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Personal Branding Fails That Will Make You Look Like an Idiot

Personal branding is a controversial topic. For some entrepreneurs, it works wonders, while others say it’s bullshit. Personal branding is essentially building a reputation by showcasing and promoting your skills and qualities that are likely to attract business or other advantages. 

Be it technical skills, knowledge, looks, or ideologies, bringing your qualities forward means that you are voluntarily exposing yourself to the likes and dislikes of other people. Planning and managing a personal brand is about crafting your online marketing communication to win more supporters than haters. 

As the #1 personal brand audit company, we evaluate the personal brands of consultants, professionals, entrepreneurs, and celebrities regularly. Based on millions of data points and data-based insights, we will list the five most common branding sins for professionals that can destroy a personal brand and make someone look like a clown.

You display characteristics of unpopular personality types

Some people have better personalities than others. People with great personalities can become popular and build an engaged audience naturally, without the need for whatever strategies.

Unfortunately, others are not so blessed with charisma, likable personality traits, and communication skills – they will find it more challenging to build a personal brand. This is especially true if you display characteristics of unpopular personality types. 

Regardless of the values and messages, you are trying to bring to your clients and audience, the following characteristics are guaranteed to make you look irritating and unprofessional:

  • Lack of interest in how other people feel
  • Weird and eccentric presentation of yourself
  • Sour, emotionally complicated communication
  • Self-righteous raging about things you disagree with
  • Flaky and unreliable work ethic
  • Manipulative and phony personality
  • The “narcissist elite” style self-representation
  • Being desperate for attention and validation

Pretending to be an authority, without being one

The ultimate goal of personal brand building is to grow into an authority status. Some people get impatient and choose the “fake it till you make it” approach. Don’t do this. It does not take a brand expert, or any in-depth personal brand analysis to see through phony self-promotion.

Valuing yourself and talking like an authority are usually perceived positively by the followers of personal brands, but phony claims trigger dislike around 87% of the time when discovered.

Pretending to be a big-shot in your industry, without being will make you look like a faker. Here are some of the comments from personal brand audits where this was detected:

  • “Charlatan”
  • “She is ridiculous”
  • “Tries too hard to impress”
  • “What a fool”
  • “I wound not trust him”
  • “Looks fake”
  • “Buffoon”

These are actual comments from people who reviewed personal brands of pretentious people. Don’t risk your reputation by posing as an industry expert if you are not one. People pretending to be authorities in their field are often labeled as fake gurus.

Acting as an expert, while talking trivial generalities

Have you ever come across self-proclaimed experts in certain topics, whose “professional” advice was on the level of a 10-year old? 

Based on our personal brand audit results, over 80% of respondents shared that they become extremely disappointed when a person who positions himself as an expert fails to demonstrate an expected level of expertise. 

They are claiming a multi-million dollar impact on various well-recognized brands, while the content they share on their website and social media platform is entry-level knowledge that can be acquired by reading a few blog posts on the same topic. 

When your personal background story or professional references do not add up

A good story is a key part of more personal brands. A well-crafted background story explains what made the person do certain things and why became passionate about the chosen career. The main goal of the story is to put the audience into context, to make the subject more relatable, and to give the personal brand its human element.

Gary Vaynerchuck talks about his Soviet origins to look more interesting, despite spending the majority of his childhood and adulthood in the United States. Sam Owens, the person behind Consulting.com explains how he started his business journey from the garage of their parents. You might have your own back story too.

Another important part of personal branding for professionals is references and reviews. These are key elements of building trust and credibility for people who are new to your brand.

Problems start when the stories or work histories do not add up. Like United States congresswoman Alexandria Osario-Cortez did not grow up in a black neighborhood, or Dan Lok did not actually help multi-million dollar companies to improve their sales.

It is very easy for anyone to do a background check, and it is too easy for someone to slip on fake stories and references. Building a reputation on false claims and exaggerated track records will backfire at some point. This practice is also associated with fake gurus – so if you want your personal brand to serve you for a long period, then keep your records clean.

When you look like your personal brand is everything

Managing your personal brand takes time. Your followers get that. But being too active online will send signals that you do not have anything else to do other than promoting yourself.

Post less frequently – but make it high quality

Focus on quality over quantity. Only share updates and ideas that matter, do not just pump out social media posts for the sake of it. 

Keeping your social media activity less frequent yet predictable will make people wait for your new content. This is a proven and tested strategy for most YouTube content creators who are known to put lots of time and effort into creating quality content. 

People who are genuinely interested in hearing from you will appreciate news-worthy updates instead of random bits and pieces of information.

Don’t look like you are always online

Unless you want to be perceived as an always-online person, do not seem to be overly active on social platforms. People know that answering all your comments and posting 5x daily takes lots of time – so they might think that you have nothing else to do other than promoting yourself and engaging with your audience.

Avoid this especially if you are a business professional, consultant, or entrepreneur. People expect you to work, strike deals, develop your business and manage your day-to-day workflow instead of always being busy promoting yourself.

If your followers smell your desperation

Probably the worst authority killer of all – desperation will scrap all your personal brand-building efforts. The bad news is that people smell desperation from a mile away. What makes your personal brand cringe? What will make you seem desperate for online fame?

  • Trying too hard to impress your followers
  • Being always available for comments and chats
  • Pretending to be more important than you are
  • Begging for people to follow you
  • Offering free everything – strategy calls, product trials, and such
  • Following up unanswered messages multiple times

These are just some of the most common cringe-worthy behaviors that can ruin your authority and credibility.

Are you unsure about how people see you online? Evaluate your personal brand with Brand Auditor.

Your personal branding success largely depends on how people in your network and audience see you. 

The ability to audit and optimize branding, content and communications are essential for long-term progress. Brand Auditor makes personal brand-focused market research fast and affordable. 

During the auditing procedure, thousands of people will visit your website or social media pages to leave score ratings and comments regarding what they like and dislike about various aspects of your personal brand.

What is included in this brand audit?

Our system lets you configure personal brand audits based on your preferences, targeting criteria, market research size and enables you to choose what aspects of your personal brand to audit. Prices and auditing timeframe are calculated in real-time, based on your audit configuration.​

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