Ryan Foland: Developing an Awesome Personal Brand on Twitter (1/2)

Personal branding on Twitter with Ryan Foland /
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Approx. 8 min. read
Last updated: May 8, 2018

With 313 million monthly active users and 500 million tweets sent per day, Twitter has become one of the top social media channels for showing off an expertise and growing an online authority. Ryan Foland, personal branding expert, communication keynote speaker and 3X TEDx alumni, shares his thoughts on Twitter, one of his favorite social media channel for building a unique personal brand:

Hi Ryan, you have founded InfluenceTree with Leonard Kim in South California to help people grow their personal brand - What are, according to you, the mistakes to avoid when it comes to personal branding on social media?

I'd say the three biggest mistakes to avoid when it comes to using social media to help communicate your personal brand are not being focused, not being consistent with your content and thirdly, not engaging with those who engage with you.

When you build a personal brand, you have to stay focused on what you want to be known for. The more narrow your focus, the better chances you have of solidifying your thought leadership in that specific area.

We often find people trying to represent their brand on social media well before they have discovered what their brand really is. This can create confused messaging.

How can a personal brand stay unified in social media?

Your brand is the intersection of what people know about you and what you want them to know about you.

Social media is a great place to share content that reinforces the brand you want to be known for. But too often people start posting and sharing content on social media before really narrowing down and locking in the brand that they want to establish and grow. The good news is that once you do clarify your core Brand Story, you can begin communicating the narrative that you want, in-person and online.

At InfluenceTree, my business partner Leonard Kim and I help high-level executives define, craft, and build their personal brands. I look at social media as a dynamic amplification tool, a virtual speaker of sorts.

The trick is, you have to find out what message and brand you want to amplify first, then choose the right frequencies to share it through. If you start amplifying scattered messages, posts, and videos that aren’t centralized, your brand will be unclear.

People want to do business with experts, not Jacks of all trades. So focus on what you want to be known for, then use social media to reinforce this messaging with your target audience.

Ryan Foland's tips on personal branding

How would you advise using content in personal branding?

Another mistake people often make when it comes to social media is not being consistent with their content.

People get excited about building their brand, they define their Brand Story, and take the leap towards communicating this brand online through their social media channels. They start to blog, make videos, and post regularly. Then life gets in the way and they stop posting. One blog a week turns into one blog a month turns into one blog every six months.

Creating content is hard.

Creating great content is even more difficult.

Consistently creating amazing content is the magic sauce.

Because we work with high-level executives, our clients typically don't have the time to put together the ideal content they need on a regular basis to reinforce the brand they are building.

Not everyone can afford services to create content for them, but everyone should understand the importance of creating consistent content.

If you can't afford to hire a firm to help you with content creation and syndication, make sure to set your goals correctly and keep in consideration how long it takes to create content, consistently.

Gary Vaynerchuk does a good job of helping people set expectations when it comes to social media. He encourages people to not care or pay attention to the number of likes and follows for a long period of time as they're starting out.

The reality is that it can take a long time to establish yourself on social media and gain a solid following. During the time of growth, you have to expect that you won't see a large number of likes, shares, reads, and engagement along the way. That’s why creating consistent content is key. It really can be that simple because so many people begin creating content, get excited, and then lose motivation when they don't see the results that they are expecting, then they stop creating content.

So create content, consistently.

Related: Building Personal Brands in The Age of Disruption - Interview with Tanvi Gautam

What is the role of engagement in personal branding?

Another big mistake that people make when trying to use social media to build their personal brand is thinking they only need broadcast their message.

Let's look at the words “social” and “media.” The first word, social, is an important part of the equation. If you are broadcasting messages one way and are not interacting or engaging with others, your content will fall on deaf ears.

Engagement drives engagement, and if you want to have success in building your thought leadership, you can't just expect that everyone will follow you and fall in love with your content.

You have to engage with others online and build real relationships with people, just like in real life.

If someone comments on your blog, reply back. If somebody follows you, look at their profile and consider following them back. If someone asks a question, answer it. It's not rocket science, but you'd be surprised how many people treat social media as a one-way street.

The more you engage with others, the more they engage with you. Make sure that you are engaging others to help spark conversations that will create relationships and expand your reach, and ultimately help you build your brand by exposing your thought leadership to more people.

Can you explain the reasons why Twitter is one of your favorite channels to grow your personal brand and to have engaging discussions with your followers?

Twitter is by far my favorite of all social media platforms for a number of reasons. I can go on and on, but the top reasons why I love Twitter are because it's fast, friendly, and a great networking tool.

When I log on to Facebook or Instagram, I find myself getting stuck on the platform for a long time. When I am on Twitter, I can be on and off easily. Facebook is like a time vortex that sucks you into a wormhole of long-form content and long threads of comments.

I feel that with Twitter, thanks to the short-form posts, I am able to digest information much quicker and there are fewer distractions on the platform. Multiple times throughout the day, I can jump onto Twitter, check my notifications, scroll through my feed, send a tweet or two, then I'm off to the next thing that I have to do.

Yes, Twitter is a place with many trolls and mean people. But what I love about the platform is that you have a chance to choose the environment you want to live in.

I have a self-made Twitter policy in which I don't allow politics or trolls in my feed. If someone is trolling, I can simply block them. If someone wants to get into a heated political debate, I don't have to participate.

Twitter is the best social media for personal branding

What content do you personally find the most engaging on this platform?

The content that I find personally most engaging on Twitter are the motivational messages from people around the world.

My favorite tweets are short, yet thought-provoking, with images that help reinforce the message. I love seeing pictures of nature, sailboats, and inspiring individuals who are making a change around the world.

Also, I believe that the Twitter search functionality is incredible for learning more about topics I am interested in. I also admit that I love a good GIF.

How do you connect with people on Twitter?

On Twitter, you can choose to follow people you want and be in front of content that is interesting to you. Another friendly aspect of Twitter is tweet chats, my favorite being the #winniesun tweet chat. Tweet chats are like live radio shows where thousands of people all participate at the same time, each week, based on a certain topic that is organized by a hashtag. These small communities of individuals interested in specific topic help clear the noise into things that you are interested in.

I have found Twitter to be one of the most powerful networking platforms available. Some might argue that LinkedIn is better, but in my opinion, LinkedIn takes a lot more time to navigate than Twitter.

At large conferences, I love using Twitter as a way to connect with others attending to share notes and valuable insights. And as a host of a radio show and podcast, Twitter is a great place for me to meet people and reach out to them to be guest on my show.

When I meet someone or learn about someone, the first place I go to find them is on Twitter. I will follow them and engage with their content over a certain amount of time. This creates a rapport that soon turns into a real relationship. I have reached out to many people through Twitter with whom I’ve become not only Twitter friends, but have extended that friendship into real life.

About Ryan: As Managing Partner of InfluenceTree, Ryan Foland helps executives harness the power of vulnerability and authenticity to build a better, more relatable, more profitable brand identities. Recognized by Inc. Magazine as a Top Youth Marketer and named a Top Personal Branding Expert by Entrepreneur Magazine, Ryan helps thought leaders create and syndicate content that reveals their whole self to drive differentiation, growth, and loyalty. Learn more at ryanfoland.com

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