After Tyra Banks gave an empowering seminar to women at Stanford about personal branding, professor Allison Kluger immediately reached out to the model and businesswoman. Kluger recognized the wealth of information Banks had from years of real-life experience in the public sphere. So, according to one of the many videos Banks shared about the experience, the two started executing a specific lesson plan for graduate students at the university’s business school.
The class was a “compressed class,” which means they met three times per week for three hours sessions. The entire experience only lasted two weeks. But within that truncated time, many valuable bits of information were imparted. Banks shared much of that information online for free, though you obviously had to be an actual student to get the full experience.
While Banks has a treasure trove of knowledge from her own experience in business to share, she chose to bring in social media expert Gary Vaynerchuk to talk even more specifically about social media and branding. Vaynerchuk is a renowned social media guru with a rabidly loyal following who seemed to figure out how the different platforms worked for different people long before most people were even on them. His insights combined with Banks real-world knowledge of more traditional business (in the entertainment sector) filled their class collaboration with juicy and helpful nuggets for both budding entrepreneurs and anyone looking to build up – or just better understand – their personal brand.
Some of these lessons were garnered from the feedback Banks got from her students after the sessions. Others are available thanks to streaming and sharing services online from both Tyra Banks and Gary Vaynerchuk. In fact, their post-class question and answer session was streamed online so you can see the two moguls thinking and responding in action. Many of the experiences from the students are shared using the hashtag #BRANDProjectYou on both Twitter and Instagram.
Take advantage of how other people see you, but don’t be held captive by it.
The students shared with Banks how they appreciated learning how their peers viewed them. Knowing and understanding how the world viewed them allowed them to have a foundation of where to begin with their personal brand. Asking friends, family, and coworkers to describe you may help you get real about how you’re presenting yourself to the world. Maybe they’ll describe you exactly as you hoped the world will see you, or maybe they see you as something completely different. Either way, you begin with a solid foundation of understanding to either shift from or continue building your brand.
Show, don’t tell.
A valuable lesson people picked up from Banks’ class was that, as much as you may love to think you have control over how people perceive you, you really don’t. If you want to be seen as certain type of person, you can’t simply talk about being that type of person. You must show consistently and constantly through your own marketing that you live the type of life the person you want to be lives. Though other people’s opinions don’t need to determine your self worth, understanding what they say and how they feel about you can help you determine whether or not you’re accurately portraying what you’re attempting to portray.
Being different is better than being better.
In a world that is oversaturated with information and options, it can be overwhelming for consumers to choose where to put their time, energy, and money. So rather than compete with the already existing options on the market, why not figure out a way to carve out a unique niche for your own product or personal brand. Banks shared the example of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, citing that they could have just tried to have the “best vanilla” ice cream and competed with all the other products on the marketplace. Instead, however, they were innovative and created a totally different way of experiencing ice cream. And, in doing so, created an ice cream empire.
Personal branding is no longer just for businesses or celebrities.
Thinking about brands and branding used to only be for people and products in the public eye. Now, though, thanks to social media and the advent of all sorts of fascinating information sharing models, anyone who wants to have an impact in their given career needs to figure out a way to brand themselves. For the over-achievers who truly want to make a difference, they’ll need to gain enough influence and respect in their given career to stand out. In order to do that, they’ll need to know how to build and curate an impressive personal brand that will attract the types of fans and collaborators they need to take them to the next level.
Everybody has a personal brand, but not everybody takes advantage of it.
If you’re on any form of social media or information sharing in our modern world (and, let’s face it, who isn’t?), you’ve already begun creating a personal brand. Whether intentionally or unintentionally, the information you share with the world says a lot about who you are, what you believe, and what you stand for. Even if you’re just sharing periodic personal pictures of your life, you are building a brand. So rather than putting up information haphazardly and letting the randomness of your posts decide how the world sees you, why not be intentional about it? Why not be self-reflective and decide exactly who you want to be in a given scenario, and then do what it takes to own that image?
When using social media, think about your audience more than yourself.
Gary Vaynerchuk is really passionate understanding how best to utilize the wonders of sharing that social media provides. For him, though, he sees too many people using each outlet in boring, uninteresting, and often ineffective ways. Rather than constantly talking about yourself and building up your own ego, he suggests people always think about what value they’re adding to their audience with every post. That, of course, requires an understanding of every specific social media outlet users (which he’s also done and we’ll get to in a moment). But, more importantly, it requires actually caring about what the people who are following you might be interested in seeing or learning from your post. Remembering to add value to the lives of your followers seems like a simple yet all-too-often-overlooked basic requirement for posting.
