On March 28th, 2012, I posted my first picture on Instagram; it was a blurry picture of a baseball field that got 2 likes. I never thought that five years later I would have 27,000 followers and averaging around 2,000 likes on each photo I posted to my account. I don’t say this to be braggadocios, but instead to show how powerful social media can be when personally branding yourself. When my following first started to grow, I really just saw Instagram as a funny creative outlet where I could post about my daily life. Today, I use Instagram as a tool to not only share my life with followers from around the world, but also as a personal branding business strategy. What once started as a fun creative outlet, turned into opportunities to build the foundation of my young-adult career.
A small disclaimer: the following post is not intended to be a step-by-step guide on how to brand yourself, but it will instead highlight my experience with how I branded myself on social media and how you can market yourself to your own, personal audience.
When I was 18 years old I moved to Los Angeles to attend a small university and play college football. If you ask any of my friends what my Instagram content consisted of at that time, they will all most likely respond with the word “selfie”. These frequent selfies were definitely obnoxious, but like it or not, we live in a self-obsessed culture where narcissism gets a lot of attention. For the most part I moved on from selfies (with the rare exception of a great hair day) and now I focus on posting pictures to my account that highlight what I value in my life. I want my Instagram to be somewhat professional and definitely non-offensive, but I also want to express what is important to me; controversial or not.
According to careerbuilder.com, “The number of employers using social media to screen candidates has increased 500% over the last decade.” While this number may intimidate you and make you feel like you should immediately privatize or clean-up the content in your social media accounts, don’t fret just yet. Like I said, I strive to keep my Instagram account somewhat professional and definitely non-offensive, but I am also not going to censor parts of my life if they hold importance and value to me. For example, something I am passionate about is bridging the gap between the Christian church and the LGBT community; two very highly controversial things that I refuse to censor from my public account. I also live in Honolulu, Hawaii and more than likely there are going to be some shirtless pictures of me and my friends. I am not ashamed of sharing that part of my life and in fact, the content and pictures I have curated while exploring the Hawaiian islands over the past year have even brought me work opportunities in the tourism industry as an ambassador for different brands.
I strongly believe that if an employer really is screening your Instagram and their brand doesn’t align with the personal values of your life, then you don’t want to work for them anyway. Now, I know this may upset some people and many will make the argument that personal and professional lives should be kept separate. I can understand your concern and if your career holds the highest merit in your life, than feel free to disregard all I have said and continue to separate your personal and professional worlds as two different entities.
The purpose of this blog was not to persuade you one way or another, but it is instead just an honest reflection on how I have been able to successfully market my brand without feeling like I have to choose between professionalism and my personal life. While many prefer to keep the two as far away from each other as possible, I am a living and breathing example of being able to have my cake and eat it too.
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