Personal Branding for Shy People

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“If there was ever a group of people who benefited most from social media it was shy people.” Jeremy Waite, Head of Digital Strategy @ExactTarget, Salesforce.

If you’re shy and you have a product (or services) you want people to buy, it is likely that -- just as everyone else -- you seek a wider audience. However, you don’t want to compromise yourself in the process. You see others “pimping” themselves and find them foreign, if not unappealing. You want your products and services to sell better without having to degrade yourself with selfless promotion and being obnoxiously loud. You want to be successful without feeling embarrassed about how you get there. 

Shy versus introvert

Shy and introverted people are too often dumped into the same box. Research shows there is a dramatic difference between the two. Shyness is a learned behavior of discomfort and anxieties. Introversion is a trait whereby people recharge and gain energy through “alone time.”

Introversion is not a barrier to success or to building a strong personal brand. According to USA Today, roughly four in 10 top executives test as introverts. As Susan Cain pointed out in a Psychology Today blog, Bill Gates is introverted but not shy. He is quiet and bookish, but is not bothered by what other people think of him. Dorie Clark, a marketing strategy consultant who is a frequent contributor to the Harvard Business Review and Forbes, says, “As an introvert, I've learned to play to my strengths in building my personal brand." 

Shyness, on the other hand, is a barrier to being successful. Shyness stops people from taking action because they are essentially scared of what others will think. Shy people can tend to believe their material is not worthy of promotion. Assuming there is sufficient value in what you offer, there are techniques to overcome shyness and build your personal brand simultaneously.

Shy and successful personal branding

You may be shy, but you still strive for success and have some great ideas. In today’s world, thanks to the Internet, everyone is a media. Whereas personal branding used to be the bailiwick of entrepreneurs (especially common of web entrepreneurs), there is an opportunity, if not a need, for individuals in all instances to create their own personal brand. [And, we suggest that companies should also be providing support to shy personnel to help them with their own personal branding as part of a core HR policy.]

A good personal brand reflects who you are in the best possible light. The ideal scenario of a good personal brand is that people know about what you do and trust you. You attract like-minded people who think like you and appreciate you for who you are. Growing and managing your brand can be a fun and interesting activity. The process of building your personal brand takes place without losing your integrity or corrupting your core values. 

Finding the right strategy

Your personal brand is most effective when you are your brand and there is congruency between the presentation and your self. Your brand must be an expression of who you are. A powerful brand is the expression of the best of you. By clarifying what you are shy about, there are strategies you can employ. The good news is that you can use platforms such as social media, blogs and forums to avoid interactions that make you feel uncomfortable, all the while achieving your goals and building your personal brand. Taking stock of the specific components of your shyness / introversion is the first leg of the personal branding journey for shy people. For example, if you are shy about your appearance, you wouldn’t want to start with selfies or a video blog. You might rather focus on writing and curating content.

Understanding yourself

What are you shy about? Typically, shy people have specific zones of discomfort. 

  • Your voice?
  • Your appearance? 
  • Eye contact? 
  • Colleagues? 
  • Strangers?
  • The unknown
  • Your failures? 
  • Your successes? 
  • Your aspirations?
  • Your values? 
  • Other?

The second leg of the personal branding journey is defining whom you are not shy around.

  • Family
  • Friends
  • Colleagues
  • Boss
  • Sports Team
  • Hobby Partners
  • Others

In this manner, you can get a starting point for your personal brand. Leveraging areas of comfort, you can start to craft an online identity. One of the great first steps – especially effective for shy people -- is to affirm your presence by simply liking other people’s posts. The mere act of “liking” (on Facebook) or favoriting (on Twitter) is a fabulous way to start being present. Further along, taking a few close friends, you can start co-writing a blog related to a shared hobby or passion. Alternatively, you can start by keeping the blog to a closed membership.

By taking the time to answer these questions, you will dip your toe in the sea of personal branding. In our next articles, we will explore the purpose of your brand and how to use social media to build your personal brand.

PS - I am a co-author of this article, originally published here:

About the author


Noam Kostucki is a professional speaker, coach and consultant on communication, strategy and innovation. He believes that everything can be turned into an art form, whether be public speaking, building a brand or running a business. Over the last decade, he has engaged with over 20,000 people in 12 countries.…

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