As Tom Peters wrote in his highly influential article (that is now over a decade old), The Brand Called You, “We are CEO’s of our own companies: Me Inc. To be in business today, our most important job is to be head marketer of the brand called You.”
The tried and true ways to build your personal brand remain, like having a stellar resume, a great rolodex, writing articles and getting published, participating in events and professional organizations, and securing the occasional speaking engagement. Today, however, Internet-based technologies are making building your personal brand fast, easy and more friendly than ever.
Just as many brands today are established within profile-driven user communities, your personal brand is also driven by your online profile. Here are some things you can do to build up your online identity and make yourself ‘digitally distinct’.
1. Establish a LinkedIn profile. Essentially an online resume, this site puts your skill set, experience, publications and network out there. Once you filled in your profile, you can customize it to display your Twitter feeds and link to your professional website(s). LinkedIn offers incredible opportunities—from establishing your online professional identity, to connecting with colleagues for endorsements and networking with an unlimited number of professionals to create new opportunities for yourself. LinkedIn is a resume and rolodex rolled into one, and it’s a great way to engage with peers to find out what’s going on in your industry, ask for advice and access insider tips for the latest opportunities in your field.
2. Join Twitter and “tweet” regularly. Establish a virtual rapport with other tweeps. Your pithy tweets will reveal a lot about you—what you’re thinking, what you’re passionate about, what you’re doing for dinner, and more. Tweets help to flesh out your online persona, and often combine the personal with the professional; the trite with the profound.
3. Blog. There are so many free platforms out there it’s time to send your message out to the universe/blogosphere. Blogs are a great way to position yourself as a thought leader, build a following and connect with others to create new and unique opportunities. Don’t forget to tag your content and register on blog directories like Technorati.
4. Take yourself viral. Further your web presence by commenting on blogs you’re interested in, following your peers on Twitter, joining online communities of practice and social networks, or uploading images and videos. This will all drive traffic to your blog or your website and give you greater visibility on the Internet. Engage in professional conversations online—both within your organization and outside of it. Give positive feedback where you can, it makes for good Internet karma (remember, you get what you give).
5. Nuture your online network. Your network of friends, colleagues, clients and other professionals will help promote your personal brand through referrals and word of mouth marketing.
6. Get your face out there. Use a globally recognized avatar or gravatar. Your gravatar is an image that appears beside your name when you do things like comment or post on a blog. Visit http://en.gravatar.com/ and register by entering your email address. Upload an avatar or image you’d like to associate with that email, and when you comment on a blog that’s gravatar-enabled, presto, your avatar will appear. It’s free and it’s a great way to identify yourself in a comments thread, for example.
7. Discover your “GQ” (Google Quotient). You can use an online calculator™ that calculates your web presence based on your Google results. Find out if you are being accurately portrayed in your web identity and become ‘digitally distinct’.
8. Monitor and refine your online identity. Just like your own personal hygiene, it requires regular upkeep. Check out your negative press and keep your “trolling” to a minimum.
Your online identity brings together your virtual and actual worlds—working to enhance your professional and personal networks, and can present very compelling opportunities that you might not have encountered offline. With today’s social media technologies, it’s easier than ever. Tag your content. Bookmark your colleague’s blogs. Comment on an article you like. Participate in an online forum. And don’t forget to articulate your promise of value—your own personal brand—wherever you can. And remember: take good care of how you portray yourself online, after all, you are your most valuable asset.