social media how toWant to build your personal brand? There are few tools as powerful as social media for quickly building a positive personal brand. Whether you’re focusing on a global audience or a local one, social media can help you get visibility and help you forge connections.

In this article, I’ll share some tips to help you leverage social media to gain more exposure.

#1: Reap What You Sow

What are you aiming for? What is your goal?

If you want to get yourself known, social media is a great way to build visibility and a platform. Getting known might be your goal or it might be a means to an end. Again, social media can help you build connections that pay off in terms of opportunities and offers.

At the very least, when you do the right things in social media, you’re building a profile that represents you in the best possible light when anyone wants to look you up. It is a rare potential employer who will not do a quick Google search, and apparently even potential dates now do this routinely!

#2: Model Real Life

Social media grew out of real-world social rules and therefore what works in real life works well in social media, but with wider distribution and accelerated cause and effect.

Often people say to me that social media does not work, but what they really mean is they tried to extract value before they put any in. In fact, at the time of this writing I almost got into a protracted debate on Twitter about this very thing. Because this one person didn’t see any results, he believed social media “didn’t work.” The problem is, social media does not work for people who just want to take and be selfish, so he is setting himself up for a self-fulfilling prophecy.

You can’t withdraw very long from an empty social capital account. Essentially, if you want to get out value, then you need to start putting value in.

#3: Be Likeable

Another aspect of social media engagement is that your basic interactions are communicating more than the 140-character status updates. People also read between the lines. Again, this can work for or against you.

Brands are built through experience just as much as what you say and any image you create. The brands you love and hate are much more about how they have treated you than their logos and corporate mission statements!

The same is true on a personal brand level. It’s about treating people well and giving them a positive experience with you. It really helps if you like people because you are going to need to be consistently a good person to know.

Using light humor, being kind, sharing about more than just your work—including your interests—allow people to connect with you on a human level as well as a business and technical level.

Beyond this we have to be aware of boundaries and limitations to sharing. We have all seen the damage that can be done through “overshare” or Too Much Information, and also what we find humorous might well put people off, or even cause emotional or professional damage.

Consider a popular blogger who is constantly on the attack, belittling people, making fun of people, “digging up dirt” and so on. Yes, he will gather a following—bullies often do—but how do these kinds of tactics affect long-term relationships and loyalty?

At SXSW I had a discussion about this very topic and we realized many of the highly visible people who used this approach 4 or 5 years ago are now seldom heard from and nobody will take their calls.

Social karma works in the negative as well as the positive, and the Internet has a LONG memory!

Does This Really Work?

At this point you might still be skeptical. So to reassure you that there is some real cause and effect going on here, just look at your own social media activity.

  • Who do you follow? Think about your top three social media users and what they have in common.
  • Which blogs do you read? Again, which are your “must-read” blogs?
  • When have you had the best results? Think back to when you had your best win. What did you do?
  • How do you attract new contacts? When you want a social media or list boost, what works best for you?
  • What can you test today? Still skeptical? Good! Test, verify—what can you try today to move your metrics needle?

I am 100% sure that when you put out good, valuable, positive stuff—when you share only the best—that’s when you will get the best results. It also follows that the people you are most attracted to or listen to most are the people you get the most value from, be that entertainment or education, and with whom you feel the best connection.

#4: Share, Share, Share

Tactically this is about sharing good stuff. If you want to position yourself as an expert, then share what you know.

The more you share good stuff, the more people will want to listen to you. Even better, if you share your expertise with good stuff from other people mixed in, it shows you’re generous and have your followers’ best interests at heart rather than pure self-promotion.

  • Answer questions in LinkedIn.
  • Share links, videos and anything useful that you find in Facebook and Twitter.
  • Post your slide decks to Slideshare.
  • Upload advice videos and demonstrations to YouTube.
  • Write valuable content in your blog and answer comments.
  • Invite people to ask you questions on your Facebook fan page, Twitter and your blog.

#5: Conduct a Whuffie Audit

Cory Doctorow of BoingBoing fame invented the futuristic reputation, or social capital–based currency, of Whuffie. Some days I wish Whuffie really existed and that just by looking someone up we could see what kind of person they were and how much they added to society. Unfortunately we do not have Whuffie yet, but you can “audit” yourself to see how much social capital you are generating.

