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How to build your personal brand as a startup founder

A founders’ personal brand is their experience, reputation, and online presence all combined under a single umbrella.

We recently held a workshop with the YV Community and Olivia White, focusing on how to build a personal brand and optimise social media to get your startup noticed. This is what we learnt.

Personal branding is the art of becoming liked, known and trusted. Building a personal brand is a cost-effective and compelling way to gain traction and visibility as a cash strapped, early-stage business. When executed effectively, personal branding positions a founder as a thought and industry leader. It is an opportunity for founders to showcase their value, knowledge and personality alongside their business.

When it comes to fundraising, it’s a well-known fact that angel investors and VC’s invest in the person that they are working with rather than the idea. A recent article by Sifted revealed that founders who got more press coverage also raised more money. Additionally, the founders of the top third of unicorns (a privately held startup valued at +US$1 billion) appeared in 23% of coverage about their company.

People buy from people. Nowhere is that more true than in the VC world,” says Darryl Sparey, managing director and cofounder at Hard Numbers. “A strong LinkedIn and Twitter audience is a great proxy for a potential future audience for a product or service — a startup may not have thousands of customers, but if their founder has hundreds of thousands of followers online, that’s a strong demonstration of potential future interest.

When starting to build your personal brand, ask yourself the two following questions to get started:

Who are you and why are you building this business?

One of the first things people will want to know when they go to your website or your social channels is who the team is behind the business. Showing people who you are is essential because customers will often remember who they buy from more than what they actually buy.

Whether you’ve invented a new electric jetski, or developed an app for yacht managers, what you want to be known for is what you need to base your personal brand on. For example, if you want to be known as a fun and knowledgeable community (with an app for yacht managers), then you need to incorporate this throughout your platforms - business and personal.

When posting on your social media, you can use it as an opportunity to show off what you do - your past work and your abilities. Educate your audience and determine what your values are, and why you’re building this business. Your potential customers want to hear what authentic problems you’ve faced that made you wake up one day and decide to put everything into build this product or service.

Who is the target audience you are serving?

You started your business because you noticed a gap in the market and you developed a service or product to fill that gap. Maybe you noticed that boat owners are missing an app that allows them to connect with other boaters. In that instance, your target audience is boat owners. Identifying your target audience will help you build a personal brand that talks directly to that profile from the get-go. What do they like? Where do they live? Which social media platforms are they on? What are their concerns?

When your audience starts to relate and feel value from the content you are sharing, that is when the trust process begins. This in turn makes the next steps in the purchasing/investing process much easier and smoother. Make sure to be authentic in what you are putting out, otherwise the trust you have built with your audience can be easily broken and will be harder to re-build.

In conclusion, your personal brand and your startup brand should complement each other in a way that makes people believe in what you’re selling and trust that you have what it takes to grow your business and deliver.


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