No matter your field, there are several advantages to establishing a presence online. You can connect with colleagues and customers, learn new things and help others learn, as well. But as you establish your online identity, it’s important to think about your personal branding.
Just like Pepsi and Starbucks, we each have a brand. It represents how people perceive us—who we are, what we stand for, what we do and how and why we do it. On the web, it can be distributed across a range of platforms, such as Twitter, Facebook and maybe our own website or blog. This puts the burden on you to make sure your online personal branding is up-to-date, accurate and presented to your satisfaction.
Here are a few ways you can manage and monitor your personal brand on the web:
Personal Digital Strategy
Before diving in and setting up a bunch of accounts, think through what you want to achieve on the web. Who do you want to communicate to or engage with? Are you looking to learn about a topic of interest? Do you want to gain customers or make business connections?
Then, consider how each platform could help you achieve your goals. Not every platform will necessarily apply, so don’t be dazzled by the array at your disposal. Only commit to developing as much of a presence as you can commit to maintaining. Sitting down and mapping out your strategy for managing your brand online may not take very long, but it will provide a helpful road map going forward.
One of the most basic and most essential things you can do is to regularly Google your name (including variations, such as nicknames or potential misspellings) to see where you are being mentioned on the web and in what context. You can also set up Google Alerts for any variation of your name so you can see where it’s popping up. There are several tools available to cast a wider monitoring net.
Mhairi Petrovic of Out-Smarts made the good point in this Slideshare presentation that it is important to see yourself as others see you. To that end, log out of your services and view your profiles as others see them. Do they look how you expect them to look, both visually and in terms of messaging?
- Stay on top of changes in Facebook privacy settings, keeping in mind that anything you list as an interest on Facebook is publicly visible by default, even to non-friends.
- On Twitter, if you choose to protect your tweets, you may be missing out on a lot of conversation and opportunity; create a separate, protected account if you want to engage on Twitter in a more personal and less brand-minded manner.
- On LinkedIn, how much of your activity (e.g. recommendations, tweaks to your profile) do you want made public, if you are concerned about how other people might read into that?
As you manage your digital outposts, it is important to be aware of how these services interact. Many of these services allow you to send updates to the others, but by doing so, you may unintentionally create a lot of noise and redundancy. Check your settings and adjust appropriately. Some examples of this are:
- Piping your Twitter updates into LinkedIn
- Sharing your YouTube activity on Twitter, Facebook, Google Buzz/Reader
- Cross-posting Facebook updates to Twitter, or vice versa
Maintain a Hub
You may do an excellent job managing your presence on Flickr, YouTube, Twitter and LinkedIn, but two facts remain:
- These are still distinct, unconnected sites — linking from one to the others only goes so far
- Despite your best efforts, you will never be able to absolutely control how these sites use and present your information
For these reasons, it is important to own your own digital brand with a website. Your website is your online hub, where all of your digital outposts should point to and come home to roost. It is the one space on the web that you can completely control. If you decide to get a website, consider your domain name very carefully. It is also advisable to reserve – even if you don’t have a plan to use them – your desired names across a range of social networks via a tool like namechk.com.
Online and Offline Alignment
The challenge of having our brand distributed across a range of services and platforms is that there is no way to update all of them at once. Since in all likelihood you will set up one platform to link to all or most of your others, it is important to have your information and presentation be up-to-date and consistent across the board. This includes details about your current employer, contact information and goals. This can also extend to your professional portrait, and even your color scheme.
In addition, any non-digital material you have – memorable business cards, a portfolio, even a downloadable PDF on your website – should also remain up to date and aligned with your digital collateral. Make a checklist of online and offline materials to review whenever you have a change in your professional life.
Search Engine Optimization
A successful brand is one that is useful and relevant. Search engine optimization (SEO) is the practice of tailoring your website content to rank highly in search engines. One way of elevating your personal brand is to elevate your content, whether it’s your blog posts or static pages on your website. If people find your information useful, your personal brand gets a boost. For a good introduction to SEO, visit SEOMoz.
Be a Professional
This is both the simplest bit of advice and perhaps the most critical. Sure, it’s the web and it’s fun, but if you are using it toward professional ends, be mindful of what you say and who you associate with – just as you would in the real working world.
What have you done to manage your personal brand online?
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