Managing Your Personal Brand Online


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.

Google Yourself

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?

Privacy

As you conceive your personal digital strategy, the next step is to think through your personal privacy policy. What information do you want to protect? Some things to consider:

  • 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?

Cross-Posting

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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Georgiana Cohen is a freelance writer and blogger who has contributed to publications including the Boston Phoenix and the Boston Herald and works full-time on web content for Tufts University. Her blog at georgycohen.com covers a variety of topics relating to web communications and content, while her blog Safe Digression covers life, music and adventures around Boston. You can also follow her mobile photolog.

Discussion

  1. Great Tips!

    “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.”

    I never thought about this one! I see some people protecting their accounts now, so your solutions seems good.

    Kindest,
    Nabeel

  2. Carl Natale on the 22nd July

    Georgiana, this is solid advice. I am totally in agreement that we shouldn’t automatically link all our social networks simply because we can send one message to all networks at once.

    Perhaps the most important point is to have a strategy. Think about who you want to reach and how. This may lead you to use Twitter differently than I do. But that’s OK because you understand your goals and the medium.

  3. Ashley Hill on the 22nd July

    On my website I have links to all my social media pages, and on my social media pages I have links to my website. I also keep the look of these sites consistent with my branding, same colors, logos, etc.

    I also have Facebook feeding from Twitter and both feeding from my blog, and Twitter feeding my Linkedin page as well…so I think I’m covered!

  4. matt on the 22nd July

    what’s your thoughts on having 2 twitter accounts? I have a personal one and one for my blog. I wanted to use the blog profile, but originally I built my followers on my personal account, before I got that into Twitter.

    Should I merge the two accounts or just keep two going?

    • Georgiana Cohen on the 22nd July

      Having two Twitter accounts makes sense if you have clear and distinct reasons for needing two (e.g. one is for your web design company to engage with customers and the other is for you to talk about baseball and jazz music with your baseball and jazz friends). Or if you want a separate protected one to be a little more off the cuff with a chosen few.

      I’ve seen lots of people who have a professional account and, in their bio, say, “I tweet about my personal life at @username” so it’s definitely not unprecedented. It allows you to focus and build more targeted audiences.

      If you think it through and you really don’t have clear and distinct reasons for having two accounts, then merging may make sense.

    • Ashley Hill on the 22nd July

      I have two accounts as well, one for personal, and connects to my private facebook page, and an account for my business, which connects to my blog and linkedin.

      If you want to keep them separate, try letting your followers know that for professional ‘tweets’ you’ll be on the other account.

    • matt on the 22nd July

      Thanks guys, nice feedback. I think I’ll stick with the two accounts

  5. Bret Juliano on the 22nd July

    I like the article and it is very relevant and necessary for people to use practical tips like these to efficiently present themselves online. Great post.

  6. Brandon Klein on the 22nd July

    I use http://www.flavors.me to create my site: brandonklein.com

    Easy to use- allows people to see what I want them to see and helps with google rankings. I use specific keywords like facilitator to also help get the right people to my site.

  7. Björgvin Benediktsson on the 22nd July

    Great article. I’ve actually been thinking about this the last few days. I already have a “business” brand if you will, but I want to start creating something that’s more me so I can talk about more stuff than just my niche.

    Hit the mark. Spot on. Thanks a lot.

  8. VectorBoy on the 23rd July

    Great article! I’m also doing that and it’s really helpful in my business (affiliate, microstock, programming, …)

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