As part of our blog series on building a personal brand online, we spoke with content creator, forthcoming author, and former Biglaw attorney Cece Xie about her journey building a following of more than 400,000 people on TikTok and 60,000 subscribers on YouTube

Read on for tips on how to approach building your own brand while staying true to your values, along with why building a brand early in your career will help you succeed in the long term.

Don’t overthink it – you won’t know what works until you hit “publish”

When people begin creating content online – whether that’s on LinkedIn, TikTok, or any platform – they often spend a lot of time thinking about what their “niche” will be. 

“I’m anti niche – niches trap you after a while. You shouldn’t be super strategic about your brand at the beginning because you’ll invest a lot of time up front in something that might fail.”

The reality is that you don’t know what will work until you do it, and with social media, you essentially get an instant feedback loop that can help you quickly find the intersection of what you’re good at and what people want to consume. 

Whether you’re writing posts (or just comments) on LinkedIn, creating videos on TikTok, or contributing to Twitter conversations, the only way to really understand how your content will be received is to actually publish it and get feedback.

“I initially started making content because of the pandemic and I got so many questions about what being a lawyer was like and I realized there must be a dearth of information out there about the topic.”

By publishing her content and receiving near-instantaneous feedback, Cece realized how much of a demand there was for understanding what lawyers actually do and how to navigate a legal career, allowing her to focus her content creation on sharing what she had already learned via her years of experience in law school and as a lawyer.

Stay true to who you are by sticking to your values

Once you start to gain momentum online, it can be easy to let the content get ahead of who you are, especially if you start chasing views and other metrics. 

“If you start chasing the algorithm, there tends to be a divergence between what’s online and who you are in real life. To make sure that my content always reflects who I am, I make sure it fits into at least one of my 3 guidepost words.”

For Cece, these 3 values are: transparency, inspiration, and awareness (of self or others).

“If something I want to do online – creating a YouTube video or even just responding to negative comments – doesn’t fit into one of these categories, I won’t post it.”

Putting together a bulleted list of what your key values are (or what you want to get out of building your online brand) will make it easier for you to decide what you should and shouldn’t be posting while you build your brand. If you’re unsure about posting something, you can look at your guiding principles to check in on if you’re staying true to who you really are and how you want to present yourself to others online. 

Creating a brand builds relationships inside and outside the office

When you start building up a presence online, people within your company – along with your clients if you’re at a firm – will start to take notice. This can be a great way to increase your visibility within your team or with outside parties. 

However, keep in mind that much of this depends on how forward-thinking your company is. If you’re a GC at a tech company, you likely won’t run into many issues posting content unless you decide to take on controversial topics. If you’re at a traditional firm or more conservative company, it helps if you’ve already built up your political cache within your team before venturing out and building an online presence. 

“My online presence didn’t really matter until I started receiving media inquiries. At that point, I turned to my firm to ask for guidance and media training and already had lots of strong advocates within the firm.”

Having an online presence can open up doors for you within law, the tech industry, or really anywhere else you want to go in your career. Developing her online brand led to Cece building the connections that would ultimately land her a book deal, allowing her to pursue her interests outside of strictly legal practice.

The sooner you know how to sell yourself, the better

At some point in your career, you’ll have to sell yourself, whether that’s during job interviews, within your own company to senior leadership, or to external entities like clients or journalists. The sooner you get started building your online brand, the more experience you’ll have selling yourself and your story, and you can use the instant feedback loop of social media to shape your story in a way that resonates with people and focuses on your biggest strengths. 

What do you want to be known for? Building and experimenting with your online presence will help you answer this question and allow you to practice telling your story over and over so that you know how to speak about yourself and your career in a compelling, coherent way.

“The earlier you can master your own story, the more it will pay off.”

Are you a GC who’s interested in building your brand? One great way to get started is by speaking at industry events. If you’re interested in speaking at one of our events, get in touch with a member of the TechGC team. Not a TechGC member but want to join our exclusive community of top GCs? Request a membership invite here. 

About Cece

Cece Xie is a writer, content creator, and lecturer at Yale University. She is a graduate of Yale University and Harvard Law School and was previously an associate at Morrison & Foerster LLP and Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP, where she advised clients on privacy and intellectual property matters. She is currently working on her debut book about the world of biglaw (Portfolio/Penguin Random House). You can sign up for her newsletter debrief, where she shares her thoughts and analyses on the legal industry, work culture, and being alive.