August 2009


Written by Lori Thiessen

These days I sometimes wonder if I exist in the ‘real’ world because so much of my life and the lives of those with whom I am in contact take place online, in virtual reality. So it is a no-brainer to look seriously at personal branding in the online world.

Step 1 – Google Your Name

Sometimes your personal branding has already been done and maybe not by you. Check and see what’s out there about you. If there is anything that you are not entirely proud of, see about getting the info removed. If you’ve been tagged in a Facebook photo album and it’s not something you want a client to see, then untag yourself. There are software programs available to remove anything you don’t want online anymore.  Check out this Consumers Report on 5 of these programs.

Step 2 – Choose Your Social Media

With the oodles of different sites out there, it can be difficult to choose. I would urge you to be selective. There are a few reasons for this.

  • Time management – how many sites can you realistically update on a regular basis? There is a site called krunchd.com which will help you manage your online life, social media included.
  • Work vs. Personal – are you using the social media sites mostly for business or pleasure? Whatever the answer, err on the side of caution and keep all of your online communications g-rated and THINK before you hit that send button.
  • Specialization – the world of social media is so big now that it is important to choose your niche and stick to it. This is the best way to become an expert in your industry and to network well within your industry.
  • Security and Privacy – how secure is your information on any given site? This is a particularly thorny issue at the moment given the recent hacker attacks on Facebook, though given the low level of public response  most people seem to be largely unconcerned.

I would suggest that LinkedIn.com and Facebook are good ‘foundation’ sites for your online presence. Personally, I’m not that keen about Twitter, though I realize that many people feel that life without Twitter is akin to life without breathing. If you use Twitter, make sure that you keep your tweets professional and g-rated.  People are rapidly becoming re-acquainted with the phrase “Discretion is the better part of valor.” Just because you can say something to the entire world, doesn’t mean you should.

Step 3 – Words and Images

The key here is, you guessed it, professionalism. The photo you have up on any social media site should reflect the image you want to create. After all, clients or potential employers will likely be Googling you to get a first impression of you. Make it count.

Now I haven’t followed this advice for my own Facebook page. I rarely have a picture of myself up there. I use ‘masks’ of various sorts.  Frankly, I don’t like any photos of me taken in the last few years, and to be truthful, I have this paranoid notion that someone will download my image and steal my identity.  After having taking my paranoia in hand, I will have a decent photo of me taken and put up on my Facebook page in the near future.

As for words, well, I think your profile should reflect the best of who you are. You may want to put in your mission statement, your interests and perhaps even state what your values are. But most of all sound like yourself.

I’ve broken, oh, I don’t know how many blogging rules by using large words, using archaic words, writing longish posts and incorporating some esoteric references in them. BUT it is a reflection of who I am and my wide-ranging interests. If we all write alike, then we all sound alike.

First and foremost, personal branding is about self-awareness. Resist the temptation to brand yourself into a clone of someone else. I know a lot of secrets of success books would like us to think that success is simply a formula and if you follow that formula, ergo you will be successful. At the end of the day, you need to be fully and wholly yourself for success to have meaning.

Step 4 – Monitor Your Brand

Set up Google alerts with your name to keep track of how your name is being bandied about in cyberspace. If you don’t control your brand, someone else will.

So there you have it, folks; a quick look at the world of personal branding online. The main things to keep in mind are: keep it manageable, keep it professional and above all keep your brand yours.

Below are a few other resources to help you with managing your personal branding online.

  • plaxo.com – much like LinkedIn, it is a site geared towards career, work and networking.
  • zoominfo.com – a directory of people and businesses. Check your listing.
  • Google.com – a site to get a free email account and tools to help you manage your online life.

Q: What tools have you found useful in managing your online life?

Thanks for dropping by and I’ll save your seat until next time!

Written by Lori Thiessen

In 1997, management expert and author Tom Peters wrote an article for Fast Company Magazine introducing the concept of personal branding in the article called ” The Brand Called You”. Twelve years on and we are inundated with information on what it is, why you need do it and how to do it. Here are the bare-bones basics to get you started.

What is Personal Branding?

Simply put, it encapuslates who you are, what you do and what values you bring to the table that separate you from the rest.  The elements of personal branding range from your mission statement, your online presence (or lack of one), how you dress both in and out of the office and what your values are.

Why You Need to Invest in Personal Branding?

While doing research for this post, I came across a number of experts who said that personal branding was important now more than ever during this economic downturn. If the boss can remember you clearly and in a positive way, chances are you will hang onto your job. Or be hired for a job. Or if you are an entrepreneur then a client might be more inclined to hire you over the 3 other people she interviewed to do the work she wants done.

I think personal branding is important to work through because it will help you to know yourself. Knowing yourself is important because then you will be able to be clear about where you stand in the world, what you want out of life and what you are truly willing to do to get it. Or as Georgina Laidlaw, contributor to Webworker Daily,  observed “Personal branding could be another phrase for self-awareness”.  I would add to that personal branding is self-awareness clearly communicated to the public.

Authors over the centuries have been extolling the virtues of  self-awareness. Here are just two for you to mull over:

This above all: to thine own self be true; And it must follow, as the night the day; Thou canst not then be false to any man. — William Shakespeare, Hamlet I.iii

Self-reverence, self knowledge, self-control. These three alone lead life to sovereign power. — Alfred, Lord Tennyson

How to Develop Your Personal Brand

Well, this is a big topic these days.  To get you started, take pen and paper, block out at least 1/2 hr to begin with, go to a place that allows you to think well and answer the following question: Who am I?

If the question is too overwhelming and daunting, then break it down. What are the positive things that friends and family say about you? Are you funny, considerate, organized, etc.?

Look at past reference letters. What do they say about you? What do your current co-workers say about you?

What are your values? Are you a ‘family first’ person? Do you value loyalty? If so, how important is it to you?

The next few posts will continue on the quest for personal brand development. But if you are keen to explore this topic on your own, here are a few resources to help you on your quest.

Books

In Search of Excellence by Tom Peters

Me 2.0: Build a Powerful Brand to Achieve Career Success by Dan Schwabel

Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Steven Covey

Blogs

Personal Branding Blog by Dan Schwabel

The Personal Branding Blog by William Arruda and contributors

Webworker Daily “Personal Branding vs. Self-Awareness” by Georgina Laidlaw

Q: What do you think about personal branding?

Thanks for dropping by and I’ll save your seat until next time!