Keep an eye on your key metrics to see if they are growing and what behavior is influencing them:

  • Followers, friends and subscriber counts—How many people you have following you is not the best metric, but it does tell you if you’re attracting versus annoying people!
  • Retweets, clicks and shares—If people want to share your stuff, it’s a hint that what you are putting out is valuable.
  • Comments, favorites, discussions—Can you spark discussion and debate? That’s value right there.
  • Key contacts, referrals, recommendations and testimonials—Are you reaching people and are they telling others about you? What do people say about you behind your back? Will people publicly connect their name, and reputation, to yours?

Closing Thoughts…

I know how frustrating it is when we say things in interviews like “provide value, join the conversation.” Hopefully I’ve explained a bit more about what this means and some of the steps you can use. It comes down to having the intention to really help, inform and be an excellent person to know.

A reputation is difficult and time-consuming to build, but with social media we can damage it in an instant. When you have what’s best for your community in mind, you will not go far wrong.

How does this work for you? Got any tips to share? What has worked best in your experience? Please SHARE your thoughts in the comments! 🙂

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  • Chris, great post. I agree with you on every point. People who are skeptical, or who think there’s no value to these media, have not taken the time, nor asked for help, to get to know how to communicate effectively. One of the differences between traditional media and social media is that, with traditional media, there really have to be experts making the decisions on which to use, what they should look like, how many of them to buy, when to place, etc., vs. social media, which is all about us, as users, taking control of the vehicle and making our own connections and decisions regarding how to connect with those who choose to follow us. The connections are there to be made.

    Heavens, with tens of millions of users in each major medium, do we think for a second our clients and potential clients aren’t here in some way, just waiting to make connections, to learn, to get to know you better?

  • It really comes down to being yourself, being open, real, honest and helpful and informative.

    You do all that on social media and your brand will grow strong.

  • Awesome points here Chris. Sometimes it feels like people on the internet forget to be real people, because the internet can add a layer of “anonymity” or security.

    I think great friendships and social sharing can enhance our lives… especially us geekier folks. 😉

  • Social Media participation has been a really empowering and positive experience for me in all ways but one ~ it’s highlighted the fact that I need to work on Self Discipline: time stands still for me while I’m actively engaged in this realm and hours go by while I’m not paying attention.

    The willingness to share information, to help one another, to converse with one another is mind blowing ~ especially when you take into account that this is all happening in a community of virtual strangers. (Though I know some do connect at some point in ‘real life’ too.)

    I opened a blog site less than one week ago. I was only able to do so with the support and assistance of people I’d built friendly relations with on Twitter. The supportive comments on my first published post cracked my heart wide open. I felt so blessed.

    Chris, I am grateful for the work you do – and without social media, I’d have missed all your insight and wisdom because it’s through Twitter I discovered your existence. I do aspire to leave others feeling that way about me too. We truly do reap what we sow. Shall we call you the Grin Reaper?

  • chrisgarrett

    Exactly, and people who have gotten used to traditional media where you can control the message, social media capacity to connect prospect to prospect can be a difficult idea to grasp 🙂

  • chrisgarrett

    Just like in real life – just that social media helps you be more visible 🙂

  • chrisgarrett

    Yup, it is a shame how many people turn into idiots just by being online, but you get to meet some really cool people too so it’s all good 🙂

  • chrisgarrett

    Hah, I hope I am known more for sowing than reaping, but thanks 😉

  • Very good post thanks.

    I think the thing that is most important in Social Media is that you reap what you sow. Unless you are prepared to give, and give generously to the society, you are not going to see the benefit.

    And yes, if you sit and watch it pass by, you will find little benefit.

  • chrisgarrett

    Exactly, and it is very easy to be a passive observer in social media. I feel sorry for the folks who join twitter because of Oprah and other celebs, for example – that becomes purely a consumption tool rather than an interaction tool? Not my choice but I guess others like it like that.

  • You most definitely are ~ I’m just not clever enough to come up with a Sower name. The Grower Sower? (See, that sucks.)

  • Exactly..and social media helps people be more talkative.. the shy become SM Celebrities lol

  • Great advice, Chris. I enjoy reading your opinions and I see you as an authoritative source on social media. So here’s a question for you:

    I was interviewed yesterday by Cindy King. A great idea and I really appreciate the time and effort she put into the interview. It was a wonderful experience. Anyway, in preparing for this interview I sent out tweets to my network asking them to RT. I heard back from everybody but one: a former colleague who sees himself as an expert in social media. He’s written a book about social media that was a best seller here in the Netherlands and he has more than 5000 followers.

