“Personal branding is one of the most important skills that every professional must master at some point in their career,” marketing speaker Seth Price says on his website. “It’s the culmination of many different skills.”
Related: 5 Steps to Build Your Personal Brand
He's right: At the end of the day, your personal brand is the only thing you truly have. It’s your reputation online; and, in the business world, your personal brand drives your game. It has to reflect the fact that you are transparent, forward-thinking and willing to put everything out there to achieve success.
However, some things may not go as planned, and the consequences could have a lasting impact on your business or career. Case in point: 53 percent of decision-makers said in one survey that they had eliminated vendors from consideration based on information they found online.
Here are seven warning signs that your personal brand, too, might be in trouble.
1. You’ve become a "character."
A strong personal brand is a critical part of growing as an entrepreneur. It’s how people come to identify with you. Your brand is supposed to be a reflection of your unique experience and authority. But it can also grow out of proportion: This can happen when you exaggerate in hopes of standing out or fitting into certain social interactions.
So, take care, because when you morph from being your own, authentic self to become a character, you no longer have a personal brand. It’s become more of a performance you intend for others to consume, rather than a solid representation of who you are and what you’re about.
The takeaway: Don’t embellish; focus on your natural persona, concrete accomplishments and professional background. Don’t feel that you need to oversell or become something you’re not in order to impress your peers and audience.
2. Your brand has lost definition.
Impostor Syndrome can be crippling for an entrepreneur. At times, you might feel that your experience and knowledge, and everything else about you are all just part of your façade. Originality can fade, and you start questioning whether you’re sharing anything of real value.
As you shrink into yourself, you’ll lose your edge, eventually becoming too smooth and rounded off like all the other polished stones tumbling along the bottom of a fast-moving river.
The takeaway: If you feel indistinguishable — or feel like an impostor — return your focus to the value proposition that you initially founded your brand on. Celebrate your victories and use them as reminders that you’re not an impostor, after all.
Related: 4 Reasons Personal Branding Can't Be Overlooked in 2017
3. Engagement is plunging.
If you’ve enjoyed steady engagement through comments and shares of your content, you might have a jarring experience as you start to see those numbers fall. An organization might be able to reach out to both its current and past customers to solicit feedback for improvement, but you, individually, can’t exactly nudge your followers for the reasons why they stopped paying attention.
What you can do is reach out to some of your closest contacts and query them privately; but, ultimately, you’ll have to deduce on your own what the problem might be. Some possible causes:
Inconsistency in your content schedule
Too much emphasis on topics that don’t align with your audience’s interests
Not enough direct engagement with your network
Your tendency to come across as too pushy or self-promotional
The takeaway: Check your insights and find the point where engagement has been dropping. Look for changes in your behavior and content to find the triggers and switch gears to re-engage your audience.
4. Your focus has shifted.
Building a personal brand requires a careful balance between your personal and professional lives. Sometimes your focus can shift or your priorities might take you in another direction. You may be spending more time with family, getting more involved in hobbies, planning for something big or simply taking a holiday.
The takeaway: When your shift focus, you have to find ways to maintain your branding efforts to avoid losing momentum. Whatever you currently do to market yourself, stick to that. Plan everything else around that schedule and remain consistent in your work.
5. Your brand keeps changing.
A brand is supposed to remain constant. It should be recognizable to your followers each time they see it, wherever they see it. There’s a sense of familiarity, and your audience develops certain expectations of you. If you’re inconsistent with how you present yourself and your position on certain topics, your audience will feel unsure about how to react. It’s hard to keep track of and follow you when your brand constantly veers off in new directions.
The takeaway: Once you’ve established your brand, stay consistent. A prime example of consistency in branding is Seth Godin: From his blog to his books and his social engagement, he is easily identifiable.
6. You have no visibility.
If searching for yourself on the web turns up few results, you’re going to have a difficult time maintaining the personal brand you’re attempting to build. Your followers, connections and potential recruiters will likely search for you by name. What will they find?
“It’s been said that Google is the new resume,” Brian Solis, analyst for Altimeter Group, has written. “Truth be told, any search engine, whether social or traditional, is the resume — it’s the Wikipedia entry for the rest of us.”
The takeaway: Don’t rely solely on social networks to establish and grow your personal brand. Get your name out there with content marketing and guest posts. That way, any search on your personal brand will return authoritative content that you have control over, rather than a results list of people who have names similar to yours.
7. You’re not focused on the future.
If your current marketing efforts focus on what you’ve already done (achievements, old awards or previous positions you've held), you’re selling yourself short on growth.
Related: 8 Tips for Building Your Personal Brand in 2017
The takeaway: Your personal branding strategy should be forward-thinking about what is coming, what you want to build and where you want to be. Share that with your audience, and its members will help set you up for the right opportunities.