What is your “personal brand”? What are you telling the world about yourself via social media? Does that image align with how you want to be perceived?
When most of us think of brands, we think of flashy logos, annoying advertisements and faceless corporations. We love some brands and hate others. The reason we choose a brand is not just for the logo, but also for the reputation and quality that it stands for. Similarly, our personal brands are created by the values that we hold and the contributions we make to the word both online and offline.
Why bother establishing a personal brand online? The most obvious reason is to increase future job propositions. In a time where 80% of hiring happens on the informal job market, it’s essential to continually network as much as possible. Also, establishing a personal brand online helps you define yourself as you reflect on your strengths, passions and values. By habitually promoting the different qualities that make you unique, you can positively influence the conversation people have about you.
Social media is an immensely powerful tool that can be leveraged to bolster personal brands, but if left unchecked can be detrimental to how others view you. Obviously the full scope of who you are as a person cannot be encapsulated entirely on social media. Therefore, it’s critical to ensure that the limited view you’re projecting to the world is aligned with your persona and goals. Type your name into any search engine and look at the top results (hopefully your name isn’t too common). The first few results are more likely than not your social media profiles, with the results being ranked in order of level of activity. If you would like to ensure a certain platform takes precedence over another, all you have to do is use one website more than the other.
An effective personal branding strategy starts with clearly defining your objectives. Much like a traditional business, it helps to establish a mission statement. Before posting anything, ask yourself if it aligns with the core message you want to promote. Take some time to study other people with similar messages online. Engage with them, open up a dialogue and try to find your own unique view on your topic. This becomes much easier through actively participating in online conversations. The key to finding a meaningful community online is to participate in online forums, social communities and groups on Facebook and LinkedIn. To find online conversations around the topics that interest you, you can use tools such as Google Alerts, Social Mention, Twitter Search, and Social Oomph to search for keywords related to these topics. It isn’t enough to merely retweet others musings or post a link to an article. Your personal brand is meaningless if it’s nothing more than other people’s thoughts mashed together. A strong brand requires differentiation.
You may want to come off as socially conscious, professional or creative. Regardless, you must be able to sustain that image consistently across platforms. In order to accomplish this end, it is critical that you are genuine. It’s one thing to “fake it til you make it,” but don’t project an image that categorically isn’t you. It will likely become apparent if you try to be something you’re not. Additionally, by behaving consistently on social media, you can further differentiate yourself from the rest of the crowd. Remember your underlying social media mission. Always ask yourself if your prospective posts support/strengthen it. At the same time, you can’t be one dimensional on social media. Understand the facets that make you unique, and consider how you can make those qualities come through in your posts.