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Build Your Brand Online Before You Need It

August 16, 2010

I had lunch today with a friend and we got to talking about creating a personal brand online. It was a really great discussion and I wanted to share some of it with you.

I don’t care where you work or how happy you are in your job right now, you still need to build your own personal brand online. That means separate from your identity as a business or even as the head of a department or your own company. Why? Because your reputation is being searched right now by somebody online who is researching your company, thinking of hiring you or making an appointment to meet with you. What are they going to find? Take a moment and go Google yourself. What is your overall impression of that person? It might need a little fine-tuning.

Life these days is incredibly transparent and if you’re not putting a public face out there that represents you somebody else will do it for you. Or worse yet, all people will find is a bunch of half filled out profiles and vague references to something you did in high-school. Is that how you want to be perceived?

I’m not saying you have to out your personal life–nor should you–but what you think about what is happening in your sphere of interest can attract a better job, an important partnership or connections that can teach you things you would have spent years to learn. Even if your field is governed by rules and regulations there is always an opportunity to speak out about something without your words becoming a liability. You’re smart enough to know your space and what is and is not acceptable to talk about.

You don’t have to blog

OK, so I know not everyone wants to blog about their life. Maybe that’s not your communication medium. What about pod casting, video blogging or becoming the curator of all things in your particular niche on Twitter?

You’ve got opinions, everybody does. Share them and share links. Listen to what other people in your niche are saying and support or respond to it on their blogs, Facebook pages, Linkedin groups, Twitter and forums. Start a discussion wherever you find something that interests you and you’ll find that your personal brand will develop naturally and people will begin to listen.

Once they start listening you’re in a better place to learn from each other and exchange information, and so your network grows and your brand adds value.

Speak with your true voice

Don’t put on an online persona that you wish you were. It’s not sustainable and if the facade cracks it will be very, very messy. Be true to what you believe in and the right connections will come your way. Speak out about what is important to you and you’ll create an extended network of connections with similar interests and values. That in turn leads to deeper conversations that are actually interesting to you and your network. Remember that your personal integrity is a big part of your brand.

Keep it simple

When you’re first defining your brand you can experiment with different areas at first until something clicks. Then you know you’ve got the niche you really can talk about because you care about it. Once you’ve defined that niche hone it down to a fine point and stay focused. It’s a lot easier to build a brand in a defined space than it is to say “EVERYBODY needs to know this”. Trying to maintain a brand that covers too much makes you look like you don’t really care about anything.

You can always branch out later. For now spend some real quality time exploring what really matters to you as a person. If it’s not what you’re doing right now don’t worry about that. Follow your passion anyway. You never know how it may turn into a life changing opportunity. Who knows, there could be somebody out there with the same passion who’s been looking for someone with your exact skills to start a business with. Or hire as a consultant.

Your brand isn’t what people think you are today

Only you can define what your personal brand really is, so don’t let people tell you what it should be. Whatever your brand is now can be changed by simply focusing on what you really believe in, what you think about, and what matters to you. Once you know what that is–and you follow your passion in whatever format works best for you–you’re well on your way to defining your real brand. You’re going to have to work really REALLY hard at this, but trust me it will be worth it and pay off in ways you could never have imagined. Look at what it did for Gary Vaynerchuk. Love him or not, he’s built an authentic brand and an empire. Like he said at TED, “Do what you love (no excuses!)“.

Take control of your brand right now. It’ll be the best decision you ever made.

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  1. It is very important to join yourself to with a brand. A ‘personal brand’ is in many ways synonymous with your reputation. It refers to the way other people see you. Are you a genius? An expert? Are you trustworthy? What do you represent? What do you stand for? What ideas and notions pop up as soon as someone hears your name?
    If you’ve been around for a while you’ve probably already developed a personal brand. People recognize your name, what you’re working on, what you offer and what you’re about. That being said, your personal brand might be a little weak and disjointed. If you’d like to make it stronger, this article will help give you the tools by outlining the components of a strong personal brand. If you don’t feel like you have a personal brand. thanks for sharing

  2. Janet, I was just chatting with a friend about this last night. She's readying to become CEO of a large company and never worked on a personal brand. I think you're right to start thinking about it ahead of time. The only problem with branding yourself is that it's hard to do A/B testing. 😉

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