    I know him IRL so I sent him a DM ans asked, what’s up? How come I didn’t hear back from you on the RT. His answer, “yes, I got your message. But fortunately I’m not an RT-machine.” I was hurt when I read this. I thought, damn! Was my message not good enough for your network or something?

    My question to you is: am I being oversensitive? What’s up with that attitude? Have you come across this more frequently? To be honest, it seems to me to be antithetical to your advice in this column.

    Thanks in advance.


  • chrisgarrett

    There is a lot involved with this kind of stuff that is hidden between the lines, and 140 characters makes it even harder to tell what is going on. My advice is to pick up the phone if this is still playing on your mind, if not brush it off as “one of those things”.

    I can see both sides.

    From his point of view that could have been the 100th request of the sort that day. I get lots of RT requests, I know Darren, Chris B, et al do all the time. We tend to see only us asking a small favor of a friend, but they will be thinking “If I RT *everything* then all I will be doing is RTing other folks’ stuff”.

    This is why I only ask for RTs very seldom. Another element is, what have you done for him lately? If you give give give and he takes, but will not do this thing, then there is something up with that relationship.

    On the other hand, perhaps he doesn’t see a RT as important and the amount of importance you apply to the gesture – kind of like, he would help you move house or loan you $100 but feels brushing off a RT is ok?

    When you do ask for an RT, just put it out there and do not think too much about what comes back. Do appreciate and remember the folks who RT, but don’t be too upset with the folks who do not. If it starts to become unbalanced, trim your friends 🙂

  • Thanks very much, Chris, for your answer. I know it’s difficult to give advice without knowing all the particulars, but I appreciate you weighing in.

    Perhaps my expectations were indeed too high. As a best-selling author and having 5000+ followers, he’s probably inundated on a daily basis with all sorts of requests. And my status as a former colleague means nothing in light of his current position.

    No, I’m not losing sleep over it. I was curious to get another perspective. Thanks very much for taking the time to give yours. I appreciate it.



  • I love the be likable part. I have to tell you that there are people I have followed on Twitter that I greatly respected that have changed my opinion of them in a massive way. Insults, nasty language and just being a jerk doesn’t make me like someone at all.

  • frankbradley

    Thanks for the advice Chris. I’ve been doing an experiment for the last few weeks where I use this site – – to pick 1 random follower and 1 random friend each day. I then give these 2 people special attention on that day e.g. do a few ReTweets, reply to them on Twitter, read their recent blog posts and leave some comments. I’ve found this to be a great way to interact with people and increase my social currency. The more you give the more you get back.

  • chrisgarrett

    Yeah, there are understandable differences in style and interests which can make people not a great fit, but some people seem to go out of their way to be abrasive which I just don’t understand – especially when some are not like that in real life 🙂

  • chrisgarrett

    Ooh, nice idea! 🙂

  • – Great article Chris.

    I think having consistency in your personal brand is important as well. Making sure you use the same photo on your blog, facebook profile, twitter profile, linkedin profile…people will start to recognize your face, similar to your company logo.

    Also using the same type of messaging and style across your blog content, social conversations, and engagements. For example, if your communication style is more casual and fun, then stick with that type of communication. Be who you are!

  • Thanks, Chris for the great article.

    This sums up everything “Brands are built through experience just as much as what you say and any image you create. The brands you love and hate are much more about how they have treated you than their logos and corporate mission statements!”

    Here is an addition to the statement. Build your brand around a community by giving back. I.e. sponsor a charity. Kaiser Permanente and Starbucks are fine examples.

  • Thanks for the article, Chris — great suggestions. It is the day-to-day actions that build, it won’t all happen in a day, week, etc. Requires a commitment of time and putting yourself out there, and for those of us who are introverts, takes us a bit out of our comfort zone, but worth the ‘trip’. Thanks for sharing!

  • Lots of great tips and points Chris!

    Yes, it is important to be yourself as others have mentioned. I would also say that it’s equally important to give yourself time to find the right mix and to allow yourself time to figure out what “being yourself” means to you because not everyone can be themselves in the same medium in the same way. For some it’s video, and for others it’s blogging, from some it’s a mix of twitter, video and blogging. And it’s important to remember that some personalities come across better in a medium that matches your voice and personality. Tinker, test and experiment to see what works best for you.

