What holds us back from speaking up, standing out and building your brand

Talking about shame, has never felt this empoweringThe Power of Vulnerability -Lessons in Personal Branding.

I am on an audiobook kick. I have been listening to the Power of Vulnerabilty by Brené Brown and wishing I had a longer commute (isn’t that something?). I have even played it on one of my infrequent runs, because it is that good.

One of the most powerful lessons I find myself walking away from this audiobook and learning is what inner gremlins I tell myself that hold me back and how they might be holding you back too.

What are shame gremlins? What does that have to do with personal branding?

In simple terms these are the voices that come out when we want to do something that is outside our comfort zone or we feel we are not very good at. So another term for it might be self-doubt embarrassment or second-guessing yourself.

For some it might be writing, for me it’s been speaking up online.

I read a lot. I have always loved reading and one of the fun aspects of my job is reading new things everyday. But you would never know it because I rarely raise my voice and say something about it anywhere. I think I have what one might call social media shyness.

The irony is my job calls for a lot of social media participation. As you can guess, I have not been very good at beyond blogging, quite honestly I’d rather write and then hide behind the confines of my writing and wait for the content to spread itself. Which goes against what I know works, which goes against what I would recommend others to do.

This bugs me, it has always bugged me and I have tried to ignore it, until I came across Brené Brown.

Embracing vulnerability is the key to doing your best work

After listening to about an hour of her book, I came to realize some hard truths. Shame is a powerful trigger for not allowing ourselves to be vulnerable. It comes across in different ways, but when it ties to doing my best work the fear of looking like a fool has held me back. Not good.

I sat down and decided to write honestly what my shame gremlins are. The thoughts that come across my mind when I am about to submit a comment on a blog, or LinkedIn group as it relates to my work. To be honest sometimes it’s harder than it should be because I feel I do no know all there is to know about internet marketing. Another gremlin was that I may not be accepted.

Brown covers this in her work by talking about how focusing on acceptance and acknowledgement can actually be a source of anxiety which holds us back, she shares, “Courage stats with showing up and letting ourselves be seen.”

Focusing on showing up and being seen takes care of the anxiety of not being accepted, and how others might perceive you, which is a powerful gremlin without acknowledgement.

There is a comment that my boss Patrick shared with me when he was first hiring me as a freelancer. Everyone is an expert in something.

Although I am not an expert Twitterer or Google+er, I am really good at writing. I can write everything from blog posts to e-mails to e-books. I can think of ideas, do the research and find a way to present it all in a neatly understandable chunks in a friendly manner. That’s my thing. I ought to celebrate, embrace, and share it.

That’s just me.

What being vulnerable has to do with personal branding.

Personal branding requires a bit of sticking your neck out there. That can be intimidating. It’s easy to forget that all these masterminds had to start somewhere and they had to overcome their own internal gremlins and speak up or stand out. Each person had to go out on a limb and really believe in themselves. And they had to be able to do it in a way that left them open to attack from Internet trolls.

We forget that they make it looks easy but it’s was not always so.

Everyone had to speak up or stand out at some point. And that made all the difference.

“Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity and change.” ― Brené Brown

So in my quest to conquer my shame gremlins I have made a small vow to myself to speak up more. Even if I feel like an amateur, to focus on what I’m really good at, and to be seen daily. Whether that is leaving a comment whenever I read a post, or participating in a discussion.

What personal branding goal would you like to make? Speak up, I’d love to hear your voice on conquering your own gremlins.

“Vulnerability is our most accurate measurement of courage.” ― Brené Brown

8 free online tools to use in building your personal brand

I’ve got a dumb question. Ever tried to hit a nail into a wall without a hammer?

Personal Branding Tools -Hammer

Well, when I first moved into my apartment that’s exactly what I did. I wanted to get some pictures up on my depressingly bare walls. A little search got me a box of nails from an earlier project, but no hammer. So what bright idea crossed my mind?

“I have a bunch of heavy books why not just use that?”

Let me tell ya –bad idea.It was hard, it didn’t really work and after several useless attempts I gave up.

Are you using the same the right tools with your personal branding efforts? Books are for reading not hammering nails into walls.That’s what hammers are for.

Whether you are an entrepreneur, a college student for even an employee wanting to move up in the chain, we’ve figured out by now personal branding will get you to that next step. But what tools do you use?

Here are 8 online tools to help develop your personal brand

1. LinkedIn

Get cozy with LinkedIn because it all starts here. No matter how many websites crop up giving you new and fun ways to showcase your skills, you’ve got to start with a completed LinkedIn profile. It is after all one of the websites that comes up highly in search results if someone were to search your name, so you’ve got to dominate your LinkedIn profile.

