Building your personal online brand

Branding is a word that is catching on in the consumer world more and more. And you may be hearing how important it is to build your own brand. But what is a brand? I would like to take a moment to give you a few tips and insights that I have learned along the way.

I once heard someone give the clearest definition of a brand, stating that your brand is what you want people to say about you. Think about businesses like McDonald’s and the Hard Rock Cafe. Certain concepts flash through your mind, including pictures, menu items, quality, atmosphere, etc. These mental pictures you recall are parts of the restaurants’ brands. Compare a Cadillac with a Ford. Branding plays a major part in why these two cars appeal to very different markets. Even pricing is part of branding.

Analyze the things you tell someone else about a business, a product, or even a person. You are contributing to their brand, either negatively or positively.

Now that we have used the Internet to expose our personal lives to the world, we may need to start building or repairing our own brand. How often do you hear about Facebook being used as a tool for recruitment? People are watching you. It’s creepy, but true. And there is an overwhelming flow of information on the Internet. Is it possible to control that flow?

The short answer is no. You cannot control the flow, but you can help. If you google my name, you will find several pages which I have worked hard to get into the top search results. However, it is not just the overwhelming quantity of information about us that manages the flow of information, it is the quality. Do we give WebMD more credibility or a random web site with flames and rainbows filling the screen?

Here are some things I have done to try and build my brand. It is imperfect, but I consider it a work in progress:

Start an online journal

Start a public journal that is not too personal and focuses on the skills you want to “market.” It is a good idea to steer away from controversy on this public blog. Remember that future employers might check out your journal. Instead of tempting them to dig into your personal space, give them something professional to chew on. A great host to use is WordPress. It is free and easy to use.

Don’t make your site’s theme so narrow that you can’t keep up with it. Make sure you will be able to update your journal regularly. Keep in mind that your journal will likely get picked up by a search engine. The more you write about the kind of work you are looking for, the more likely a prospective employer is to come across your site. And who knows, you may become an authority on a subject.

Other online tools you might look into are LinkedIn, Google Profiles, and Twitter.

Get a nice photo

On just about any site you find my profile picture, it will be the same picture. Facebook is my exception, but this is more of a personal statement. My picture is kind of casual, which I feel is a good representation of my personal style. Get a nice photo that represents you well and use it across the board for any public sites you use. I consider Facebook to be my personal space, so I use a different photo, but remember that Facebook profile pictures are public. Choose wisely.

Be good

The book of Proverbs says that “as a man thinks in his heart, so is he.” The bottom line is this: if you want people to say good things about you and give a good impression on your behalf, be good. Think about Ebenezer Scrooge before his “conversion.” What was his brand? Remember all the horrible things people said about him when he died?

Maya Angelou has a famous quote, stating “I’ve Learned That People Will Forget What You Said, People Will Forget What You Did, but People Will Never Forget How You Made Them Feel.” So, as you venture forth into the world of online branding, remember that it starts with your heart. Make people feel valuable and don’t be greedy. Sure, you can make up a whole new persona and convince people that you are genuine, but why not be honest and breathe a little easier?

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