    Most of all, be realistic and make sure to manage and check your expectations when using social media. Social tools have an immediate, urgent and instant quality to them, but realistically, developing relationships and your personal brand takes time and consistency. Lastly, taking the focus off your brand to truly share and help others goes a long long way, too!

  • Linda Nelson

    Thanks so much for posting this. I have a group of filmmakers that I work with on digital distribution. Sometimes I have a hard time convincing them that social media works, especially when they have ten friends on Facebook for their film page. I’m going to share this with all of them. We started building an audience for our new film while we were shooting and already we have close to 4,000 fans and we’re still in post production, so I know this works. Your blog is very helpful for all of us. We’re always looking for new ways to engage and build our audience, but we also share our whole process with our audience and that seems to really keep their interest. is our film page. I am concerned that yesterday Facebook got rid of the concept of “Fans”. Films really do have fans, so I don’t know if this will make it harder or easier to use this great tool to build our audience. We’ll have to wait and see.

  • Jenni Wright

    I really enjoyed your post, especially “model real life”. I sometimes send a DM to people I’m following on Twitter to remind them this is SOCIAL media. They sometimes forget this and begin spamming a URL for example. You wouldn’t say the same thing over and over to someone!

    And yes, remember that what you post is PUBLIC. I teach business studies and tell my students that once it’s in writing, it’s there for the world. What do you want them to know about you?

    Thanks again Chris

  • Thanks Chris. Really liked this article a lot. I’m pretty new to this site but have gained enormously during this short tenure. Your suggestions are practical and can be easily implemented. I liked that part about skepticism in this article. It is so very true.
    I had something to add to what you have said here & have shared it on my blog [].


  • Absolutely agree with John Paul, it is about being yourself, which is not an easy task at the best of times in the “real” world. However, the Internet creates an even playing field where we all start from scratch and free of any handicaps. In that sense the “reap what you sow” is so relevant, because it is a full cycle with no head starts, all you have to start with is the earth in this the Internet and your seeds which is your content and from there you can grow.

    Chris, amazing post! I read it at 1am when I was tired and even then it was really easy to read and take in.

  • Thanks, Chris, for an excellent article. Everything you say makes perfect sense and it is a good checklist for everyone involved in social media marketing. The process can seem overwhelming at times, but you have broken it down into sensible points. I believe that daily consistent action done properly as you have laid out will surely bring results.

  • Marcelino Latorre

    Thank you for all the valuable content you have been sharing, it is priceless!

  • Maxiosearch

    Great advices Chris, I think that just like in real life, you can start promoting your brand and business by sharing, letting people know what you can do, give something away to create value and have a great customer service basis. The difference that social medi introduces is the flexibility to make yourself visible from so many channels, fast, cheap and with access to almost everybody. I always join the conversation on to engage with others there and share my expertise about business.

  • I especially like #3. Since becoming more involved with social media, it has astounded me how often I read really rude comments or posts. Maybe it’s the anonymity as Nathalie mentions or maybe their parents didn’t raise them right 🙂 I just don’t get how they can believe that will bring them business.

    Then there is the really great side where you meet people from all around the world and share different ideas and learn all kinds of good “stuff.”

  • derrellrevels

    Yes this is good stuff. No one wants to deal with one who’d be an emotional liability. Luckily, I’m a people person. I constantly seek ways to bring positive energy to others.

  • Big fan of your blog guys. Really enjoy all the articles.

  • Oh, but Chris! You are reaping Grins. Besides which, with this article you have sown so much. So many of us need this information; I, for one, am delighted with it and will print it for future reference—the future beginning today! You have given us this material in a clear, straightforward manner, which is much appreciated. Thank you.

  • contrapaul

    Howdy! I’m working on a personal branding blog at the moment, and I have a question for you: How active should you be in unfriending/unfollowing if you’re trying to build a brand online? As it stands I remove overly political and profane friends and followers, but thats about it. How much does it matter what friends you have in general?

  • Chris, thanks to Social Media Examiner, I have discovered your articles. #3 in THIS article jumped out at me. I’m glad you addressed this subject. Like MillerCathy, I have wondered why some people publish such rude comments and posts. One day I went to the blog of a person I thought I would like to know more about, and what I found reminded me of a very angry talk-radio host (I also do not listen to volatile talk-radio). I left the blogsite and won’t bother to go back. As you have said, ‘garbage in, garbage out”. To keep, and share, a high level of positive energy, we need to be around positive people. Obviously.

