In the age of social media, your employability, your earning power, your professional reputation and your chance of achieving any of your career goals are more dependent than ever on how you position yourself online. So stop and think, what do your profiles say about you?
Just as companies invest time and money into developing, enhancing and protecting their brand(s), so now must individuals who wish to positively influence their professional prospects. Enter: the age of stalkerism. Recent research suggests that more than 90% of employers are now checking out social media profiles as a way of vetting job candidates and monitoring employee activity. So whether you like it or not employers are now using social networking sites such as LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter to discover more about you as a prospective employee.
The result is simple, you now have an online personal brand to manage. While some suggest that your personal brand is simply the sum total of the information available about you online (on social networks especially) others take the broader view that your personal brand is actually defined by what others say about you. Either way, taking control of your personal brand has never been more important.
In a previous blog post we discussed some fairly obvious ways to avoid destroying your personal brand – and your career – with social media. What is less obvious, however, is how to actively manage and shape your personal brand online to effectively support your career goals and aspirations.
Use social to certify your position! Here are a few pointers, to get you started on the road to building a stronger personal brand that’s capable of delivering the results and opportunities that you deserve…
1. Eye on the prize
There is little point in devoting time and effort to strengthening your personal brand unless you are clear on exactly why you are doing it. Before you go anywhere near your online profiles, take time to think about what your goals and aspirations actually are. A new job? A change of industry? Winning more business? Establishing a reputation as an expert in your field?
Once you’re clear on what it is you’re trying to achieve, you can then properly assess how effective your current personal brand is and what changes need to be made to support your individual goals.
2. What’s the message?
Once you’ve established in your own mind what it is that you’re trying to achieve with your personal brand, you can start to develop the key messages that you want to convey online. In the first instance, you’ll want to create a clear, one line description of yourself and your key personal offering that positions you in a way that supports your goals.
For example, US life/business coach Marie Forleo uses the attention-grabbing strapline “Get Anything You Want” in combination with the following one-line summary of her objectives:
“My goal is to add more value to your world than you ever dreamed possible by giving you tools that you can immediately use to improve your business and life.”
Leadership coach Kent Blumberg keeps it simple with this personal branding statement: “I energize, focus and align manufacturing organizations, resulting in sustainable acceleration of processes, reduction in waste, and growth of profits.” Finally, ghost writer Mindy Gibbins-Klein works wonders in little more than a dozen words, with this: “…helps thought leaders write great books in just 90 days. 300 satisfied clients so far…”
Next, you need to spend time developing the core content of your social network profile pages (particularly your LinkedIn profile) ensuring that it accurately reflects not only your existing skills and experience but also demonstrates your interest in any other fields or areas that you’d like to develop further in the near future.
Be honest and true to yourself in the language you use. Try to convey your professional experience through your achievements rather than simply using flowery language to say how good you are at what you do.
3. Play to each Platform’s Strengths
Different social networks require different approaches and can play different roles within your personal branding activity. For example:
LinkedIn – This, for many people, is the cornerstone of their personal branding activity. Once your profile if in good shape, search for and join Groups that are relevant to your goals, take part in discussions that interest you and start others of your own, regularly post interesting items from the media. Keep an eye out for people of influence that you’d like to connect with and send invites when you spot them.
Facebook – Questionable Facebook content perhaps represents the greatest threat to your personal brand right now. Set your Facebook to ‘Private’ meaning that only your friends can view the content on there. If you want to maintain a publically visible presence on Facebook, consider creating a Brand page or starting a new industry Group, rather than leaving your profile page accessible to all.
Twitter – In combination with other elements of your social branding activity, e.g. your other social media profiles/updates or your blog, Twitter can be an enormously powerful tool in helping you to find and then capture the attention of influential people you want to target with your brand messaging. Tweet consistently or at least once a week, posting thoughts, questions and links to external content relevant to your industry or goals and get involved in TweetChats that interest you.
Google+ – Using your LinkedIn profile as a template, create a Google+ account (if you don’t already have one). Google+ Communities are tremendously useful for identifying niches areas of interest. Another important tip for establishing a personal brand on Google+ is to set up Google Authorship on your profile, so that the search engine giant can easily recognize you as a provider of great content.
4. Create a Blog as ‘Base Camp’
Depending on how much time you have to devote to your personal brand, you may wish to consider creating and maintaining your own blog. After all, why use a tweet to point to an interesting article on a third-party website, when you could be using your tweets to point to your own blog, where you provide a link to the third-party article along with your own thoughts on the issued raised? Some commentators suggest that it is a good idea to own your own name as a domain name, e.g. ‘JohnSmith.com’ but, if this is not possible, try to come up with a short, strong name for your blog that reflects your core messaging and interests. Again, try to stick to a regular schedule of blog posts that you can keep to without driving yourself insane!
5. Enough about me
We all know someone who is happy to go on and on about themselves and their interests without ever bothering to ask a single question about you. Those people are annoying, aren’t they? With social media, it’s easy to fall into the trap of only broadcasting sales messages without ever bothering to pay attention and take an interest in what other people are doing or saying. Make sure that you are praising, sharing and responding to the interesting content that others post online.
6. Heard it through the Grapevine?
If it’s true that your personal brand amounts to what others are saying about you (rather than the information you put online about yourself) it is absolutely crucial that you regularly monitor the web to find any mention of your name online that could have a positive or negative influence on your brand reputation. There are various free tools available (including SocialBro for Twitter) to help you do this. In the event of finding a negative mention of yourself online contact the person responsible directly and suggest that you continue the discussion offline or in a non-public forum.
Alternatively, if you are an employee, flag up any negative mention online to your in-house PR/social media manager and ask their advice on how to tackle it. Your personal credibility and that of your employer are closely tied online, so that any negativity directed at you will also reflect badly on your company. Don’t be tempted to wade in yourself, all guns blazing, as this is unlikely to be the approach recommended by your employer. Stay calm, establish a protocol on how to deal with negative feedback online and then stick to it.
7. It’s a marathon, not a sprint
Successfully building an effective personal brand online is not easy: all of the tips outlined take time and commitment over an extended period of time. You need to be in it for the long haul so, up front, it’s wise to work out exactly how much time you have available to devote to developing you personal brand and then schedule that time into your regular professional and personal commitments.
Whether you are in or out of work, self-employed or planning to move industries, a strong online personal brand is, increasingly, a vital factor in determining whether you are successful or not. Don’t neglect it: start thinking about how you can supercharge your personal brand today.