Here’s a short to-do for LinkedIn:

Create a profile if you haven’t done so already. Tweak your profile to present your current and future opportunities. Find keywords that would describe you and plug them in. Complete all your profile information. Ask people you have worked with for recommendations.

2. LinkedIn Groups

Make this your new hang out. There are LinkedIn groups for just about any career or profession, so find two groups and join them for starters. Don’t go on a join-every-group frenzy because it will be tough to keep up with them all. Just start small and see what you can learn.

Here are some tips before you join:

Search for niche groups like groups that are in your local area and your field, or even worldwide. Check out the groups analytics on the right sidebar halfway down the page. This gives you a snap shot of who is in the group. If it’s an open group you can check out some of their recent discussions to see if they are relevant to you.

Once you are admitted into a group. Wade in slowly first. Get a feel for the group y reading several discussions, then become more active and take part in more discussions or find other groups. By creating these connections when you don’t need them, they will be more useful when you do.

3. Twitter

Some people use Twitter for personal communication with friends. Some people use it for business. If you are in the business of building a brand, I would recommend using it for both. Start by making your posts public so people can see the content you share whether you are connected to them or not. Be yourself, but don’t give too much info (TMI). I’ve seen that happen. Don’t worry too much about the follower numbers, being active enough and engage with the right audience is a lot better than having a bunch of followers who are not even remotely interested in the stuff you produce. So build for the right audience.

4. About.Me

If you are looking for a simple platform to host all your accounts then about.me is a good website to look into. It lets you build your profile in a matter of minutes, and link all your accounts such as LinkedIn, Twitter and your blog in one place. It’s an easy alternative for people who do not want to invest in a blog or personal website I haven’t explored the tool beyond building a basic page, but I’m sure there are links to sharing content on there as well.

5. Google Alerts

Start monitoring what is being said about you online. Set up a Google alert early on so that if someone does mention you’ll know right away and can respond. Google alerts helps by tracking your mentions and sending you e-mail notification. You can set it up to e-mail you as it happened or once a day/week. It’s helpful if you also want to follow trends around a topic that you are invested in since it will limit the amount of links you get to only the best ones in that topic.

6. Social mention

Social mention works like Google Alerts only it alerts out of mentions of your name in blog posts, comments and social media. Basically what others are monitors conversations around your name. Once again, set it up just to alert you. As you start out with building your brand you may not have as many mentions but the only inconvenience really is the 5 minutes it will take to set it up.

7. Namechk

Say you want to use your name across all social media profiles. You can use Namechk to see which accounts will allow you to post under your name and which will not. Claim your name across the major social networks as a tactical advantage, you might not go further than setting up a profile and feeding blog posts into it once in a while, but if it does end up being useful to you it will be under your brand. This is also helpful if you have a name similar to someone else, that way you can look for something unique and then set it up to match across most of the major platform –consistency is one of the pillars of a great brand.

8. Personal domain

Are you going to blog? Or build a name sake website? I’d argue that you should (Check out my post on owning your digital footprint). There are plenty of plenty of tutorials, tools, tips and out there. Block out a weekend and take a gander on WordPress.com, or your own website hosting platform there are plenty of options such as building a website with a service like RebelMouse.

And there you have it 9 tools to use to hammer that nail in building your online brand. If you were wondering what I did with that picture well here it is:

Personal branding tools -Nail to the hammer

Turns out the apartment ledge that runs across the room is pretty handy for frames too. Problem solved! 🙂

Facebook charges people to send messages now, apparently

The problem with switching customers from free to paid


I’m curious has this tactic ever worked successfully for online businesses?

Let’s backtrack. Earlier today I wanted to send a Facebook message to someone on Facebook without jumping through the hoop of adding them on Facebook. (I try to limit my contacts list to people I know or have met at least once)

And here’s what came up:

Facebook -Sending Messages -Charges Users

Did I pay? No.

I ended finding a different way to get the message to them outside of Facebook but it still made me think. Has it ever worked to charge people for an online service that was free before?

The problem here is without any notice, Facebook suddenly decides to charge for something that was previously free. It might have been communicated to everyone, I wouldn’t know I rarely use the e-mail I used to register for the service almost 5+ years ago but suddenly they want me to pay for something that is free.

