What comes first? A personal brand or a business? What happens when a personal brand is a husband and wife team? Why do ‘behind the scenes’ social shares create brilliant results
I wanted insightful answers from Michael and Jill Leonard, founders of The Market Vibe, who have successfully exploded their personal brand by adopting a raw and real approach to social media.
Their digital marketing agency supports fashion and beauty brands to optimise website design, social media, and branding.
You can hear us discussing how they built their online following on my podcast Interviews With Experts.
A bold decision
Instead of going on honeymoon the newlyweds decided to cross the threshold into business with phenomenal success. Michael and Jill have mastered the art of creating a friendly family vibe and credit their success to sharing an increasingly personal brand first, and business second.
The ugly cry that attracted droves of followers
Jill: “At the end of 2020 my mom had Covid-19. We weren’t able to get together for birthday or holidays so we were all devastated. As a surprise Michael had bought me the cutest things (my favourite snacks, a cake, a sweater and a blanket). I had just got off the phone with my mom when Michael came home with the presents and I lost it. I was ugly crying. He had filmed himself buying the stuff and then my reaction. We shared it on TikTok and had 20,000 views overnight which was the most virality we’d ever experienced at that time. It was massive.
It can be difficult when you’re working with your spouse to not put the business first and the relationship second. We were really working on putting our relationship first and our journey has exploded from there with people getting to know us and not necessarily just our business expertise.”
Why the video resonated with people
Finding ways to stand out on social media can feel increasingly challenging but Michael and Jill struck gold. I wanted to know what specifically had resonated with their audience.
Michael: “Authenticity. Most people wouldn’t want to show themselves if they were Jill at that moment. They’d think they weren’t showing their best self or hadn’t done their makeup. So many couples want everything to be polished and put together; we edit ours, but not to try to make ourselves look better.
We are raw and real; this is who we are. We enjoy letting people look into our life and business whether things are good or bad; people can learn from the bad just as much as they can from the good.”
Michael and Jill grew their TikTok audience by 100,000 followers in one month, and enjoyed more than three million views on their videos.
Integrating social media
Personal branding revolves around storytelling and enticing people to want to get to know you more so you can go on to do business together if it feels right. As a couple Michael and Jill have brought social media into their life and marriage. They’ve wholeheartedly embraced it rather than expecting to share a video of a certain length at a certain time each week and expecting results. Their social media is incredibly personal, and creates the feeling that you are part of a family.
They’ve even been known to give a sneak peak of their dinner dates. I wanted to know whether it felt intrusive.
Jill: “We have boundaries. We do take time to unplug and make conscious decisions not to share some special days out and keep those just for us. We noticed that certain things were working well on the algorithm so when we went shopping we’d ask our followers what snacks we should buy; it’s just another way to bring people closer.
It’s a different form of marketing that we’ve been calling radical realness. We thought we had to be ‘business professionals’ who talked about digital marketing, but social media is social and it’s relational and as soon as we embraced that we started to see crazy growth.”
Show rather than tell
What is really interesting about Michael and Jill’s digital presence is that instead of telling their followers how to grow their own audience to build their business they are actively demonstrating what works, and also asking themselves the right questions.
Michael: “We were questioning what we could do that would be different. We wanted to work out where we could give people special access that you’d almost have to pay for. We shared a TikTok live before we went on stage at a speaking engagement; most people wouldn’t do that.
More and more people feel turned off when they feel sold to all the time. They’re actively gravitating towards people they get a good feeling from. Through the internet people have access to the same educational content and nobody else is ‘you’. Our followers can see who we are before they think about whether to hire us. And if they look at us and think we’re jerks then we wouldn’t work well together anyway.”
What Michael is describing is a fantastic way to build relationships and build a community. When we showcase our personal brand we naturally attract the right clients to work with us.
A return on investment is not tied to one online activity; everything is connected and the more that people can see and like who you are the more likely they are to approach you or buy your services or products.
What does the future hold?
Having experienced such a high level of organic growth Michael and Jill won’t be disappointing us anytime soon.
Michael: “We are looking into brand deals and affiliate marketing. If you build a business first you have to then build a personal brand which might be like building a house on a faulty foundation, but if you build your house [your business] on a solid foundation [your personal brand] you can add anything you like or easily renovate it when you have people who love you. I couldn’t imagine starting a product-based company without having a personal brand to lean back on.”
Michael and Jill have multiple business ideas and it’s clear to see that their personal brand is an inspiring launch pad that will enable them to create success in their digital marketing agency, and any other direction they choose to explore.
How strong is your personal brand? Download the Write Business Results scorecard and discover how to increase your impact in the digital space to help people get to know, like and trust you and your brand.