Give and then ask, but don’t just take.
One of Vaynerchuk’s most successful books is calledJab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook. And he shared with the students in this Stanford class that the basic thesis of that book is to be someone who is willing and able to constantly give to the community around them, not just someone taking advantage of other people’s willingness to give. For him, it’s immensely important that you provide more value to others than what you ask for in return. Too many times we simply insist that other people value and support the product we’re providing. But his point is that if you’re willing to be of service to your community on an ongoing basis, then when the time comes for you to be vulnerable and ask for something, you will easily and happily see fantastic results.
Don’t think about the numbers, think about the results.
Too many people get caught up in having social media followings with impressively large numbers. But, for Vaynerchuk, that approach is completely backward. The quality not the quantity of followers makes all the difference in the world. Rather than obsess over getting a certain arbitrary amount of people to follow you, your obsession should be on building a rabid and loyal following who appreciates all that you give and consistently interacts with you can have a much more valuable impact than a large yet uninterested follower base.
If it feels like a job, don’t do it.
For Vaynerchuk, passion in what you’re doing is key.
If something feels like you’re clocking in and out just to make money and help the time pass, you’re going to be miserable and it won’t matter what the end result is. Beyond that, the fact that you don’t actually care about what it is you’re working on will be picked up quickly by people who will immediately be turned off from your personal brand. Anytime you feel like you’re obligated to do something, you immediately shoot yourself in the foot. Not only does your perspective become negative and you feel frustrated more easily, but you also lose the trust of your followers who believed that you cared about whatever projects you’re working on. Do things you love because you love to do them. If you can change your perspective, do so. But if you can’t, don’t do whatever it is that makes your work feel like actual work.
Being self aware can put you in a position to succeed.
"Your actions have to match your ambitions,” according to Gary Vaynerchuk.
That means if you want to chase lofty and impressive major goals, you have to do the little steps it takes to bring those goals into reality. Being willing to take an honest look at how you spend your time, what you care about, and how you approach your work allows you to assess exactly where you are in terms of achieving bigger goals. If all you do is spend your time hanging out and slacking off yet you want to achieve greatness, you need to have an honest conversation with yourself about your values.
In Banks’ class, Vaynerchuk doesn’t pull any punches (which is appropriate for a man with a bestselling book named after boxing moves). He tells the students, and shares with the rest of the world, that individual opinions matter significantly less than the general opinion of the marketplace.
Simply put, he says, “It doesn’t matter what you think, it matters what the market thinks.”
He means that the more time and energy you spend obsessing over how you wish you could do things a certain way and have the world simply bend to your will, the more time you’ll be wasting on often fruitless projects. Understanding your brand and what exactly the world needs – and how those two things fit together – will allow you to be in response to the ongoing changes and needs of the environment around you. For him, this lesson also manifests when it comes to how you're sharing your information with the world. It doesn’t mean you need to change who you are, you simply need to respect whatever room you’re in and the environment you’re entering. Just like you change how you approach a day depending on whether you’re relaxing with friends or leading a major professional meeting, you highlight the elements already existing in your own personality to better cater to the needs of the external circumstances.
Provide value in exchange for time.
Even though it may not seem like a lot of time, every single person who takes the time to scroll through your personal social media feed is giving you the gift of their time. If someone hovers long enough on your feed to learn more about whatever you shared, they’re giving an even bigger gift. No matter what information you share, whether it’s a personal picture, food post, or simply an inspirational quote, it’s extremely important that it provides the passerby with some value. Maybe that value is knowledge from a recent personal experience or maybe it’s inspiration for an upcoming recipe or maybe it’s simply a laugh from a goofy meme. But no matter what you share, it should be something that makes people feel their time was valued and not wasted.
The work matters.
Both Tyra Banks and Gary Vaynerchuk are notoriously hard-working individuals. The multi-hyphenate creatives and producers are both entertainment personalities and intelligent behind-the-scenes pragmatists. And one thing they wanted to get across in their class collaboration was that you have to be willing to do the work associated with whatever lofty goal you set for yourself. The loftiness of the goal doesn’t matter if you’re not willing or able to put in the hours and endure the risks it takes to turn that dream into a reality.
Banks has made it clear she’d be more than willing to come back to teach at Stanford again if there’s enough interest and success from this original class. And based on the information shared and the response from her first crop of students, it seems like she could have a happy new home on the university’s campus.