Cuppa Press as you all know is a talk-show series where we talk about marketing, technology, and a lot more.
In this edition of Cuppa Press, we decided to address an important topic - Personal Branding.
Personal Branding is no longer reserved only for C-Suite executives.
It has got little to do with your achievements and a lot to do with putting your vulnerable, authentic self out there. Amidst all the noise about personal branding, how do you devise a strategy that works for you? How can you leverage LinkedIn and Quora to power-up your personal brand? What is the end game?
Akshaya: Hello and welcome to this episode of Cuppa Press. On our episode today, we have with us Hardik, who is the founder of Content Flavour. Hello Hardik, how are you doing?
Hardik: Hi Akshaya, thank you so much for inviting me. I'm doing good!
Akshaya: Thank you so much for being on our show today Hardik. It's absolutely my privilege to have you with us today.
So today we're going to be talking about all the things personal branding, and especially how to personally brand yourself on LinkedIn and Quora. So to give you an introduction about who Hardik is, like I said, he's the founder of Content Flavour. He has about 45,000 plus followers on LinkedIn and he has a very strong presence in LinkedIn and Quora. So I think he's THE guy to talk to when you have to talk about personal branding.
'Human Content Writer'
Akshaya : And apart from that what really stays with me is that his LinkedIn headline reads 'A human content writer'. I think that's a great point to start talking about personal branding, Hardik. So what is the story behind that? What do you want to convey when you say you are a human content writer?
Hardik: Okay. So first things first, what happens whenever you talk to content writers or you give them a brief about content writing, you always find that people are talking about keywords, meta tags, SEO, and all the technical stuff. Whereas, I feel content is more than that. Content is all about touching the human hearts and bringing that emotion out from people. So that is why I've put this headline 'Human content writer'. So that I can tell people that in that age of bots and algorithms, I really don't care about algorithms because algorithms tell you to do this, to do that. Whereas I prefer that whenever I'm writing, I'm actually writing it for the human. And I think it's for my readers. So that's where this human content writer comes into the picture.
Akshaya: That is very interesting Hardik, because in a day and age where everybody keeps talking about keywords, algorithms and all of that, I think it truly differentiates you when you say that you're a human writer, because I think that matters the most. At the end of the day it is a human who is going to read what you're writing. So that makes a lot of sense.
What is Personal Branding?
Akshaya : To begin with Hardik, just to make sure we're all on the same page - What does personal branding mean to you?
Hardik: Personal branding is all about putting yourself out there. So you don't have to fabricate your personality. You don't have to tell lies. You don't have to say things that you don't mean and that includes your failures, your success, the lessons you learned, the mistakes that you committed. And, personal branding is never about you.
So many times I hear people saying, or even the CEOs and the founders say, "We do not want to do personal branding because we do not want to boast about us". Whereas in reality, personal branding is never about you. It is about the readers to whom you're communicating. So the whole idea is that whatever the mistakes you've made in your life or whatever the experiences that you have learned, you want to convey those experiences, those learnings, those lessons, to people out there so that millions of people like you, who are still struggling in their initial phase or at a later stage in their career, can learn from you and not commit those particular mistakes.
So that's what personal branding is all about, according to me. It's not about fabricating the personality, as I mentioned. It is never about discussing a particular topic that you do not know about or you do not have expertise on. Because if you talk about a topic that you don't have expertise on, then people are not going to trust you. They're not going to think of you as someone who is a credible person, and then you communicate to the people in a language that they understand better. So that you can add value to their lives. You can help them solve their problems, or you can just make their lives easier.
Akshaya: That demystifies the very concept of personal branding, Hardik, because I think there's a lot of confusion out there on what exactly personal branding is.
Personal Branding for Every Individual
Akshaya : Moving on, why is it important to personally brand yourself would be my next question. Following that, why is it important for everybody not just the top level executives, but for every individual out there to have a personal branding strategy, Hardik?
Hardik: I really go by the quote where a person says that—I don't remember the name of the author—but a person says that right now, all of us are running companies. Whether you are a student, whether you are a freelancer, whether you are a retired person, you are a job doer, whoever you are. Each of us is running a company called as 'Me Inc.'. So for example, I am running a company called 'Hardik Lashkari Inc.', you are running a company called 'Akshaya Inc.'. And like, it goes well in case of a company that whenever we are running a company, we need to market it, we need to brand it.
Same, goes true with personal branding also. Personal branding is quite inevitable at whatever stage of career you are in. Then second- why should everyone do this? Or what is the real benefit of personal branding? Because many times I hear from people that, okay, if I'm a job doer, then I don't think I need to brand myself. I need to create a personal brand because it's just for getting more opportunities or more leads or more business. That is a wrong perception.
