Whether you have been online for years or are only really getting into it of late, you need from time to time to review how you are using “online” to support and maintain your intentional personal brand and also broaden your reputation.
The tools offered online to communicate and network are incredibly powerful in terms of the opportunities they give to communicate your personal brand, strengths and areas of expertise.
If the area of online personal branding is new to you then the following will help you to get a head start. If you have been online for some time then a litttle time spent reviewing how you are doing is always time well spent.
How To Build Your Online Personal Brand – Start with Google
In evaluating your online reputation, ego surfing or vanity surfing (going to Google or Yahoo, putting your name in quotes and seeing what turns up) will help you determine your existing visibility and indeed your credibility. You might learn, for example, that something has been posted online about you that is less than flattering. Is your name the same as a convicted felon? Maybe that’s why clients aren’t calling you back or the job offers aren’t coming in!
On the other hand, you might find that your ego is a little bruised when you find that nothing shows up. You might even stop and wonder if you even exist! This lack of results could be a result of not being focused on your online presence. The good news is that you can fix this!
First, prepare a Google profile by visiting Google Profiles. There, you will be prompted to post information about yourself, your career and your interests. This tool is completely free and tends to rank high in Google searches. A Google profile is similar to a LinkedIn profile where you control the content.
LinkedIn provides you with a tool to start building your online reputation by offering space for you to write about your professional background, including your specialties, experience, education and interests. Once you’ve populated a profile at LinkedIn with your photograph, summaries of your experience and education, you can start connecting with colleagues. Find people who you’ve worked with in the past, who you’ve met at networking events and who you work with currently. Send them invitations to connect and become part of your network online.
LinkedIn also provides an impressive extension to your professional networking efforts. On LinkedIn, you can join groups that bring like-minded professionals together to discuss important questions and issues within their areas of interest. These can be professional groups, alumni associations, interest groups, etc.
Imagine if you’re sharing something or building a relationship with somebody in your audience and they decide to share that with their audience. That circle of influence is growing and growing!
I use Facebook to bring my brand to life and to humanize myself to online audiences. If done well, Facebook offers a great way to build a personal reputation and credibility within your network of “friends.”
Facebook also has groups. Groups are similar to business pages but are intended more for special interests or clubs, such as an alumni association or Neighborhood Watch program. Each group has an administrator, and members can be selected or limited, just like a club in the real world.
I think blogs are fantastic, if done right(as the one you are on is – I hope!). If you want to attract and retain readers, it’s important to be clear and organized with your blog focus.
Just like the other social platforms we’ve discussed, blogging is a form of dialogue. Even though you publish the content, you want a conversation. You want people to comment on your posts and even to link to your blog in their blogs or websites.
Be sure to blog about things that are consistent with the positioning that you’re building. Comment on other people’s blogs. Start a conversation. Build a community around a topic.
Blog readers spend one to two minutes reading a post, so you want to make sure that your content is interesting and engaging to your audience. The ideal blog post is 250 to 750 words in length.
Unlike a blog, which is unlimited in content, Twitter gives you only 140 characters with which to express your point in posts called “tweets.” This can be tough! People who are interested in what you have to say can choose to follow you on Twitter. Your tweets are fed through all sorts of RSS (Real Simple Syndication) formats.
The tweets by all the people you follow are fed into a home page that opens when you log into Twitter, or into a Twitter application that you can set up to sort and filter your incoming Tweets, or into your mobile device.
One well tested strategy for Twitter is to connect with peers, clients, potential clients and a targeted online community while building your reputation. Allow some of your personality to come through on Twitter, as you should do on all social networking sites. People want to connect with real people. Being human, authentic and expressive online gives credibility to your personal brand.
The beauty of YouTube is the simplicity with which you can share all of this. Let’s say you’re in interior design, residential real estate or web design. You can easily produce some very quick, one- or two-minute videos on best practices or suggestions to help others. You don’t have to be a videographer or produce highly formatted edited content. A simple webcam or camcorder is enough to create a video of decent quality.
Effective Online Personal Branding
They say that for websites “content is king” when it comes to online personal branding then credibility is king. To gain visibility and recognition, you must walk the talk of the values you promote.
For instance, if you say you are about collaboration, then you must engage in dialogue with others, share resources and celebrate the success of others as well as your own. The online community is extremely focused on transparency, and they’ll expose an impostor in a very public way.
Your goal is to create a real, genuine and engaging online persona that will attract the attention of people who care about issues similar to yours. You cannot use the online space to create an alter ego and show up as someone you’re not. Stick to your personal brand plan and you won’t go wrong.
If you take the time to build your initial strategy and let it guide you through your online personal branding journey, the details will fall into place. Have fun and be yourself. I look forward to seeing you online!