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Before you start a business, you should consider building a personal reputation. You might be able to do this naturally by accomplishing noteworthy achievements in your field. But for most people, that means going out of your way to build up a personal brand on social media.
Why is your personal reputation such an important factor for success in entrepreneurship, and what steps should you take to develop it?
The value of developing a reputation early
If you’re the entrepreneur of a successful business, you’ll automatically build a reputation for yourself. But there are many advantages to cultivating a better professional reputation before you start your business in the first place.
- Time and availability. Managing a business takes a lot of time, with many entrepreneurs working 60 hours a week or more. That doesn’t leave you much time to develop your personal reputation. Starting this process before you launch a business can give you all the time you need to establish yourself.
- Appeal to investors and partners. Having an impressive personal brand will also help you make early appeals to investors and potential partners. Your business idea will seem much more impressive if it’s backed by someone who has tens of thousands of social media followers.
- Early business momentum. With a cult following or a sizable audience, you’ll find it much easier to build early momentum for your business. Once you launch your business, you’ll be able to reach out to new potential clients with a warm introduction. You’ll also carry more clout with your existing audience.
- Long-term permanence. Don’t forget that roughly half of all businesses fail within the first five years. If you have a preexisting professional reputation and your business goes under, you can simply carry your personal brand into your next endeavor.
Elements of an effective reputation
So what exactly does it mean to have a strong professional reputation?
These are some of the most important elements:
- Thought leadership. Part of your reputation depends on your ability to be a thought leader. Thought leadership is a much-buzzed-about concept, but its core idea is easy to understand. You need to propose new ideas and unique thoughts to be seen as an expert, which sometimes means volunteering controversial opinions or deviating from the norm.
- Industry familiarity. You also need to be intimately familiar with your industry. That means being able to carry on intelligent conversations, and staying up-to-date with the latest developments. For many newcomers to personal branding, this is the easiest element to master.
- A wide circle of contacts. Though numbers aren’t everything, your personal brand will command more respect if you have a wide circle of contacts. Increasing your social media followers and connecting with more like-minded professionals can help you here.
- Engagement and presence. Finally, you need to be consistently engaging; this way, you stay top of mind with your followers and readers. Get involved in discussions, and reply to people who ask you questions. Say “yes” to more opportunities.
Avenues for personal brand development
If you’re interested in creating a better personal brand before building your business, there are several channels you should be utilizing. Before you start managing these tactics, it’s a good idea to spend time defining the brand you want to build for yourself. What do you want to be known for? How are you going to distinguish yourself from others in your field?
When you have that in place, one of your biggest priorities should be creating a website for yourself with a regular publishing schedule. Your writing will be useful for establishing your status as a thought leader, and over time, these posts will help you rank higher in search engines. They’ll also serve as materials you can use in other promotional outlets.
From there, you can cultivate an audience using social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn; publicize your best onsite posts; and engage in frequent discussions. Reach out to new people regularly, and stay in touch with your existing contacts, especially if they’re in the same industry. Over time, you can cultivate an audience of thousands.
It’s also a good idea to pitch new posts to offsite publishers and get yourself featured on podcasts within your industry. The more exposure you get, the more noteworthy you’re going to become. Each new platform or news feed you leverage is going to introduce you to a new audience segment and increase the reach of your content even further.
As long as you’re consistent in your development, and as long as you’re adding real value to your industry, you should be able to forge a strong personal reputation for yourself. Once in place, you’ll have a much easier time attracting investors and partners, and you’ll be able to build early momentum for your business when it’s time to start developing it.
Originally appeared in Entrepreneur