Life tends to get in the way and we sometimes slip into inaction or procrastination, even when it comes to important decisions or changes we’d like to implement. But when it comes to building your brand, there really is no better time to start than now. Here’s why:
Compound interest matters
We’ve all heard of the principle of compound interest in finance, noting that the earlier you start investing your money, the better return on investment you’ll get. That is a fairly straightforward statement, easy to understand and apply. So why are so few people actually taking advantage of it properly?
The main reason is that it’s vague. We can’t imagine in tangible terms what consequence waiting a few more years will make and thus keep postponing our investing goals when life gets in the way. But what if we made it tangible?
[Sally] invests £100/month from age twenty-five to age thirty-five and then never touches that money again. Dumb Dan is too preoccupied to worry about money until he’s thirty-five, at which point he starts investing £100/month until he’s sixty-five. In other words, Smart Sally invests for ten years and Dumb Dan for thirty years – but Smart Sally has much more money. [At age 65, she ends up with £135,044 at a 7% rate of return as compared to Dan's £121,287.]
Compound interest clearly works in Sally’s favour as she ends up with almost £14,000 more.
So what if we took the principle and applied it to building a brand?
The principle of compound interest translates easily into the area of personal branding. Just as with a savings nest, a personal brand needs to be built before it can be used. Tara Hunt talks about this in The Whuffie Factor where she describes just how important it is to build your “whuffie,” the currency of your reputation (or brand) which strengthens your social capital.
Let’s look at a few examples illustrating why you need to start building your brand now:
Chris wants his personal brand to portray him as an expert in his industry.
He realizes this will take a lot of time and so he starts reading relevant books and magazines in his field, absorbing as much information as possible. He does this in the evenings as he has schoolwork during the day. He also starts blogging about what he’s learning.
At first he sucks. Despite putting in lots of work, no one seems to read his blog and even if they do, he has no comments to prove it. But he keeps going, sets up online profiles and uses online channels to let more people know about his work.
He comments on other blogs and gets business cards that he can give out in face-to-face interactions. He talks to everyone about his industry and points them to his online presence as he slowly becomes more of an authority in his field.
Sarah wants to build great relationships in her industry
Sarah realizes the value of having a large network you can count on and builds her personal brand as someone worth knowing and connecting to. She organizes her social calendar and makes it her goal to attend as many industry events as possible. She also seeks out local groups that seem interesting and meets people from different fields living in her area.
She makes sure to follow up with anyone she meets and keeps thinking about how she could be helpful to her new contacts or who she could connect them to further. Many of her colleagues start to appreciate the relationships she has built and keep her in mind for interesting projects and talks.
So why start now?
All of this takes a long time but it brings great advantages. Chris can now contact the “celebrities” in his field that would have never listened to him before. He can keep strengthening his brand, maybe get features in important publications and maybe even get his dream job offer. Sarah has risen through the power of word-of-mouth and now has access to opportunities she would have never had heard of in the past.
Investing time early on is advantageous as it allows you to reap the benefits much longer than if you had waited. No one becomes a star overnight, it all comes down to investing the time and effort. But it is definitely worth it as having a strong personal brand at age 18 or 25 will set you up for great many years, why wait till you’re 35?
Convinced? What is one step that you can take today towards building your personal brand? Share it in the comments section.
Anna is a Social Media Marketing Assistant at Pepsmedia, based in Cambridge, UK. Having graduated from the University of Cambridge in 2010 with a degree in Social and Political Sciences, she joined the small team straight out of university and is now helping businesses engage with customers online and build communities. She is passionate about the use of social media both in business and for individuals. To find out more, read her Life With Social Media blog, or connect with her on Twitter @annamanasova and LinkedIn.