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Building Strong Personal Brand with Radek Czahajda

Radek Czahajda & Valueships

Building Strong Personal Brand with Radek Czahajda

Executive summary:

How to build strong personal brand? Scientists provide us with precise answers. In this episode, I went through research that was covering:
▶ Specific tactics to design your content that will build community around your personal brand
▶ Ways popular influencers structure their social media presence for better engagement
▶ Elements of strong personal brand and tactics to work with them


Radek: Welcome to Science of Business podcast by Valueships. My name is Radek. And together with experts from various industries, we discuss new research pieces and their application in business life. If you're a manager or you want to be up to date with science that can be applied in your work, this podcast is made for you. 

Hi, and welcome to this special episode of Science of Business podcast on personal branding. Today, I will be sharing with you five research pieces on this topic. We will learn how to assess your personal brand, how to become a top Instagram influencer, which tactics to choose when you want to build your personal brand, and also, we will take a look how personal branding looks like when you are running an S&P 500 company.

Let's start with assessing your personal brand. Sergey Gorbatov and his colleagues published in 2021 in Personal Psychology, a paper that is summarizing a new scale to identify your personal brand equity. In past research, some other researchers have clustered three major factors that build brand equity. One is brand appeal. So, how likely people would like what you offer as your personal brand. The second one is brand differentiation. So, how different are you from other people working or doing the same thing. And the third component is brand recognition. So, how many people do actually know what you are doing and who you are. What I love about this paper is that the scientists use several different target groups to evaluate what they created. And especially, that they combined those that are very easily accessed. Like volunteers on people or people working on a Mechanical Turk with those of very high quality, like the professionals that we really want to understand in terms of personal brand equity.

In total, 3,273 people took part in this entire research. The scientists have created a scale consisting of 12 different items. And what I would like to invite you to do now is to reflect a little bit on those 12 questions and think, how do you position yourself and your personal brand in those items? Because, the measure the scale created is self-reported, so you can do it yourself. No need to ask other people about it. So, let's start with the first four items. You can position yours yourself on the scale from one to five, how do you agree with those statements or also, you can just note down those that you think you need to work on more. 

I have a positive professional image among others I have a positive professional reputation. I am appealing to work with. My professional strengths are clear. Those four elements built for brand appeal. So, how do we think we are perceived among others? And what was interesting was that in those four factors, two different sample groups agreed that they are high, over four on scale from one to five. So, we generally believe that we are good, we are perceived well, that we are likable. But what is interesting is that sometimes we don't really show those features. So, even though we know we have positive professional image, the question is if others know that. 

So, as much as I like this design that you can self-measure and self-evaluate, I think, especially in this part, in brand appeal, we need to make sure we also get feedback from others, how they perceive our brand, if it's something that they like to see, especially when we post a lot and when we can just evaluate our content. So, this would be your homework for this part. 

Let's see next four questions. I am considered a better professional compared to others. I am regarded as delivering higher professional value compared to others. I am a preferred candidate for projects and tasks. I have a reputation for producing high value results. These four elements constitute for the second factor, which is brand differentiation. And interestingly, the participants of the study have evaluated themselves lower on those four elements. So, the average was around 3.5 on one to five scale. So, when we start to compare ourselves to others, we're not that optimistic. We see some drawbacks, we see some things that need to get better. And also, just by evaluating those four elements, we can understand in which ways we should develop our brand, what to focus on in the future. 

I think it's not about the competition. So, you know, if you answer, ‘I am not considered better professional compared to others’, the point isn't to really compete to get better in comparison with others, but when there are people who are doing better, maybe we can benchmark, maybe we can figure out how could we develop our image to live up to the game. Maybe by producing some quality contents or by attending some conferences or attending some debates where you can just show your expertise. Because, in the first part, maybe you also acknowledge that you do have some expertise, you do have some knowledge that others could make use of. But this is the time, this is the place to start sharing that, to start showing that you actually are an expert in your field. 

And now, let's go to the last four elements of the survey. My name is well known in my professional field. I am known in my professional field. I am known outside of my immediate network. I am often recommended by others to their professional contacts. The participants of this research evaluated themselves the lowest on those items, on average around 2.7 on 1 to 5 scale. And I think this also reflects well the major problem we have with personal branding, is that we do know that we have quality and we do know that it's extraordinary but no one else does. 

Luckily, the majority of other research papers I have collected for this episode answered this question, so we will get into tactics on how to build your personal brand in a second. But before that, I also wanted to discuss some other outcomes of this research that were done on the side. The scientists found out that personal brand equity supports employability, career success and job performance. It's just yet another argument of why we should pay attention to this factor a little bit more. What was quite funny was that it was also correlated with the results from direct triad and especially, narcissism. And in a way, it makes sense because if we aren't narcissistic a bit, it will be harder for us to share about our successes, about the things that we are proud of, asking people for a favor and so forth. 

