If someone you know had to describe you, what would they say?
If they had to tell me about your interests, would they get it right?
What about your ambitions? Would they be accurate?
I’ve been thinking a lot about the direction in which my writing and videos are headed; I’m compelled to define a direction so that my audience and I know where we’re headed.
The problem is, despite all the benefits of a defined ‘personal brand’, I’m not entirely sure that I want one.
And I was wondering if you could help me.
Having a personal brand requires you to think about what you’re good at, who you want to associate with and what your attention gravitates towards.
But it’s difficult to reach your end goal if your direction is constantly changing.
Even if it might change in the future, deep introspection is a great practice for getting to know yourself better.
After all, no one else is going to do it for you.
If you know what you want and where you’re headed, it helps you to hone in on a target audience.
I could consider my writing to be for everyone, but that would be a lazy effort on my part.
Instead, I try and target young professionals who are interested in self-improvement, entrepreneurship, accelerated learning and lifestyle design.
This changes (or for a better word, refines) every few weeks as I reconsider which direction my writing is naturally manifesting towards.
Growing an audience is difficult.
It’s even more difficult if you’re chopping and changing your brand every other week.
Almost every marketing book and thought leader I’ve consulted have recommended occupying a niche rather than doing something for everyone in order to grow an audience.
“It’s better to be a big fish in a small pond than a small fish in a mighty ocean.” — Proverb
Your audience need to know what you stand for.
They want to figure you out so that they can choose whether or not they’ll give you their time and attention.
Even if you have multiple interests, having a thread that ties them all together is helpful for your audience to label you in their minds.
If you want people to follow you, they have to like you. If you want them to like you, you have to let them know who exactly you are.
People need to know what they can expect from you.
Would you subscribe to my newsletter if I called it “random topics by Faisal”?
Most probably not.
Even if you were to subscribe to a person rather than a topic, you would only do so because you’ve consciously associated that person with that which you expect from them.
If my favourite marketing guru started writing about cats and pottery, I’d hit that unsubscribe button in a heartbeat.
Why it’s worse for YOU
My regular readers will already understand my wish to be a ‘deep generalist’ rather than a specialist.
In short, it’s more fun, challenging and refreshing.
So how does being a generalist and having a personal brand co-exist?
I’m not sure it can do to be honest, unless you want to be a generalist within an overarching theme.
But even that’s limiting you from being a true generalist.
Having a personal brand puts you in a box, whether you like it or not.
It means that you’ve built an audience on the expectations of others.
If you go against those expectations and get out of the box, some may welcome the change, but a large proportion may resent you for it.
Tough position to be in, right?
Why it’s worse for your AUDIENCE
Your fans might unknowingly be the one thing that stops you from doing what you do.
It’s a bittersweet result of a group’s expectations.
If I were to only make videos on researching in medical school (like this one 🤓), I might build a cult of academic medics who demand more from me in that niche, but that wouldn’t necessarily be where I’d like to be positioned.
The problem is, if I feed that beast just to gain traction and get lost in the rabbit hole, I’d likely lose the will to continue later down the line.
The end result? No more videos for my audience and a disgruntled Faisal.
Whereas, if I were to build a cult following of research-lovers and then pivot away to a different position, a large number would likely unfollow me for doing so.
It’s a lose-lose situation, I’d just have to pick my poison.
It’s been said that the best strategy is to pursue the intersection between what you want to do and what people would like to see from you.
The problem here is that your personal brand lies within the intersection, which consequently becomes your box.
You can’t drift towards what you want to do without sacrificing what some want to see from you, leaving you shackled to the expectations of others.
I see myself having several options:
I need your help.
What do you think my personal brand is/should be?
Have you thought about what yours might be if you had to decide on one? How would you go about it?