Personal Branding

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.

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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 AlertsSocial MentionTwitter 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.

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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.

7 comments

  1. Good point you bring up here. It was remarkable, yet not necessarily surprising, to hear that about 8 out of 10 hires result from networking and informal interactions. In an age in which an impersonal submission of a resume simply won’t cover it, job seekers need to find a way to uniquely define themselves. Undoubtedly, one of the ways to do this is through social media. Across all platforms one utilizes, the goal should be to present a consistent and transparent image of themselves. If you are tolerant and in support of various causes on Facebook, your Twitter account should not be filled with raunchy and offensive content. That simply creates a disconnect. Whether or not the people hiring you see it, others will scratch their heads and think to themselves, “what is this person really all about?” As I have continued to use social media, I have gradually started to consider the impact of my messages. While I never was one to post offensive content, now more than ever I will make sure that every message I convey is one that I want to be representative of my values. The rule I use is, if you wouldn’t want your mom to read it, don’t post it!

  2. I was recently given similar advice in regards to finding a job. If I was an employer looking for a candidate, I would be thoroughly impressed if the person spent time on social media reading/discussing topics relevant to the job, my company, or our market.

    I think brand and career can be interchangeable in this light. You’re creating a brand in order to excel your career and professional life.

    In the diagram you posted…your brand or your career really is a combination of all of these things. Its a good visual when you’re trying to figure out how to define yourself. However, I do disagree that talent, passion and strengths are all equal parts. I have found that if you focus more on your strengths, and build your career based on what you are specifically good at you go further. Talents and passions are a step down from strengths and I think once you define your strengths, create your career, then you add in your talents/passions and fulfill those parts of your brand one you are established.

    Example: a good writer who has a talent for building baskets and is passionate about animal rights should not create a brand combining all three of those things. S/he should first focus on their ability to write, perfect it, polish it, become an expert in the field, establish a career and then…. you have a platform to pursue your talents/passions or use them to accent your current career.

  3. I really loved this post because it resonated with what I notice that I do, and what I notice that my friends and acquaintances do, on a daily basis with our social media brand. The general push for almost all of us is to make us appear well put-together, happy, popular, and engaging in interesting activities so that our friends can be impressed by our accomplishments. That’s why you’ll always see pictures of people finishing marathons, celebrating birthdays, going on dates, and NEVER seeing pictures of people going through rough patches of unemployment, trouble in their relationships, sickness, etc. If life were solely our social media brand, I think we’d live in a pretty strangely positive world! I also really agree with the point you made about informal relationships and our branding online because, for all we know, any potential employer could be accessing your data at any time of day, so we have to make sure that anything which could harm our chances of being employed are not present on our online brand.

  4. It’s interesting how social media has become a major role in branding oneself these days. Everyone has the chance to brand themselves because the resources are available at the tips of their fingers if they have access to phones, laptops, or tablets. That being said, there’s no such thing as privacy on social media, so even though you have the resources to create your brand, that should only be more encouraging to users to be extremely cautious when creating a brand for themselves. Your brand is out to the public — whether it’s your friends, family, employers, or future employers — they all have access to see “who you are” and “what you’re about” via your online brand.

  5. I really enjoyed your post. Personal branding is just as important outside of social media as it is inside. I remember during my internship, my coworkers gave me a bunch of pointers over both my facebook as well as my linkedin. They were really critical and all the points they were making made complete sense. One does not really sit back and think about how important a profile picture is, but in reality it says a lot about you. Another important thing is what sort of articles you like and share. It shows that you are interested in the particular job or a specific area and shows maturity. Any mistake that you might have made in the past and potentially deleted, might also come back to haunt you. This is the tough part of branding yourself online.

  6. Very insightful post! Personal branding is something that I’m constantly thinking about, especially as I prepare to graduate from college and work on presenting myself in a consistent, positive manner across different social media channels. However, it can also get tiresome too. One drawback of constantly being connected to these platforms is that it requires constant work to maintain your image, especially when dealing with something like a job hunt. Oftentimes, it gets to the point where I want to just leave things be (digitally) and work more on my interpersonal skills, but at the same time I know that, and you mentioned, much of the job hiring processes these days occurs through digital platforms such as LinkedIn and I don’t want to be caught being behind the curve as my classmates take full advantage of social media to present themselves in a positive manner.

  7. This relates to something I read about a couple months ago on the use of digital business cards… literally websites that are business cards! Not sure if this is taking off, but I also see it reflected in the use of portals to personal pages. I use squarespace for my personal website and they recently added a new feature allowing a “cover page,” which embodies this trend. In the website context, it highlights the same things you would put on a business card, gating the rest of the content. I think its actually really effective in ensuring a first impression.

    In relation to personal branding, I definitely think its critical to consciously craft your digital presence. Before, a resume, interview, or a connection would be your chance/trial to get a job. With social media, people can discover so much about you before they even speak with you on the phone (or decide to speak with you). I think one of the things to be cognizant of is to be true to yourself and, yes, be careful about what you post but don’t completely censor yourself. SM is a valuable narration tool and if a company doesn’t like who you are, chances are you don’t want to work there! I think showing personality and emphasizing your passions can help you make connections and be more relatable, someone that people want to hire and work with.

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