Sometimes our lives turn on a dime when we least expect it. For Leonard Kim, managing partner of the personal branding accelerator InfluenceTree, a broken ankle was the unlikely spark that ignited sweeping changes in his life.
“I was walking home, drunk like there was no tomorrow, when I remembered I didn’t have my house keys,” Kim recalled. “I tried a couple times to hop the fence around my place, and on the second attempt, I landed wrong and broke my ankle. I had to crawl my way up to the sofa I was living on to fall asleep.”
Laid up for three months, Kim began to reflect on his life and the choices he’d made that brought him to rock bottom. As he sorted through his failed relationships and business ventures, he thought back to how his grandfather raised him.
“My grandfather did the exact opposite of what I was doing,” Kim admitted. “Whenever someone needed help with something, he’d be there. Everyone would look at him with a twinkle in their eye, because he was their hero. He volunteered at the school cafeteria. I did nothing like that. I decided to follow in his footsteps and live the way he raised me.”
Viral success doesn’t mean long-term influence
Kim’s turnaround began with writing. In the past four years, he’s amassed over 250,000 social media followers and had tens of millions of people read his content. His company, InfluenceTree, helps people build their personal brand, increase their social media following, grow their audience, and become influencers.
For anyone looking to shortcut the process and achieve influence through immediate virality, Kim has seen enough to know that approach usually doesn’t work.
“Some people are one-hit wonders,” Kim explained. “They have one piece of content that sticks out, but when you look at the rest of their stuff, it doesn’t have the same quality or connection. These people fizzle out and don’t make anything happen.”
The piece that hits a nerve with readers may not be better than any of your other work, but when it takes off, you need a library of quality content for new fans to explore. That’s the way you leverage virality to build a fan base. If your new readers have nothing else to connect with after the initial exposure, they’ll quickly move somewhere else.
Assess your strengths to build a personal brand
To begin the process of building a personal brand, Kim says you should take stock of your strengths to create a compelling bio. There are differences, however, in how we perceive ourselves and how the world perceives us.
To get the most accurate picture, try this exercise:
- Get two sets of post-it notes.
- On the first set, write down all the words you can think of to describe yourself.
- Pass the second set of notes out to friends, family members, and colleagues you know will be honest and ask them to write one word that describes you. (Make sure these people know their feedback will be anonymous.)
- Get a whiteboard and compare the words you wrote with the words from others. What words show up most often in both sets? For example, if you think you’re a great speaker and five people agree, you could highlight that strength in your bio.
- Any flaws that people point out, those are things you can work to eliminate.
Once you get an accurate picture of who you are, the next step in creating a strong bio is to share the things you enjoy. The best approach is to incorporate what you enjoy into your bio. That way, you humanize yourself and allow people to buy into you, not your image.
The best places to create written content online
When it comes to creating content, your website is not always the best place to start because if people don’t know who you are yet you won’t be getting any traffic. Social media platforms also aren’t great for content because they’re closed networks. If you have 200 Facebook friends or 200 Twitter followers, your potential reach is limited, so you have to pay to boost your posts into the feeds of people who don’t follow you. If you’re creating written content, Kim recommends using Medium or Quora.
“Quora has millions of users, so it’s a strong platform for new writers,” Kim said. “My first post on Quora, I had three followers on the platform but my post got 102 views. That’s more than 30 times my followers count. When you post something on Facebook, if you have 200 followers, 20 people see it. You want to use platforms with existing audiences to get more eyeballs on your content. Medium, for example, has sub-publications like The Mission and Be Yourself you can submit to that have thousands of followers.”
Another reason to use these platforms is to tap into their SEO power to gain exposure for your work. That way, you can drive people to your website, where you should also be posting each piece of content you create. The goal would be to make your website the main source for your content so you can begin to monetize your following.