Here’s what I think is the problem with that:

  1. It’s not just a price change it’s a paradigm shift. Honestly, if something is free and a user is used to it being free then adding a price to it (no matter how low) will make you look bad. And worse, you will probably meet resistance with that
  2. It looks sleazy. Unless you have communicated clearly why you need to do this, and when this change will take in effect your customers, upping something from $0 to $1 might not look like a big deal to you but to the user who suddenly has to use their credit card it just feels a little icky.
  3. Is it really that essential? In other words is your service all that valuable? This change might have happened eons ago and I’m just finding out because I rarely message people outside of my friend list as is, but to me sending messages to strangers on Facebook is one of those things I have always been able to do, but never really used. So if the goal is to stop people from sending messages to people outside their friend list THANK YOU, the less creepy “friendly” messages from strangers in one’s inbox the better. But if the point is to actually make money off this thing then Good luck with that.
  4. is what you are charging for irreplaceable? the behemoth of social media, Facebook, is unique, but is what they are charging for all that special? Can there be other ways to get in touch? My argument is if there is no alternative then users may grumble and complain but if they have no choice, then they have no choice. Of course, they might hate you for it, but they will grumble and make the switch or stop using the service. But with the option of sending an e-mail, a direct message on Twitter, connecting on LinkedIn there are other options online that I don’t have to pay for, so sorry.

Online or Off-line Communication is Key

Facebook has a history of not really communicating some of it’s shady low-key changes like when it created e-mail accounts for everyone, or its gift system. So really if your users don’t know it’s there would they really like your shiny new idea? Whether it’s a crisis or a new product or what you would consider a small change, communicating clearly with customers BEFORE putting something into effect can make the difference between a hit or miss. And it’s ways of communicating can be improved. Outside of people who are really into tech and social media I don’t think that many people out there that have heard of it’s latest News feed makeover. One would think with the number of increasingly intrusive advertising there would be something that pops up on the news feed of every user about major changes.

Buzz can only do so much if it’s industry specific for a product that everyone uses.

In my humble opinion

Personally, I don’t think Facebook was ever meant to be that big of a money-making machine, its essential -yes, but a big money-maker? I don’t think so. It’s like being charged for G-mail or Hotmail (or Outlook.com as they are desperately trying to re-brand themselves) you could make some money off the advertising and the business that are willing to pay to reach people but the user experience should be left alone. Maybe I’m wrong but the harder they try to make the ordinary user pay the more it feels forced.

By the way, for an example of a company that did manage to make the switch well, look at Hulu. Leave the people who are happy with the service as is alone, and make others who really want to pay for the extra perk of an unlimited experience pay (which for Facebook that’s businesses) It still keeps your core feel-good value of providing your product for free but allows bug fans to upgrade. But as Pandora would tell you, it’s really a hit or miss.

It reminds me of that TED talk Amanda Palmer gave that everyone raved about, let people choose how they want to pay or support you.

Have an opinion? Share it below!

How To Stop Interrupting and Start Connecting (in your Marketing)

There’s an old-school communications concept that explains how we connect. It’s pretty simple, it’s old, and it’s still relevant. What’s more, is it can have a powerful effect on your business marketing if done right.

This model communicates a powerful message to marketers and business owners looking to connect with their customers. It can help business owners create strategic internet marketing plans.

It basically looks like this:

So on one end is the Sender and on the other end is the Receiver. The message goes through a channel whether it’s in person, through writing, video, audio or through signals. The Sender creates the message (encoding) and the receiver takes in the message (decoding).  And along the way is noise which can interrupt the message, change it, or affect how the receiver gets the message.

Business owners need to figure out if they are the sender, or the noise.

Is Your Marketing the Noise?

You can use this model in your business and how you communicate with your audience. Are you directly communicating with your customers who are getting the message or are you the noise that is distracting them from what they want to hear? Are you that annoying pop-up, or banner ad that they shut out to focus on what they are actually reading or watching online, or are you the direct message that their eyes focus on?

Think of it as a bad cellphone connection. You’re business is either the voice one on the other hand that I’m straining to hear, or the annoying static and interruption that cuts through the conversation. Change that.

Marketing Noise vs. Marketing Messages

A quick way to figure out if you are the noise or the real message is to look at how people receive your message. Are they in the middle of something else when you pop up, or are they already looking for what you offer whether it’s a product or service when your name pops up?

The right Google ad for example can be the message because I’m looking for a service that you tell me you offer. The wrong ad, say in the middle of me reading something, well that’s just a distraction.

The right e-mail message or blog post when I’m looking for say fun sweaters or great holiday gifts can be a welcome message. The wrong e-mail or blog that talks exclusively about your stuff and how I need to buy it can be, well, annoying and quickly ignored or deleted.

It’s all about how you market your business and what you offer.

How to become the Sender

1. Stop sending noise

The problem with being a distraction is everyone attention goes to biggest and loudest. Most adverts just pass me most of the time. The old model of advertising (or as I call it: Spend, Spend, Spend and Cross Your Fingers) might still work but it’s not the most effective model especially you’re your small businesses.

