How to break the rules of personal branding and look good doing it

Sometimes, breaking the rules can do you more good than following them. In the online marketing world, there's always a shortlist of best practices, for almost any strategy you can imagine, that summarises and instructs you on what to do with a given brand in a given scenario. For example, there's a "right" way to build an SEO campaign, and a "right" way to design a website.
But wait a minute — if you only follow the best practices, you’ll end up violating one of the most important rules in the world of marketing, the importance of differentiating yourself. After all, these are the same best practices that everyone else is following, right?

That’s why it’s sometimes better to bend or break the rules of successful marketing in order to get ahead — and this principle certainly holds true in personal branding. Personal branding has a key advantage; because this is a brand unique to you (and not just your business), you’ll have more flexibility in your rule breaking.

Here’s how to break some of the most important rules of personal branding (and look good doing it):

Be abrasive

First, don’t be afraid to adopt a bit of an abrasive personality. The most common piece of advice is to be as friendly and approachable as possible, and that’s all well and good, but it won’t help you stand out. In fact, acting like a jerk can actually be beneficial for your personal brand’s visibility, as evidenced by brands like Tim Sykes. This doesn’t mean you should be rude, inconsiderate, or hateful toward other people, but it does mean you should be bold and possibly controversial in your statements. Form strong opinions and hold on tight to them, and don’t be afraid to disagree with people. Your abrasiveness will demonstrate confidence and charisma, which can make your personal brand seem stronger.

Goof off in images

The most common advice is to take a professional headshot and keep your images on social media as clean and professional as possible. This is certainly a safe bet; after all, you don’t want prospective clients finding pictures of you shotgunning a beer in a Google image search. However, you probably already know the dullness of seeing the same, overly corporate, dressed-up headshots made by the same endless droves of professionals. Stand out by goofing off in photos. Be silly. Have fun. Go out. It will make you more approachable and seem easier to work with.

Don’t respond to everyone

Another common piece of advice is to respond to everyone who talks to you, as quickly as possible. This is beneficial for the early stages of a personal brand’s development, but it’s not a practice you should continue indefinitely. In fact, at the upper levels it may be better to ignore some messages. Being absent on social media and failing to respond to certain commenters will cultivate an air of greater respect, and make you seem too busy to respond to everyone (which you probably are, anyway).

Be inconsistent

Consistency is an important factor in retaining your customers and building an ongoing readership, but too much consistency can be a bad thing. If you end up posting the same types of content, in the same format, over and over and in the same way, eventually your readers are going to get bored. Remember, this is you—you’re a person, and people aren’t so rigidly fixed to schedules and patterns. Shake things up by posting when you feel like posting, and try to avoid adhering to any kind of regimented posting pattern.

Support other personal brands

This is more of a common-sense approach than a formal best practice or rule, but most personal brands try to develop themselves independently, avoiding giving any support to competitors in the same industry. However, if you learn to see those competitors as assets, or even partners, you can multiply your potential reach. Branch out and talk to those competitors’ personal brands, leveraging them as a form of influencer marketing, and start building your network around their already-existing circles. You’ll strengthen each other’s authority in the process.

These are just a handful of simple ways you can break the rules of personal branding - and get away with it. Generally, you’ll want to follow the rules and best practices for online marketing, but there’s danger in following them too closely. Keep this in mind for other areas of your marketing and brand development.

About Boris Dzhingarov

Boris Dzhingarov graduated UNWE with a major in marketing. He is the CEO of ESBO ltd brand mentioning agency. He writes for several online sites such as,,, Boris is the founder of and
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