Developing Your Personal Brand in 7 Easy Steps

Google yourself.  What do you see?  What do you want people to see when they search your name.  What do they currently see when they search your name?  Do they see your photos on facebook from your last vacation? Do they see the names and birthdays of your children? Do they see the facebook page you setup to bash your old boss at that job that you hated so much?

About a year ago I got the chance to work with Peter Tennis.  One thing we frequently discussed is how the social landscape is changing the way the world works and how it is becoming so common place to have so much information about any individual available online. It’s like being a public corporation almost. Peter called it your personal brand.

Your personal brand is every bit as important to the individual as a corporate brand is to the corporation.  They used to call it your reputation.  And your reputation was typically limited to people within 2 or 3 degrees of separation for people other than Kevin Bacon.  Information these days travels further faster and can linger in cyberspace forever.

The question isn’t if you have a personal brand. If you are online, you have a personal brand.   The question is how do you develop and manage your personal brand.  Every interaction you have with others online becomes part of your personal brand.  All you have to do is keep interacting like you already are, just with a few rules in mind.

1. Start by planning it.  Make some goals. Identify what things you want your personal brand to be associated with.  If you are looking to advance your career in business don’t focus your brand on sail boats.  Although sail boats are really cool…

2. Get your own name. Your real name.   I’m talking about domain names, online profiles, email accounts,  getting there first is a good way to make sure your not fighting with your literary doppelganger later on. If like a friend of mine, you see someone else with the same name you might have even more work to do if you want to muscle your way to the top.  Or you could change your name.  Maybe just getting in the habit of using your middle initial all the time would be the right move.  If your name is too common or shared with someone too famous, you might want to consider a pen name.  I have one I have been developing for years just in case I want to switch fields later in life.

3. Online profiles. Don’t just reserve the name, develop them. Interlink them. Google loves social networking profiles. Linkedin, Twitter, Disqus, even Facebook. Keep your avatar across all your profiles the same.  Always have an avatar.

4. Watch your mouth.  All this information is public.  Never post something online that could come back to haunt you.  I would probably not hire someone who had created a facebook page dedicated to defaming their former employer.  Probably.

5. Blog. This is your chance to really speak your mind.  You start the conversation.  Blogs are the place to declare the field in which you are an authority.  Should your blog gain a substantial following it could be your ticket to… write your own… ticket.

6. Stay active.  Dedicate some time weekly or daily to managing you brand (updating the blog and answering comments)  Look for blog posts, sites, communities where your comments will create synergy with your brand.  That’s where you want to spend your effort.  It’s okay to spend your time in other places as well, just don’t muddy the waters of your personal brand.  For example I like golf, but I don’t spend lots of time commenting on golf blogs and threads.  I still read them but I don’t want my personal brand to be about golf so I limit my interaction there.  I’m more of a spectator.  However if it’s a business or design blog, I’m there commenting.  Someone else might have just made the same comment but that only reinforces my personal brand.  I’ll agree with them and offer a few points of my own.  Who knows, you may end up sitting next to that person on your next business trip.  What an easy to way to make a good connection.

7. Get creative. You might even want to do PPC on your own name.  As long you don’t share a name with someone famous this can be pretty affordable.

If you don’t like what shows up in Google then you have some work to do.

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