2. Find a channel that connects you to customers

If you look at it a lot of the new technology is about connecting people. We live in an connected world and getting your voice out through a channel like social media, blogging, video or even online advertising (Pay-Per-Click). There are more opportunities to find a channel that communicates to your customers directly. Find a method that works for you.

3. Start sending messages your customers want to hear

If it’s on a social media network post pictures or links that they would find interesting. If it’s through a blog or e-mail list, write or produce fresh content that they would gain from reading. Writing just about your products is boring. Produce work that centers around the reader’s eco-system. Do your customers watch certain shows? Or maybe follow trends? Or have particular hobbies and interests? Offer to write guest blog posts on blogs in your target market. Consider producing material that talks about things other than your offering.

No one wants to hang around someone who talks all about themselves, nor do your customers or audience. Like I said earlier, it’s really great what your product can do, but talking about it non-stop will bore your readers out. So be interesting.

Spend your efforts wisely, and think of yourself and your business as the sender. It will bring you closer to really connecting with customers.

Image credit: ChangingOrganisations.com

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About the writerDaisy Quaker is an Internet marketing consultant. She loves helping small businesses grow through marketing and by telling their unique stories online. She writes about various Internet marketing tactics and strategies. Connect with her on Twitter, Google+ or LinkedIn.

The New Currency and How It Affects Your Business

BlackMilK Marketing Small Business

It used to be that money could buy you attention.

Spend enough on advertising ad promotions and you could badger people with your message, jingle, mascot, whatever.

Times are changing. The big guys can buy as many ads as they want, but with so many distractions one thing they can’t command as much anymore is our attention.

Yes, there are those that believe you just have to figure out how to advertise on the new media platforms, but in reality people tend to either ignore those ads or find them an irritating necessity to getting their free video, music or game.

How to Get Your Business/Products Attention

The new currency in today’s world is influence and trust, and it’s not automatically going to whoever spends the most. Instead it’s going to whoever can get the most authentic connection with people who genuinely care about what they are selling.

It’s marketing that’s not for the masses, there are just too many distractions. Today’s main target is the niche, because with just  a small market of passionate fans you can go global.

Brand case study: BlackMilk Clothing

When leggings came back in style, you could get them for $10 at your local mall. They were not that hard to find. So how could an unknown one-man business from Australia, selling leggings at least $80 a piece, gain fans from all over the world in places as far and vast as New York, Thailand, Tokyo, Africa and Latin America?

Here’s how:

  1. He grew a community of buyers through his blog that genuinely interested in and wanted to know about his products.
  2. He included and appreciated this audience in his marketing which consists of uploading pictures of fans wearing the brand’s products through Facebook and Istagram.
  3. He made his brand a cult item -avid fans were dubbed “sharkies”- and sold his products exclusively online. He even allowed the “sharkies” to sometimes vote for which pieces were brought back in the online store.

BlackMilk does not make products that cater to everybody, and it’s not trying to.

What the founder, James Lillis, understood is that the old method favored those with the most money to spend on mass advertising and promotions. He tried that and it failed. But with the right targeting he could get to the top influencers in his niche market gain their trust, and from there it trickled down to their followers who became his followers. Because of this people paid attention to what he offered, and trusted in his products and that brought in the customers.

The Empowered Marketer

Now more than ever you have a choice as  marketer. You can beat the drum to an old tune and spend x amount of dollars advertising to get attention. Or you can grow that organically by allowing people to opt-in to your message and choose to hear what you have to say. You can build a geuine connection, and real interest by building a kid of trust that the old methods can’t buy.

It’s a new way of marketing that can apply to everything from a pastry shop to a clothing business. To command the loyalty and following that brands like BlackMilk have takes a more genuine and honest approach, not a catchy tune.

The top influencers in a niche market have something valuable that money can’t buy trust and loyalty. The takeaway for business, is to cut all the crap and tell genuine stories.

It’s that simple. But not that easy. Because it takes time, and effort and patience and the return on investment is not immediately clear.

But with the power that influence (convincing people to buy a product without having to advertise to them) and trust (genuine belief, connection and identity with your brand) have, it’s a currency that most businesses cannot afford to miss.

Tell your genuine story, appreciate your humble beginnings, and patiently grow your fan base one person at a time. Or find the people influencing your customers, and appeal to their genuine liking, and wait for the trickle down effect.

Trust and influence, that’s what buys you attention, that’s the new currency.

Image credit: Facebook-BlackMilk

This post is part of a series on Branding and Social Media for small business, follow me via Twitter or join me via E-mail to receive your fresh copy of helpful small business online marketing strategies.

Daisy Quaker is an internet marketing consultant, specializing in social media strategy, content marketing, e-mail marketing, connect with her on Twitter or LinkedIn.