According to me, As I mentioned in the initial definition, also, that personal branding is not just about getting more business or creating more leads or getting more customers. It's just about sharing your experiences, sharing your lessons, your learning, your failures with people out there so that they can think of you as someone who's a trustworthy person, who's a credible person. And when you do that, when you do that constantly, over the time, you become an industry expert, you become a thought leader in your domain, and that's where the entire magic happens.
When you become a thought leader, then people start thinking of it as okay, for any problem, you might have a solution. And that is where you get more jobs, better opportunities. You get more leads if you are a business owner. If you're a freelancer, you can get more clients. If you're just a student, you can have better opportunities in terms of getting internships or getting calls from other colleges also to represent your college. So it's all about building a thought leadership, making, giving an impression to people that yes, you know, about the topic that you're talking about.
Akshaya: Right, right. That makes a lot of sense, especially, I think you've thrown light on why students also have to personally brand themselves.
LinkedIn and Personal Branding
Akshaya : I think the flip side or the silver lining to the whole lockdown situation is that the number of users on LinkedIn have increased drastically. They're just flocking in huge numbers to LinkedIn. So talk to me about LinkedIn as the ideal platform for personal branding, Hardik.
Hardik: Okay, so first things first, I would just like to clear a misconception over here because generally what people feel that LinkedIn is just for B2B businesses, businesses who are into business to business category. Whereas, over the time LinkedIn has, and of course let's admit it that the line between B2B and B2C marketing or B2B and B2C domain has blurred over the years.
So right now we are into a phase. We are moving to H2H kind of thing, human to human. And that's where LinkedIn differentiates itself from all the other platforms. On LinkedIn, no matter what age you are of, no matter what industry do you come from, no matter what geographical region you come from- there is something for everyone on LinkedIn. Because understand it like this, we have 645 plus million people on LinkedIn who are creating content.
So not every one of them, of course, but people are creating content on LinkedIn. So you will find content from all the domains over there. That includes even photography, that includes even animation and these kinds of creative fields also. So you won't find a better platform that is catering to all the fields in such a, in such an amazing way, and giving such insights to the people. That's the first aspect that LinkedIn brings with itself.
The second aspect is over the years , LinkedIn has changed from a job search engine where you could dump your resumes and just come out of it to a heavily content-preferring platform. So in the last two to three years, LinkedIn is all about content.
LinkedIn is not about, you know, getting jobs or getting businesses and all, it's just about creating a lot of valuable content for your audience and connecting with them on a personal and professional level. That's how LinkedIn has turned out to be. Right now, if you're not on LinkedIn, then you're missing out on something, which is really very substantial. These are like my points of view about LinkedIn.
Personal Branding from a Recruiter's Perspective
Akshaya: Thank you for sharing these, Hardik. So now that you're talking about LinkedIn, I noticed that Content Flavour does hire a lot of people on LinkedIn. So as a recruiter, what do you think personal branding on LinkedIn is? And why is it important, especially for those who seek jobs?
Hardik: Okay. So I would talk in terms of Content Flavour since you've raised that question. So Content Flavour obviously requires copywriters, content writers, and graphic designers. Now there could be two approaches to it. One, that I tell that Content Flavour is hiring these people. If you want to apply, you can send your resume or portfolio to this particular email ID. Whereas, what do I generally do?
I do not ask for portfolios and for resumes from people. I simply go on their LinkedIn profile and check out the content that they have created in the last few months or last few days, in copywriters and content writers requirements and the same goes for graphic designers also. I prefer that I go to their Instagram profile or to their Instagram page and directly see the live content that they're creating.
So personal branding helps you distinguish yourself from other people. Because to be frank, even if all of us are talking about personal branding right now, not more than 10% of people are actually doing it. Not more than 10, and we have 700 million people on LinkedIn, but only one percent of people are creating content on LinkedIn. So see the ratio that we are trying to figure out over here and out of those 1% people also, I'm not sure if more than nine or 10% people would be creating their personal brand. So the moment you create a personal brand, the moment you start creating content for people, to people and by people, then you really distinct yourself from other people.
You really differentiate yourself from other people. And that's where you increase your chances of getting hired exponentially. Because frankly, whenever a recruiter is asking for the job application, he is getting 250, 300 or even 500 job applications everyday. How do you make sure that you are standing apart from other people? That is where personal branding helps.
Quora's Potential in Personal Branding
Akshaya: All right. So you've talked a little about LinkedIn now, moving on to Quora. I think Quora is an unsung hero of our times now. So it has a lot of untapped potential and how much potential do you think Quora has when it comes to personal branding specifically?
Hardik: So, traditionally, you know, people like Neil Patel and other marketers have defined Quora as a tool for driving traffic to your website. Whereas, I prefer that let's just restrict ourselves to the core domain of the platform. And let's talk about how it can actually then also give us more benefits. So I wouldn't talk in terms of driving traffic to your website, because that's where Quora has been abused. They have misused Quora to a greater effect. There are a couple of benefits that I personally draw out of Quora and that's something I always suggest to other people also.
