A personal brand is a powerful thing. It can get your name out there, establish you as an influential authority, get your foot in the door with your dream clients, and so much more.
But how do you actually build a personal brand? What does it take to go from unknown to well-known? And how instrumental is social media?
I asked personal branding expert, Ash Jones, in an interview for The Content 10x Podcast.
Ash is the Founder of Great Influence, a personal branding agency responsible for growing the iconic personal brands of CEOs and social media leaders, including Steven Bartlett (Social Chain), Umar Kamani (Pretty Little Thing), Katy Leeson (Social Chain), and many, many more.
Ash shared plenty of brilliant tips for anyone and everyone hoping to level up their personal brand using social media. Whether you’re extremely vocal already or trying to come out of your shell, this episode has the advice for you.
Press play to listen to the full interview with Ash…
Check out the video highlights…
Or read on to discover how to use social media to build an influential personal brand.
Using a personal brand to drive business success
Ash got his start as one of the five founding members of the now huge agency, Social Chain.
The agency now has over 750 employees in multiple locations around the globe, and in 2020 turned over EUR 230m in revenue. But when Ash and the rest of the team first started, it was just five guys working from laptops in someone else’s office.
Social Chain Co-Founder, Steven Bartlett, was keen to explode his own personal brand as a way to market the agency. This is where Ash came in.
Unknown Entrepreneur to Superstar
With Ash’s help, Steven went from a relatively unknown entrepreneur to superstar CEO. His 5k following on Instagram rocketed to over 1m, his podcast (Diary of a CEO) became the number one downloaded business podcast in Europe, his LinkedIn and Facebook fans exploded, and he’s known worldwide as a leader within the industry.
Steven’s personal brand success then translated into business success. As Steven got more exposure, so did Social Chain. The growth went hand in hand and now both are highly successful in their own right.
Steven left Social Chain in 2020 and the agency continues goes from strength to strength (ironically, Ash is now working with other leaders in the business to grow their personal brands). And Steven’s brand continues to soar – he has taken on the role of Dragon in the UKs TV show Dragon’s Den, and will be the youngest Dragon ever to be on the show.
Ash’s experience in helping to turn Steven into a “business influencer” gave him the inspiration to apply what he’d learned to others. So he founded Great Influence, an agency helping business owners, founders, CEOs, VC investors, and other leaders build a personal brand that carries weight within and beyond their industry.
Ash says that more business owners are starting to understand how using your online presence is a fantastic way to drive opportunity for whatever you’re doing. Whether that’s build a business, find investors, or become an influential authority in your sector.
How to get started with your personal brand
One of the big hesitations people have when starting a personal brand is that they have no resources or team to help them. If this is your issue, Ash’s advice is to invest what you can, when you can.
When they first started working on Steven’s personal brand, they had no team and very little time. So, Ash and Steven would come into the office after hours, film a bunch of videos and upload them to Facebook. They repeated this process for 6 months, then the videos started to gain traction.
Once Ash and Steven had the verification that creating and sharing these personal brand assets was a valuable use of time, Ash shifted to becoming Steven’s full time personal brand manager. From there, the team grew.
Ash advises that you have to treat your personal brand like it’s a business – you have to lay the groundwork before you can move forward.
“Like most businesses, you start with nothing, and then it becomes profitable or commercially viable. Then it snowballs from there, and you get more resources, more time and energy and focus to be able to put into it.”
He says it’s a misconception that people start building a personal brand with a massive team around them or with lots of money to throw at it. For example, when Steven first decided to start recording his now incredibly successful podcast, he was recording it in a tiny wardrobe under the stairs…
The point is, if you want to do something, just start. Social media is the best tool to build a personal brand, and the best part is, it’s accessible for everyone – no matter what your budget is.
Why personal brands outperform company brands
FTI Consulting released a report called Leading from the Front: Successful Strategies for the Social CEO which found that over 90% of people believe that CEOs who actively participate in social media can build better connections with customers, employees, investors and other audiences. I wanted to find out Ash’s thoughts on why this is.
He believes that leaders naturally attract a following. If you’re the CEO of a company, for example, you’re automatically an authoritative figure, and people gravitate to that.
But beyond that, you stand out by being the authentic person behind the company. While you might be able to think of a handful of examples (Elon Musk, Steve Jobs, Bill Gates), not many company leaders take this approach. Do you know the CEO of McDonalds? Pepsi? IKEA?
It’s the authenticity-factor which makes people intrigued and keeps them engaged.
These aren’t just big figures – they’re real people too.
Ash believes people are primed to trust and believe in company leaders, and willing to hear what they have to say. So when the time comes to invest in their products or services, people are already warmed up to them as they’ve had so much exposure through multiple touchpoints with them and their brand. Ash summed it up well when he said:
“There's something really strange about how just through that very, very simple activity of posting on social media, if that content is good, people will just naturally trust you.”
Personal branding for CEOs: B2B or B2C?
According to Ash, personal brands are incredibly important for B2B leaders in particular. While B2C leaders are perhaps more common and well known (such as the examples above), the benefits can be incredibly instrumental for B2B companies.
Why? Because when companies choose to work with one another they often need to form a strong, trusting bond. Having that exposure to the founder/owner/CEO can help reassure potential clients that they know the ins and outs of their business – and can give them exactly what they need.
How to approach building a personal brand (even as an introvert)
Sharing your thoughts to the world doesn’t come easy to all of us…some of us might not feel comfortable getting straight behind the camera, or jumping on a podcast. For those who are hesitant about how to get started, Ash’s advice is to dip your toes in first.
He says that the secret is just getting your thoughts out there – and then getting validation.
As you share more posts, see people respond, and start to gain traction, you build confidence. Ash has seen clients start with text-only posts, adamant they’ll never put their face on video. Three years in, they’re happy to share photos of themselves, and get on camera, because their audience has given them that confidence.
If you’re ready to create content and build your personal brand, but aren’t sure you have the time or resources to make the absolute best ROI, we can help. We’re repurposing experts that take your video or podcast content and 10x it into a library of content for multiple platforms including social media. Find out how we can .
Stepping outside of your comfort-zone
Building a personal brand is choosing to embark on a personal journey. It might push you outside of your comfort-zone, but by putting yourself “front of stage”, you’re forcing yourself to grow, adapt, and challenge your mindset.
If you’re still on the fence about taking the leap, Ash says that remembering this one thing helps him overcome his anxieties:
“I know if I'm able to overcome the not wanting to do it, or the anxiety that holds me back, then in the 1% of people who overcome it […] 99% of people won't get that far.”
I think this is a brilliant approach. So many business leaders want to stand out and be in that top percentage, but few actually take the steps necessary to do it. So ask yourself, do I want to be in the 99% or the 1%?
Where to build your personal brand
One thing I was keen to find out from Ash was where the best place to start building a personal brand is: LinkedIn? YouTube? Twitter?
Interestingly, Ash says that the platform itself shouldn’t be a factor, but instead you should create the type of content that suits you – and then figure out the platform best suited.
It’s more important to lean into being authentically you, says Ash. Then carve out a niche so that you’re known as the one unique person within that industry (so keep an eye on your competition too).
Ash cautions one thing: don’t get lost in the numbers. While it’s easy to chase vanity metrics and want millions of video views or post likes each month, the most important thing is to get the right people interested in your content.
His advice is to focus on what you’re building your brand for and create content that reflects your business persona. The more content you create, the more you’ll learn what works and what doesn’t, and you can work towards creating a personal brand with some truly great influence.
To hear more from Ash and see how he’s building his own personal brand, follow him on LinkedIn.Help grow your personal brand here