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Branding guru Tom Peters mentioned 5 words that capture the new rules in the world of work:
“You’re branded, branded, branded, branded.”
Peters asserts that “regardless of age, regardless of position, regardless of the business we happen to be in, all of us need to understand the importance of branding. We are CEOs of our own companies: Me Inc. To be in business today, our most important job is to be head marketer for the brand called You.”
In the world where technology is advancing rapidly, challenging the existence of many jobs, businesses and careers, never has the importance of branding been more relevant.
Meet Alex Hostetler. A 21 year old speaker, entrepreneur, published author, and student who at his tender age has mastered the art of building a strong personal brand. He has been nominated as a finalist in Forbes 30 Under 30 list and has used his brand to launch a talk show that gets several thousand of views per episode.
You have mastered the art of building a strong personal brand using social media primarily, how did you manage to do that?
Well the biggest thing that helped me with social media is consistency and authenticity. Always trying to figure out what my audience wants to see but also being genuine. It’s a two-way street. I think what’s changing with content producers on entrepreneurship is not pushing the notion of all work and no sleep. Millennials are realizing more how aspects such as health, going to the gym, eating right and socializing are actually positive influences towards productivity. As opposed to working continually under stress. So producing content around those aspects of my life as well that people can relate to has been crucial for growing my brand and creating a relationship with my audience. Also producing content that adds value to people has been essential in this process. Without the value aspect, there won’t be a substantial reason why people will continue to engage with your content.
You are a young college student who naturally does not have much working experience. How did you launch your speaking career as a brand, and set yourself up in such a way that people with more experience than you actually want to listen to you?
I’ll admit that respect is one of the hardest things to earn. Especially when you don’t have a significant amount of experience. For instance, I got my Real Estate license when I was 18 years old. But the reason why I didn’t follow through with that career path is because nobody respects you when you’re young or under the age of 30 in that field. Even with the mentorship program that I run for young entrepreneurs. Many people have asked what they could learn from someone like me with no work experience. People are reluctant to trust someone that’s very young. Trust is very hard to establish.
I’ve had to prove to them that I know what I’m talking about. The way I did it is by being consistent in implementing my ideas, and broadcasting my journey along the way through a TV show that I’ve started called #AlexTalkTuesdays. The more traction my ideas have gained over time, the most the trust has established over time.
Another important thing in gaining trust is excellence. People must not only notice what you’re doing, but acknowledge that you’re doing it really well.
Getting awards and features on big publications is another famous trick that has worked for me. Whenever you have some form of recognition, it has a powerful way of proving to people that you are competent and accomplished. In a way it is a game of convincing. But it is one of those games that one will have to play to quickly gain the credibility you need to have people that want to listen to you. And to also allow them to trust that what you have to say is worth hearing. Personally, being in the Forbes 30 under 30 for instance has done so much more for my reputation than any amount of work has done. Because if a company as big as Forbes can feature me, it proves that they’ve done their due diligence on me enough to believe that I deserve as spot on that list.
So even though the quality of your work/content is important, the accolades amplify your credibility to your audience in a powerful way.
You not only have a large following but a lot of engagement on your posts. How do you maintain the authenticity in all your posts such that people want to continue engaging with you?
It gets very hard when your following starts to grow as a brand. Initially its easy to keep up the engagement when you have fewer followers. And this does wonders for allowing people to connect with your brand on a personal and authentic level. But I’ve reached a stage now where I’m getting over 100 comments on a post. And I’ve often asked myself if I really want to go through all of them? And the answer should always be yes. Because the engagements and the comments really allow you to listen to your audience. They also allow you to gauge how they perceive your brand.
I always advise entrepreneurs to not be reluctant towards constructive criticism that they get from their followers. Knowing how you can do things better from the people that patronize your brand is more helpful in the long run than a thousand likes.
It is also important that your brand does not become above its followers too quickly. The world is very competitive and the brands that will win are those that engage with their core audience’s content as well. It has to be a too way conversation. This takes a great amount of investment in time. However, it’s an investment that will pay off very well over the long run.
Can you share on what’s been the biggest challenge, in growing your brand whilst managing your studies?
Ambition. I’m too ambitious. Whenever a new project that interests me comes my way, I want to dig into it immediately. Neglecting to realize the several other projects that I currently have on my plate at that moment. I remember once I was working on 7 different projects at one time. It’s a problem that many people who are go-getters and determined to make it in life struggle with.
I’ve dealt with this through prioritization. This entails being realistic with myself about having to let go of some projects.
I have found that working on one thing at a time and doing it exceptionally well yields better results than doing many things with mediocrity.
Producing poor quality work can ruin your reputation. And with the internet age, if you put something out there, it is always going to be there. So I’ve had to channel my ambition into a few important projects. And train myself on how to say no to tasks that I cannot absolutely be the best in.
What’s been the biggest and best investment you’ve made in your life?
Investing in myself.
I believe that the rewards in personal investment as a whole far outweigh any returns you can get from the stock market or any other form of financial investment.
Lastly, best advice on money that you’ve ever received and who was it from?
My grandfather told me at an early age that you should always marry for money. And by this he meant whenever you are considering a long term partnership with someone, make sure they have the same views on money, growth and development as you.
Whether in business or in romantic relationships, partner with people you can build with.