One, that it is a fantastic tool for drawing a lot of content ideas. Say, for example,if you are into content marketing, for example, and you want to know that, okay, what are people talking about? What are the questions that people have? What are the pain points that people might have in your particular industry? And what is a better platform than Quora? Because on Quora, people are actually asking questions about these. People really have problems to which they seek some solutions. So if you can take out those particular questions and create content around those particular questions, then you're actually connecting to the people. And that's where the idea of create content for humans, not for algorithms, comes up. That's the first part about Quora.
The second part is that when you are answering questions on Quora, when you are actually presenting your thoughts on Quora, then you're allowing people to trust you. You're allowing people to, you know, think of you as a credible person. Because on Quora, people from across the world are reading your answers.
And that is where you can be, you know, you can be real open in experimenting with storytelling, with bringing different kinds of thoughts and answering all sorts of questions that you can. Imagine that on a topic like M.S.Dhoni, there are at least 400,000 questions right now. Think of the volume that Quora possesses. So if we have so many questions on a particular topic, then you are really missing out if you don't answer questions on Quora, or if you don't think that these can become the content ideas for you later on.
So Quora can be used in two ways - one to generate ideas for your content. And secondly, if you think of Quora as a standalone platform, then to build credibility over there by answering questions and solving people's problems.
Akshaya: Right. Right. So, yeah, I think if you aren't on LinkedIn and Quora, like you said, you're missing out on a lot of things right now, because it has the potential to boost your image and to establish your credibility and authenticity.
Hardik: I would rather put it this way - you think that what is the best platform for you. Say, for example, for a graphic designer, he has nothing to do with Quora or LinkedIn as such. But then, you should not think that, okay, if not LinkedIn and Quora, then what? Then you have to figure out and start positioning yourself on Instagram and such platforms.
So you really have to see where your target audience is or what is the kind of objective that you have for personal branding and then you have to align platforms. So there are tons of platforms, there are platforms like Pinterest and YouTube. YouTube is the most powerful platform right now for, you know, building a personal brand. Then there are some other platforms. You really have to see that what your objectives are and then align a particular platform to meet those objectives. That's the whole idea we are trying to drive.
Akshaya: Right, right. So, yeah, apart from LinkedIn and Quora, there are multiple other platforms that you can explore. So like Hardik has rightly said, you just have to find out which platform works best for you and utilize it.
Akshaya : So this brings me to the very last question of this episode, Hardik. What would be the long term strategy plan if I were to access LinkedIn or Quora or any other platform for that matter when it comes to personal branding?
Hardik: Okay. So if I were to give some tips, or the ultimate mantra that I can give is one, of course you cannot get results overnight. Overnight success stories are just a myth. People who say this have spent countless nights, you know, burning the midnight oil and making those mistakes.
So there is nothing that you can achieve overnight. So first things first, you really have to be consistent and you really have to persist when the things are not working. Because it happens with me, it happens with you and I'm sure it happens with almost everyone out there that sometimes we put the best content out there that we know that, okay, it is going to perform well, it does not perform at all. Whereas some other content that we have created in just one or two or three minutes, it performs really well and garners those views, likes, comments, and eventually leads as well. So you really have to be consistent when you are playing this game because personal branding is not a short game. It is a long game.
Second, the key is not to get perplexed by what others are achieving. And at the same time, don't ignore others completely also. You really have to keep an eye on others to see what is the kind of content that they're creating, what are the new things that they are doing, but not overthink about the engagement they are getting.
You need to learn how to experiment with yourself. So like I say, LinkedIn is a beautiful white canvas where if you're a painter, if you're a writer, you like whoever you could be, you are just a painter who could paint probably anything out in this world. You can create a scenery. You can create someone's portrait.
You can, you can create anything out there on LinkedIn. So LinkedIn is a beautiful playground for you to experiment with different kinds of things. Learn what is working, what is not working and accordingly, change your content strategy every now and then. This way, if you do, if you apply experimentation and if you are consistent with your efforts, then of course there is no one in this world who hasn't got results out of personal branding, but people who have been persistent with it, people who have stayed there for the long time have reaped the long term benefits of it.
Akshaya: You've beautifully wrapped up the entire session in those few sentences, Hardik. So I think this is the end of this episode. Thank you so much Hardik for being here. It's been lovely having you on our show!
Hardik: Thank you so much. Akshaya, for inviting me, I know there were some technical glitches, but atlast we could do it. So thank you so much for inviting me.
Akshaya: Absolutely my pleasure, Hardik. Thank you guys! I will see you in the next episode.
Previously on Cuppa Press