10 steps to using social media for personal branding

Today's higher education leaders are expected to be a "thought leader" in the field, that is, to have compelling ideas and insights that they communicate effectively to students, faculty, and colleagues.

One tool that can help you build your reputation as a thought leader is social media, personal branding expert Matt Sweetwood writes for Entrepreneur. In a recent article, he offers 10 ways to do this.

1: Find a topic you love. Find a niche within your field that you care deeply about. You're going to spend a lot of time talking, writing, and learning about this topic, so you should choose a specialty that motivates you.  

2: Be yourself. Don't be afraid to share your real thoughts and say what you believe in, Sweetwood writes. You'll struggle to engage people if you try to be too curated, he argues.

3: Study up. To contribute original and interesting ideas, you need to be an expert in your chosen specialty. Gain as much first-hand experience as you can, but also look for recent books, articles, and even podcasts on your topic.

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4: Just get started. Don't wait until you have everything figured out—just start writing. Sweetwood shares that he wasn't able to truly find his voice and his niche until he actually started publishing posts and seeing how people reacted to them.  

5: Find a coach. If part of the process feels overwhelming, don't be afraid to ask for help. Sweetwood shares that he never enjoyed writing when he was younger, so he hired a branding expert to help him build the writing skills he knew he would need to become a thought leader.

6: Nurture your online relationships. Pick a favorite platform or two and commit to engaging with them every day. Social media is "is not something you do in your free time—it's a lifestyle," Sweetwood writes.

7: Think outside the text box. Videos can be free, easy, and faster than writing, Sweetwood argues. The next time you get an idea for a post, consider turning it into a quick recording.

8: Don't overlook the value of face-to-face meetings. In-person networking can complement your online branding efforts and vice-versa. Meeting people face-to-face can give you new ideas, expand your network, and improve your confidence, Sweetwood writes.

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9: Take risks. Be your own publicist, Sweetwood encourages. He shares that he once successfully pitched a story to a British TV host via LinkedIn, and suggests up-and-coming thought leaders consider reaching out to local journalists with their story pitches.

10: Give it the time it deserves. Don't underestimate the commitment involved in building your brand, Sweetwood warns. "If it was easy, everyone would be a thought leader," he writes (Sweetwood, Entrepreneur, 10/20).

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