The Internet Is High School: Personal Branding & Influencer Marketing

Where do I sit?

With sweaty hands I walk, thinking about how I make a good impression. Who do I sit next to? What will they say when they see me? Will they like me enough to sit next to me tomorrow? All of these thoughts spun around my head as I entered my high school’s cafeteria for the very first time. Ah, the woes of a freshman — trying to make a mark in a war of popularity, gossip, and food fights. Not much has changed in the last decade.

Social Media will always remind me of high school. 

I find myself today, like many people within my age group, trying to make something of myself as I enter my professional career. I still have that sense of yearning, of wanting people to acknowledge me. Except now, the environment in which I deploy my tactics of grabbing people’s attention have nothing to do with finding my table amongst a sea of acne-filled teens (the cause of many existential crises back then).

Today, I try to grab the attention of my peers and professionals within my field on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and LinkedIn (Twitter as a platform has died for me already, I’m not too confident in its survival as a company).

These social channels we use are the new tables in the cafeteria. Each has its own group of people, speaking in a different context from the rest. These social channels — much like the social environments we found ourselves in during our high school years — are full of gossip, misinformation, great stories, and the occasional fanfare of congratulating your friends on their accomplishments. And the popular kids of today (social media influencers), instead of getting all the superficial attention that goes away right after graduation, get paid over $200k just to make a 6-second video.

How is this relevant to you?

Whether you’re like me, just starting your career trying your best to stand out from the crowd, or a seasoned veteran in your field — attention is vital to your professional growth. I’ve used personal branding to constantly grow my clout in my “tables.” The practice of promoting what makes me unique as a potential team member online, has paid off for me and continues to do so to this day.

Your goal doesn’t need to be becoming the next YouTube sensation or billionaire entrepreneur to consider personal branding as an important part of your life. If you are just looking to get a new job or a new promotion, producing content on a consistent basis can help you tremendously in the long run. Personal branding, if taken seriously, can lead to opportunities of becoming a social media influencer. Using influencer marketing can give you other chances to grow your brand into an asset that pays itself over time.

Consider personal branding and influencer marketing as ideas that can be applied to all professionals within any industry. Anyone who can grab the attention of their peers has a strategic advantage over those who don’t.

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What can we learn from social media influencers?

Influencer marketing and cultivating your personal brand go hand in hand. Think of influencer marketing as one form of how to use personal branding in your career. Your brand can align with other companies marketing campaigns because of the communities you engage with and that can lead to an alternative means of income. But as mentioned previously, even if these are things you don’t want, influencer marketing tactics can help you in your career.

One other example is using your personal brand to market your ideas to your coworkers outside of team meetings. Producing content and sharing it with them on LinkedIn can give you other opportunities to engage with them in meaningful ways. It certainly puts the conversations you have to offer in a less competitive atmosphere, fostering a higher quality of collaboration amongst you and your team.

How did I use personal branding & influencer marketing tactics?

I’m a firm believer that there are no longer any barriers between you and the celebrities and inspirational figures that you follow. If you want to talk to your favorite football player, a local politician, or celebrity — you can through the computer in your pocket. Keeping this in mind, the way I’ve personally used influencer marketing by experimenting with one tactic that influencers use to grow their audiences in a meaningful way — starting conversations.

We often forget that the foundation of social media is all about being social. What I’ve been doing currently, is reaching out to ad agencies I consider to be leaders in the marketing industry, not to get a job or to pitch them a partnership, but simply to learn from them. I’m not asking them to consume my content; I’m asking them questions relevant to their work. These questions lead to meaningful exchanges that have allowed me to grow my following, specifically on LinkedIn, by over 100 people in just seven days.

I’m personally still learning how to use my personal brand to propel myself forward into a meaningful career. As I continue to discover different ways to incorporate influencer marketing tactics (and other marketing strategies) to help me gain new opportunities — I invite you to consider the idea that popularity contests aren’t always bad. Especially because if you win, there a lot of great things that come from it.

Author’s note: I purposefully decided to avoid giving a list of influencer marketing tactics so that I can create a separate article about it in the future. Stay tuned.

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