your work, there should be a picture. This helps in forming association of identity with the quality of work.
    • Let the content speak for itself: Rather than investing highly into advertising, one should focus on curating their work as a library of content that would work as a long term advertisement for them.
    • Invest into long term gains: One should not jump into "short-term opportunities" and rather analyze the situation to identify long term opportunities with higher gains.

Ryan Foland

  • Foland's Twitter handle is @ryanfoland and he has 371k followers.
  • His Facebook page, @ryanfoland313, has 1,186 likes and 1,286 followers.
  • He also has an Instagram profile, @ryan.foland, with 4,435 followers.
  • Foland's LinkedIn account has 12,368 followers.
  • He also manages a YouTube channel, with the number of subscribers kept private.
  • Following are some strategies Foland provides to develop one's personal brand:
    • Interact as a human: One should interact as a human with the audience. This makes them more identifiable and accessible.
    • Reflect personal traits: One's brand should perfectly resonate with one's character traits. These traits should be carefully identified and assorted.
    • Using proper tools: One should use an assortment of tools to engage with the community. These can range from answering questions on Quora to using unique domain names.

Research Strategy

We found this pre-compiled list of popular US personal branding experts on the Entrepreneur. Out of these, we chose three experts with excellent track record and recognition. To find the strategies suggested by these experts, we scoured their blogs and social media handles. We came across their self-written posts or community answer. We analyzed and summarized these strategies to present here. We have also used sites like Quora and Medium in our brief, as they were an important part of these experts' portfolio. The number of subscribers for expert Ryan Foland's YouTube channel was not found, because it was visible on the channel. We also tried to use YouTube analytics tools like Social Blade and StatSheep to get the subscriber count, but the result were not available. This could be because Ryan has kept the number of subscribers on his YouTube channel private.

From Part 02