In an age of bot traffic and high-volume automated messaging, marketing consultant Ashley Ashbee has powerful advice: don't try to be more like the machines. “Tap into your target market by simply being a human!" she says.She's helping brands establish and grow by breaking through the barriers of pixels and glass and showing people on the other side our quirks, our passions and our skills. As a Fiverr seller, she audits social media accounts, writes blog posts and even stages puppet shows. That's a bold personal brand. I had to learn more about how she works.
Nico: First of all, thank you for participating in this interview. For those who don't know you, can you give us a little background about yourself and what you offer on Fiverr?
Ashley: Absolutely! I am a freelance marketing and communications consultant passionate about people putting the “social" in social media. I am all about communicating online as one human to another.
Nico: The first question I'm sure a lot of our readers are asking themselves is, why should you build your personal brand?
Ashley: If you can sense there's a breathing being on the other side of your screen, you are much more likely to engage with them. To identify that human element, you need to see personality, passion and interest. That's what makes you a distinct individual and builds your credibility, plus it fosters rapport with your community.
Nico: Let's speak about personal branding for freelancers. Do you have some tips to help set yourself apart and get more clients?
Ashley: “Set yourself apart" – you nailed it. You do this largely through style: everything from the voice you use in your writing to the subject matter of your content. For example, I have a pretty goofy personal brand, so my Twitter handle is @cartooninperson and I have a caricature of myself as my profile picture. Viewers can tell right away if they want to work with me and that's the response you want from people. You want them to instantly think “This person gets me, and I can't wait to talk to them." It's sort of like friendship. On the first day of school, you get all sorts of information about your classmates and this tells you who you want to approach and say “Hi!" to.
Nico: What are the warning signs that your personal brand isn't working? And what you can do about it?
Ashley: One big warning sign is that people aren't initiating a discussion with you: not replying to your tweets, for example. If you have a strong personal brand and it's easy for your community to discover you, discussion tends to emerge naturally. If this isn't happening, it's a pretty safe bet that people don't know what to say to you and aren't compelled to engage with you.Another warning sign is that people are standoffish when you initiate engagement with them, whether online or person. Maybe it's unclear who you are and what you want from them – that's really uncomfortable for people. Or perhaps you're annoying or offending them in some way.
Nico: What are the pillars of a successful personal brand? Do you maybe have a sample of a great personal branding success?
Ashley: Story and community are absolutely the pillars, in my mind, because these are the things that connect you to people and you to them. Stories make people see that you are like them in some way. Combine a story with community engagement and you are more likely to inspire people to take the action (conversion, in business speak) you want from them, whether that is a newsletter signup, a retweet or a sale.I helped a client figure out what connects his multiple passions and professional endeavours. They were separate narratives on his LinkedIn profile. It was confusing who he was exactly and how people of interest could discover him, so I figured out a trait in his personality that connected together everything he did professionally. So he got a story out of it and a much easier way to explain his career to people. This trait also really humanized his work and characterized him in a way that was very flattering.
It's easy to fall into the trap of thinking of your audience as a cloud of statistics about age, income, interests and purchase history. Ashley shows us how important it is to understand that we're all trying to communicate with other human beings. People don't just exist to consume. We exist to live and laugh, work and play, do or die. We all appreciate when brands big and small understand that and speak to us on a personal level. Thank you, Ashley, for helping us see that so clearly.
Do you struggle to draw people into engaging discussions? What would a more human approach to your brand feel like? Tell us about it in the comments below.