Founders guide to personal branding: A step by step process for building and profiting from your social media following

Personal branding is a great way of building trust with your audience. We’ve seen a huge rise in startup founders running their business and developing a personal brand on the side. 

If you haven’t built a personal brand before, it can be a little difficult to know where to start. We’ve spoken to experienced founders about their personal branding journey and compiled a step-by-step guide to help you create content that hits the mark.

1. Research your audience

Frankie Docker co-founded Hey! Food is Ready, an online marketplace that connects certified cooks from different cultural backgrounds with companies looking for a diverse selection of food at their events. 

Frankie recommends finding out where your audience spends the most time and adapting your messaging on each platform to fit the relevant customer persona. Frankie also advises founders not to dismiss offline marketing, explaining that it can be just as important for engagement. 

“Whether it’s networking or speaking on the radio, offline interactions can really affect your online presence,” she said.

2. Develop your tone of voice

It’s important that you develop and establish a tone of voice for your brand based on what your audience reacts to. 

Ask yourself what your audience would want to know most about the topic and how it specifically relates to or interests them. The better you understand your audience the better you’ll get at creating content that performs.

Budgeting app Financielle has almost 70k followers on TikTok. Co-founder Laura Pomfret has used the app to learn what topics and language resonate with their audience, so they can fine-tune their marketing messaging.

“If we serve up a TikTok that says, ‘interest rates are going up today’ and then one that says, ‘let me tell you how I ditched 10k debt in a year’, the debt one will do better. It resonates with people more because of the language that we use, the fact that it’s a real problem and the fact we’ve genuinely given tips,” she said.

“If I was just telling someone the interest rate has gone up, I could go into what it could mean for you but I probably just turned off the majority of our audience because they don’t want to hear the phrase ‘interest rate’. We’ve used TikTok to learn how people want to be spoken to.”

3. Build your brand identity

Most founders base their startup around a challenge they’ve faced. Lauren Leisk, founder of Fodilicious, explains how her struggle with IBS inspired her to start her brand of low FODMAP and allergen free snacks and natural energy drinks, for example.

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Building your brand identity can seem a little challenging but it doesn’t have to be. Your personal brand will be a representation of your startup so it’s important that your content is recognisable and carries the same message as your startup.

Taking a few extra minutes to add consistent branding to social media images and videos can go a long way to setting your posts apart when people are scrolling. 

Jonathan Reid, founder of Reidentify, states: 

“Try and include your brand colours in your videos in some way. Let’s say for example, you were talking about a family and there might be a picture that pops up on screen. If your main brand colour is orange, that might have an orange border.

“That way, you’re able to carry your consistent theme from your branding over to your social content just by doing that one simple thing.”

You don’t need to overload your personal content with branding but adding something as simple as your brand colours can really make a difference.

4. Utilise your network 

Building a strong network is important but knowing when to ask for help or guidance and doing it is crucial. 

Nadia Leguel is the co-founder of WagIt, an online platform that helps dog owners find dog-friendly restaurants, pubs, bars and hotels. Her main tip for other founders is, “if you don’t ask, you won’t get it”. 

Nadia built her social presence over time by sharing snippets of her life, accomplishments and challenges. So when it came to asking for advice and guidance, Nadia had built a network that could do more than that. 

“One of my most memorable success stories is when I turned to LinkedIn for help with a tricky situation I found myself in. I had been selected to pitch at a significant event in Berlin, which was a fantastic opportunity. However, there was a major obstacle – I couldn’t afford the event ticket, which cost £1.5k,” Nadia said.

“I decided to reach out on LinkedIn to seek advice and support. To my surprise, in less than an hour, someone came forward and offered me an event ticket, as they had one spare. It was an incredible act of kindness and generosity that allowed me to seize the opportunity. Plus, I connected with other people who were going. Never underestimate the power of community and networking.”

5. The more you do the more you grow

Remember that you won’t be able to build your social media presence overnight. It will take time to learn what content and platform works best for you and what works best for your business. 

“The first or second video we put on TikTok got 40k views off the bat and I said to my friend, ‘is this just how TikTok works? Is it going to be like this forever?’. Apparently not, because the next videos got maybe 300 views,” Jonathan remembers.

“Look at it like the lottery. The more lottery tickets you get, the more likely you are to win the lottery. So the more videos you post, the more chances you’re going to get some sort of viral video or a little bit more attention on your videos as a whole.”

He adds that while the numbers are important, it’s also key to make sure that you’ve got the right people watching and that you’re reaching your audience. 

“There was one video we did that only got about 250 views. We were just talking about an event that we had, but it ended up driving quite a few ticket sales. So don’t be discouraged if you aren’t seeing the views come in straight away. It’s not always about how many people are watching the videos – it’s about whether the right people are watching the videos.”

6. Stand out from the crowd by embracing authenticity

It can be difficult to find ways to make your startup stand out from the crowd. Jonathan argues that authenticity is key:

“Personal branding isn’t just a buzzword; it’s your secret weapon as a startup founder. In a world crowded with startups, it’s your chance to stand out and connect on a deeper level.

“By sharing your authentic self online, you create a community around your brand—a tribe of loyal followers who resonate with your mission and values.

Profiting from your personal brand

So, now that you know how to create a successful personal brand, how can you start profiting from it? 

We’ve collated a few of the top tips and tricks for building a profitable personal brand.

Create online courses 

Depending on what your niche is, you could develop an online course where you provide your audience with in depth knowledge. 

Just remember to test the market demand beforehand. You don’t want to end up wasting your time creating a course that no one wants to do.

Sell more of your products

By putting yourself out there you’re putting your brand and your product out there too. Your personal brand will have a direct link to your startup and it’s another way for you to attract more customers and sell more of your product. 

Hold a masterclass 

As you become recognised as an expert, you can offer training to companies and individuals in the space.

Offer premium content or become an influencer

Once you’ve built a decent following you can start thinking about branching out to influencer marketing. 

Brands could reach out to you but you can also approach them regarding paid opportunities. You’ll need to determine your rates, typically a micro-influencer could charge anywhere between £250-£600 per post.

Start a podcast

This is more of a slow burn when it comes to generating revenue but there are a number of ways you can earn money from running a podcast. Here are a few ideas to get you started: 

  • Ask for donations 
  • Offer paid membership tiers
  • Get sponsorship or sell ads
  • Join an advertising network 
  • Post your podcast on YouTube to get ad revenue
  • Sell merchandise 
  • Public speaking 
  • Sell consulting or coaching services 

We hope this guide has been helpful but if you’re still a little unsure on how to build your personal brand, check out our article 11 tips to help you kickstart your personal branding journey to learn more. 

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Author
Karina Kundzina
Karina is the Content and Marketing Assistant at Inkwell, the company behind The Pitch.

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The competition is completely free to enter so if you’re a UK-based startup who has been trading for 4 years or less then why not maximise your potential? 

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