It’s the wild west of personal branding.
When social media went mainstream an opportunity for regular guys and gals came to light. For the first time we could defy the traditional Hollywood route to stardom and establish ourselves as personal brands. Now that these online communities and associated markets have had over a decade to mature, the personal branding industry has catapulted into the spotlight and is about to hit an exponential stride.
Social media platforms and mobile tech have surveyed the landscape and given us the tools. The innovators crushed it, and laid the groundwork for future brands. Companies big and small have agreed to the buy-in, spending their marketing dollars on social platforms and using smaller brands to reach their audience. People like you and me are spending our time and money on smaller brands that resonate with our cause. They’re accessible, they’re valuable and they show us that success doing something we love is possible. The path has been tested and the market has evolved, now the early adopters have a great opportunity to “get in where you fit in” in an era we’re declaring to be: The Wild West of personal branding.
Akin to the Wild West, this era will be a tale of conquest and progress as dreams are realized and fortunes are made. It is a wide open market primed for growth so stake your land and take what’s yours because coast-to-coast expansion is inevitable…only this time, it’s on a global frontier.
The Prospectors: Social media platforms and mobile tech
Over the 10–12-year lifecycle of relevant social media, every major platform has gone from minimal functionality to becoming a world-class marketing and sales tool. Rolling out improvements has become a near daily routine. They offer cutting edge features for building your audience and keeping them engaged. Their in-depth analytics quantify your efforts and provide you with the information you need to make improvements. Each platform also has its own character and purpose for releasing every medium of content.
Mobile tech is a driving force in tandem. It’s evolution over the past decade+ has given us the world of information at our fingertips. In fact, it’s so advanced if used wisely, it could be the only tool you need to build your brand.
“This [the smart phone] is the most important device in the world…We are living through a revolution, this is the television, and television is the radio, and it’s 1960,” Gary Vaynerchuk stressed. “There is a huge opportunity!”
The television is the radio. Mobile phones are the television, and social platforms are the major networks. Except — in true Wild West fashion — these networks are all open and available. This game is all about attention, and you can be on every station if your brand has value and you are willing to put in the work.
The Migration: Big business, small business and the audience.
All companies have gravitated to social media, whether it’s a local shop or a fortune 500 monster. They are spending a large part of their marketing dollars online, but more importantly, on social media. What spawned from this migration was the corporate strategy of using smaller personal brands to help sell their products and build their audience. It’s lower in cost and better in conversions. While this is only one cog in the wheel of your financial ecosystem, it certainly gives air to the fire of sustainability in personal branding.
The audience has also adapted to the market, buying from smaller brands and supporting their cause. We took our sweet ass time fighting through the over saturation of online content, but now we do our homework. If you’re a piece of shit, we know before you’ve hit the water. If you’re great and your content is valuable, we will give you our attention. Whether it’s merch, books, speaking events, online courses or whatever, we have proven that we are loyal and we will buy. In fact, we are more likely to support your micro brand than the corporate beasts.
The Gamblers: Early adopters — get in where you fit in.
The real gamblers were the innovators — that 2.5% of the market who pounced on the opportunity to personally brand themselves in a completely unknown landscape — and now that they’ve started playing the game, it’s time to grab your seat at the table. Personal branding has become so widely accepted that you can be from any walk of life if you know your shit, stay in your lane and give valuable content as a thought leader. Like the gambler, you have to play the hand you were dealt and wait for the flop. When the time is right, go all in, there is a market waiting for you. But don’t be fooled, this takes time, patience, resilience, hard work and deep domain expertise.
A recent prerequisite for great branding is accessibility and honesty. Don’t put yourself on some pedestal and pretend (←key word there) you’re some perfect human being, with a perfect brand strategy and all the fucking answers. You know as well as I do, that’s a load of shit. Be honest, offer great value, and show people your process. Personal brands will thrive on a deep connection with their audience, so if you’re dishonest and hide who you truly are, all is lost. We love vulnerability, we love to know that you’re a real person, and we want your story, the whole story. If you want to succeed in this Wild West remember to be honest, accessible and offer nothing but value.
With mavericks like VaynerMedia branching out and building VaynerTalent — a personal branding machine — it’s clear that now is the time. With an approximate $25k/month price tag on his service, you better believe these personal brands know the value of building a true fan base.
What’s more, today’s kids who are slowly reaching adulthood grew up with cell phones, social media and this globally accessible world. The trend is here to stay and it will continue to grow. Social media is free, the audience is yours for the taking and there are no rules. So, buy your tools, stake your land and build your ranch because in 5–10 years when the whole nation is developed you will be cashing in huge on your early adopter’s investment.