How to be your own brand: The professional benefits of cultivating an online persona
Anyone with a phone will know you can waste hours on social media procrastinating, scrolling and liking, but the clever ones among us will make social media work for them.
Tom Simpson is one of those clever few. The British-born menswear buyer got his start at Topshop in the UK, and has since managed to work his way up to a senior role at major Australian online retail site, The Iconic.
But for every person who knows Tom for his business nous and professional wins, there are five who know him for his blog, The Tales of Man, and his visually stunning Instagram feed that offers insights into his fascinating work life, his immaculate sense of style and his photogenic family.
Together with his wife Rachael D'Alessandro, who herself has huge influence as the head of design at One Teaspoon, Tom has amassed nearly 30,000 Instagram followers. We asked him how your social media influence and personal brand can complement your professional life.
What's your current role and how long have you been in it?
I am currently the head of menswear at The Iconic, Australia’s largest fashion retailer. I have been at The Iconic for over two years now.
What's your professional background?
I studied fashion design and made dresses for about four years! Following that I got a job at Topshop head office as a merchandiser and worked my way up there over six years. I then worked for a couple of start up brands before getting the call to come to Australia!
When you got onto social media, was it just for fun or did you see it as a potential platform for personal branding and professional development?
I started the same way everyone else does, using it to talk to friends and show my life! However, the follower count started growing and I soon realised that I could do some good not just for myself but for The Iconic, and create awareness and grow the presence of menswear at The Iconic.
Did you have a particular strategy for growing your following and perfecting your brand or did it happen organically?
I think I am fortunate in the fact my life and my job creates organic content. I travel a lot with work, see a lot of brands and have to go to fashion weeks around the world. Simply by showcasing these events and what I wear to them, I organically attracted followers. I think I have quite a unique look, especially in Australia, so I gained respect and followers from people looking to be inspired,
What do you think your followers like about your Instagram?
I think they like my individual style. Also the fact that I am not a professional "blogger", it feels more natural. I think they also love that I am a dad and a family man. My daughter, Venice, is my world and when I post about us being together that tends to get a great response.
Has your social media following helped or hindered your career? Have you ever been approached for work based on your social media presence alone?
It has only helped my career. It helps when I’m going to meet new brands, especially premium brands, that I am trying to get on to The Iconic. They tend to know who I am prior to meeting me and, often, you find that brands want to believe in the person, not just the company. It also helps when going to fashion shows as I tend to get front row now instead of at the back with the other buyers!
Do you think your social media account accurately depicts your personal brand? How has that changed over the years?
I think my feed really does represent me. Like I said, Instagram and blogging is not my job, unlike many others. I don’t have to force content or advertise things that don’t represent who I actually am. I can just be myself and I’m lucky that my followers seem to like that.
Do you think people looking to get into the fashion industry should focus on building their individual profiles?
I think knowing who you are is an amazing asset. However to get into the industry you have to start at the bottom and work f***ing hard! Concentrate on growing your experience in the industry, become a master of the art rather than concentrate on building a life through a social channel that won’t be around forever. You could have a million followers but that won’t help you when Instagram is no longer the "in" thing. I have many bloggers who contact me asking for a foot in the door into the fashion world because they are now starting to see it’s not a sustainable life.
What would you advise professionals against doing on social media if they want it to complement their career?
If I’m honest, every time I hire someone I will check their Instagram. That’s the way I get to see the real them. So my advice it to only upload things you’re happy for everyone to see and not things that will bite you in the arse in the future!
How do you decide what to share on your accounts? Are there any criteria you stick to? Nope. You will notice I go through quiet periods and that’s because I’m either too busy at work or just not doing anything of interest!
Your wife's social media game is also impressive, do you two work together to create imagery?
We have a camera when we go out, but not mainly for Instagram, it’s mostly filled with pics of our daughter. However, she will take pics of me if the moment is right and vice versa. But she is very much like me, she is a career woman and it’s not her priority.
Which brands do you think do social media well? What is your favourite brand to follow?
I love Mr Porter’s page, along with lifestyle inspiration pages like @manofstyle and @savagereport.