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Branding Yourself Online

Mahalo really ought to pay me for all the promotion I'm doing for them recently.

Oh wait. They kind of are paying me. At least in Mahalo dollars. Not sure exactly the exchange rate on that, but whatever. I find it to be a symbiotic relationship no matter what the value of their imaginary currency. I need ideas to write about and talk about for The BeanCast blog and marketing podcast. They need answers to questions. Perfect fit. Like peanut butter and jelly.

So today I found a question about personal branding online. And it made me realize that there's an assumption out there that self-promotion and branding online is a science -- find the right keywords, do the right SEO and we can make anyone famous.

But while to a certain extent formulas can work, the people and products and brands who rise to the top and stay there always seem to have what in marketing we call a "USP" or Unique Selling Proposition. (Also known as Unique Selling Point.)

Success Takes a USP

Take Chris Brogran for instance. He offers savvy advice on social media and was one of the first to do so. He's a brand leader. Then there's Leo Laporte who offers access to the smartest minds in tech, blogging and podcasting. He was one of the first to do this and he does it better than just about everyone else out there. Even Justine Ezarik (iJustine to most of you) has carved out a niche for smart product reviews with a liberal amount of skin and cleavage.

You get the picture. Self promotion online takes finding a niche that is either unfulfilled or is assailable, filling that niche with a better offering, and then building out a content strategy to meet this need. Or in other words, it takes a USP and a dedicated follow-through.

Keywords and Content

So we identify the niche. We create our USP. Where do we go from there? What I say is start with the basics of keywords and content.

An online brand is only as valuable as the content we put up. So it only makes sense to build that content to match as closely as possible the things our audience is looking to find through some solid keyword research. This is how we fine tune our niche and create content that is interesting and relevant. And it makes the process of continually optimizing our content more fluid and natural.

Just remember that our content is the true key to loyal followers and search rankings. The deeper and more rich our keyword-optimized content is, the more likely we will be found by our audience. And I'm not just talking about content on our own sites. We have to do this everywhere we engage online. The object is to be everywhere our audience already is, creating pathways back to our sites.

Oh Yeah...You Need Talent

Finally, (and probably the most important element) we can't ever under-estimate the value of personal talents. Whether you want to be informational or just a flake, the Internet is essentially an entertainment medium. So for God's sake, be entertaining.

The most entertaining presentations of content always get the most views. Why do you think that even NBC, the third-place network, still trounces PBS in the ratings? It's because that content is optimized to reach the highest potential audience base, and a premium is put on the entertainment and production values.

You need to ask yourself, "Am I able to maintain the interest of my audience on a consistent basis." I can tell you from first-hand experience, the process is a lot of work. But you can't hope to play in the space without an eye toward the entertainment value of your content.

So those are my thoughts on personal branding. I'd love to have you share some more below. I think this is an interesting subject that a lot of us are still muddling through.

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