We do need to have some self-love to do that, and I think that's also a nice lesson for us because this self-love is needed not only when we want to build our personal brand but in general, in multiple parts of our lives. If you want to read this paper, search for ‘Personal brand equity scale development and validation’ published in Personal Psychology. 

Now, let's search for some tactics that could help us boost our personal brand. First, I came across a paper from 2021 that was a case study of Vivy Yusof, the co-founder of FashionValet, the youngest Malaysian e-commerce mogul and an example of successful CEO. Her case study was used by the scientists to evaluate what types of posts do social media influencers submit and how do they work in terms of engagement of their audience. I think the framework that the scientists use is the most interesting and important asset for us as the practitioners, in terms of building our personal brand. 

They used a honeycomb model, consisting of seven different buildings blocks that we can use in terms of our contents. The first one is identity. So, we show our identity, we show our personality, our personal characteristics. And the previous research suggests it's one of the most important for creating a CEO's personal brand. So, people are more likely to engage with these kinds of contents where we show a little bit of our private life. 

Then, we have presence. Sharing information about where we are now, what is going on, that we are available at the given moment, we are doing live streams, we are doing something that is happening right now. Another type of content are relationships. Showing with whom do we spend time, how do we collaborate, what we do together with other people. Then, we have reputation. Everything that shows that we are good at the given tasks or skills. For instance, all the references we receive or some awards we receive for our products, for our services and so forth. 

Another one that is in a way related to relationships are groups. This presents what are we associated with. With whom do we spend time as the group, what kind of associations do we create or engage in. This could include clubs, this could include some special groups that we spend time together, this could be our company and our team that we are working with. Another type of contents are conversations. These are direct questions or requests for comments for feedback on a given thing that create opportunity for our followers to express their opinions to exchange with others and to exchange with us as the influencers. 

And the final type are sharing. When we don't create our own contents but we share those that we find relevant to our audience that was created by other creators. Identity, presence, relationships, reputation, groups, conversations, sharing. Seven different types of social media posts that we can use to evaluate how they are working for our network. And this is exactly what the scientists did in this case study and this is also what I would like to encourage you to do as the homework after this podcast. 

To take a look at the social media contents that you share and to try to cluster them in those different categories to see what is the proportion, what do you post the most, how do they work for your target audience, which ones bring the most engagement, which category do they fall into. And this could help you to understand better what works and what do not work for your audience. And that's exactly what the scientists did. They collected all the posts from six months. And here, there is already one interesting feature. There was 355 posts, which means that in the majority of days or on average, this influencer posted twice a day every day. 355 posts in six months. But I think what was even more interesting was how do those posts differentiate in terms of category. 

So, it appeared that only two of those categories were frequently used. Identity and sharing. And what is quite funny is that in those two categories, over six months, the amount of posts was almost identical. 149 posts for identity, 150 posts for sharing. The third category was presence. 16 posts. Then reputation, 13. Relationships, 12. Groups, 8. And conversations, 7. So, it seems like the entire strategy for social media for this particular influencer is that they exchange. Sometimes they write a little bit about themselves. On the other day, they share the marketing messages of their company. 

So, in specific, this is a brand for clothing, so they share some posts where you can buy the clothes that they design. And as much as we need to remember, this is just a single case study, so it might be not replicable. I think there is one lesson from other research that really fits well in here. In one of the most frequently cited scientific paper on personal brand, Lisa Harris wrote that authenticity is one of the most important factors when you think about your personal brand. And to me, being authentic is same in your professional and in your personal life. And I also think that sometimes, it doesn't really fit for LinkedIn to share about what are you up to in your personal life, but what has a space in there is to be your true self. And for me, this means to also define for yourself what does it mean to you to be professional. And sometimes, it might be that what you write about, the way you write might be perceived by someone not to be professional, and that's totally fine. 

Because, what is even worse is when you try to fake it, when you try to become someone, you are not. And this becomes tricky, day by day, post by post, when you try to build your personal brand. 

Coming back to the case study of the social media influencer, the authors of this study also collected the information about the amount of likes and amount of comments under each of the posts included in the study. Just a reminder for you, 355 posts in six months. What was interesting was that sharing contents, showing presence, showing relationships or showing that you're a part of the group, brought on average, 180, 190 comments. Conversations brought 520, so those posts dedicated for building comments brought quite a lot more, but reputation, those where we celebrate that we achieved something, brought even more, 800 comments on average. 