    Could it be that some (many?) of the ones who are so rude, ‘don’t KNOW that they don’t know’ they need to learn more acceptable ways to expressing themselves? Will they ever make the connection between their rude statements and ever-decreasing followers? Who knows?

    Meanwhile, I think of the sign I recently saw in a place of business. It said, “Because Nice Matters”.

  • trac2point0

    Thank you Chris. I’m still trying to figure all this social media stuff out, so every bit of advice is useful to me. Your advice in this blog makes a lot of sense.

  • Kymberly

    Thank you Chris for Share, share, Sharing (#4) your knowledge. And can you explain a bit more how the term “Whuffie” came into play and what it means exactly. You slipped that past us pretty quickly, just like a twitter message at rush hour.

  • yossipetrucci

    Yes, I agree. And the most important … Don’t spam … At least not sending too many times / tag your products/ business to people account :). Prefer touch with more personal touch (1 to 1) is more gently and get better response, while send your mass adv of your brand. Just my opinion. Thank you!

  • I agree with everything you have said Chris, I have only been active with Social Media for a bit over a month now and all the lessons above all ring a bell, loud and clear. Thanks for a concise post.

  • What a concise and straight up article that made me start-up sharing and writing about few ideas I’ve had. Thanks for the inspiration.

    “The more you give, the more you get.”

    Cheers, Valon.

  • Mabel Diaz-Joslyn

    Great points, Chris. Brands are experiential, so your personal brand via social media will be too. Paying forward is always a good policy even if the returns on social investment aren’t immediate. Ironic how the Internet creates transparency by way of access to information, but also allows us exhibit good citizenship under a ‘cloak’ of anonymity for those of us who prefer it.

  • Mabel Diaz-Joslyn

    Great points, Chris. Brands are experiential and an online brand definitely is also. You’re absolutely right – it is always good policy to pay forward because we reap what we sow. Ironic how the Internet has yielded an information environment of transparency, but can create a ‘cloak’ of anonymity so you can still promote your brand, be considered a subject matter expert and go-to source, and build valuable social capital in a relatively short period of time even if you prefer privacy and security.

  • Everyone: Sorry about the double posting – having serious computer problems that erased what I wrote before I posted it. Sorry again.

  • I like it. My summary (so I can remember it) is to be yourself, or at least try to be who your friends and family want you to be. That way, you’ll make the types of connections you can maintain (with friends, partners, customers, etc.) and you’ll share with them and they will share with you because you like what each other has to say.

  • Digital Business Cards are a personal branding tool worth mentioning. They help a lot building an online reputation …
    There’s a couple of apps for this, see ours here:

    Hope it helps building & managing your personal brand.

  • Great post on social karma…I agree 100%

  • Thanks Chris, I’ve just come back to read this article a 2nd time and to subscribe to the comments by email. Thanks again for an excellent post for new starters in Social Media.

  • Hi, Chris! This was a great post on How to Boost Your Personal Brand with Social Media. I just started a blog for creative students and posted the other day on free online profile sites to build their personal online brand… man, I wish I’d seen this sooner! *grin* I would have included you in the post, too. I agree that likability, transparency, authenticity, engagement and boy do I wish Whuffie really existed!

  • The social media networking sites like Facebook,Twitter give the opportunities to small businesses to promote their product and business.Just starting a blog and connecting it with a social media also one can get a good traffic to his site.

  • Top class advice and agree re the Dale Cargenie comparison – social networking works on the same premise as attending real life networking events – listen, give ask and thank – a simple but powerful formula. Thanks for reminding me about the importance of lighening up and injecting your personality into social media! And what can I shre re what works for us? – we’ve opened up our as a ‘learning and sharing’ platform for case studies on social media and we’re enjoying the great information, knowledge and engagement its bringing! Please feel free to contribute a guest post guys on the benefits that social media is binging for you.

  • Thanks Chris, great post. #3 & #4 are spot on. I think businesses can struggle with showing personality & being likeable & sharing things that they’d normally guard as secret.

  • Thanks, great post. Very easy to understand for a social media rookie like me.

  • Agree that SM is about sharing, interacting, engaging, otherwise why bother?

  • Very thank.

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