But when we compare the posts on identity, so, those showing a little bit of our life and our personality with those that engage conversations, we have a difference of 344 to 520 comments on average, which suggests that maybe sometimes we don't really have to focus on trying to engage people in conversation. Just by sharing what we think, we can already spark it and don't need to worry about building such conversations. Especially, because the posts on identity brought on average 60,000 likes while for the other types of post, it was between 30 to 44,000 likes on average. Even though the results of this case study already gave us some insights on how to design better our campaign, our strategies for posting in social media, I think what would be best would be to conduct yourself an audit of your posts on what do you write about, how does it engage your audience and then to choose more strategically what do you focus on. 

If you would like to read this paper, search for, ‘Building a personal brand as a CEO’, a case study of Vivy Yusof, the co-founder of FashionValet and the dUCK group, published in Sage Open. 

Another research paper that was published in 2022 shares a little bit of perspective of how we decide what types of contents to use in our social media when we try to build our personal brand, and how does it influence successful personal brand. 

In this research paper, the scientists analyzed 280 celebrities from Taiwan and tried to build a profile of motivation, social media activities and the success of their personal brand. Based on external evaluation by their followers. The first interesting outcome was that people who are internally motivated to influence rather than externally, so rather than selling their products but actually really wanting to make a change, to influence, to do something good, were posting more frequently, were more engaged in posting. But what was even more interesting was that those posts, those types of contents that created involvement, rather just pure information sharing, were actually influencing personal brand way stronger. 

In a way, this stands in contrast with the previous research where the involvement wasn't really practiced and it seems it wasn't relevant, but what we actually could notice was that even those posts which were kind of information sharing, so sharing what am I doing with the people I'm around with, what is my lifestyle, what I'm doing on a daily basis. We're building a lot of engagement, we're building a lot of comments, so we can assume, we can think that those were also designed in a way to give possibility to express opinions, to express what we think about such a lifestyle, what we think about the decisions that this particular person is making and so on. 

I think, especially, at the beginning, it's really hard to choose to try to involve when we write a social media post asking a question and no one replies. We write another one and no one replies, and so forth. And what we see is that we keep on failing but trust me on this one, that no one else cares about it. What I love about social media is it's like a stream. You post something but it's soon gone and forgotten. So, you don't have to worry about your current engagement, you need to keep on going, keep on testing how you can involve your audience, asking questions, creating surveys and eventually, you will figure out to make a way to involve people but also not to irritate them. Just don't be another person who asked a stupid question on a poll just to get a lot of answers. 

If you want to read this paper, search for, ‘Strategies for successful personal branding of celebrities on social media platforms, involvement or information sharing’. Published in Psychology and Marketing. 

The last paper I want to discuss is, I think, a bit abstract to all of us. Especially, given who was evaluated. These were the executives of S&P 500 companies. The researchers tried to evaluate how big role does personal branding play when executives are switching positions, changing to a new company. The scientists evaluated Twitter profiles of 100 executives that were hired during three years of the study period. What was already interesting to observe was the subjective opinion of the answers that Twitter is actually the best place for CEOs to brand themselves because unlike LinkedIn, Twitter is a place where all the potential clients and employees appear, while on LinkedIn, we usually use it when we search for a new job. 

So, if you will soon get followed by me on Twitter, this might be the practical implication of this particular scientific paper. But of course, that's not all of it. What I also find interesting is that during the research, the scientists were evaluating how frequently those CEOs, those executives publish about their work, about things that are related to their professional expertise, professional business area. And surprisingly, on average, it was only 6.5 percent of time. 

And this means, it was, again, on average, only nine tweets per year. But even after taking that into account and also while controlling for the education, social capital and past performance for the specific executive, it still appeared that their personal brand, what they write in social media and how impactful it is, affects strongly the decisions to hire them in the next company. The authors conducted structural equation modeling and based on that, they claim that the probability to choose the CEO that is more visible, that pays more attention to their personal brand, when the other background is similar. 

So, they have similar achievements, they have similar education, is higher by 31.8 percent if they invest in personal branding. And even though, maybe not all of us are planning to run to become a CEO of Google or Apple in the upcoming weeks or months, I think, still this research gives us some insights into how to design better our personal brand. And first and foremost, that we should pay attention to that because it does influence the decisions other people make on our behalf. 

If you would like to read this paper, search for, ‘Tweet to the top, social media personal branding and career outcomes’. Published in Management Information Systems quarterly. 

That would be it for today. I think the best you can do right now is, first, to evaluate your personal brand equity to see in which ways you might need to improve and then also to conduct an audit of your social media to see which tactics do you use and how do they work for your audience. Feel free to experiment also, to use all the seven different building blocks and see how they work for them. 

Thank you very much for listening. If you liked this episode, please share it with one person that you think might also benefit from it. That would be the best thing you could do to help me to promote science more broadly. 

Thank you for listening to this episode of Science of Business podcast. Follow Valueships on LinkedIn and Facebook to be up to date with future episodes and live streams from the recording.