5 Keys to Building Your Personal Brand in the Digital Age

Having a personal brand is more important than ever, but technology has made controlling the message behind that brand much more difficult. In today’s hyper-connected world, there is very little separation between the personal and public spheres. It’s not enough to wear a perfectly tailored suit to work; you also need to be presentable and likable outside the office. A squeaky clean LinkedIn profile should be a given but other online networking vehicles, like Facebook or Twitter matter even more because they are open to the world at large. To the digital community there is no clear delineation between the professional  “you” and the personal version of yourself seen by your family and friends.

1. Know Who You Are

In the past, your personal brand consisted of no more than a business card, a job title and your direct interactions with others. From time to time you may have been featured in a local newspaper or magazine, but when your work for the day was done, you didn’t have to think about your personal brand.

Today we can be on display to thousands or even millions of potential customers, employers and business partners that we’ve never met. Before meeting you in person prospects are likely to “Google” your name and your picture and résumé on LinkedIn. When setting up social media accounts, take the time to think through who you are and how you are portraying yourself, because everything is part of your personal brand. And your personal brand matters a lot.

Who we are is much more than our current job title. In fact, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, most of us will hold 10 different jobs by the age of 40, which makesreputation management more critical than ever. Does your Facebook page align with your desire to be viewed as a competent accountant and family man? Do your Twitter rants take away from the image of you as a bright young attorney? Does the vehicle you drive align with the clean energy articles you post on LinkedIn?

The most important piece of advice I can offer is to be certain your message is consistent and authentic. If it isn’t, you will never build the personal brand you strive to achieve.

2. Define your target audience

Everyone knows you can’t be all things to all people. Chose 2-3 social media platforms and focus on those. For example:

·      If your clients are also your friends, focus on your Facebook page and interactions.

·      If you are a retailer reaching out to consumers, Instagram is always a great place to engage.

·      If you are a model, actor or in the entertainment space, try Snapchat.

·      If you are an industry thought leader, Twitter is a great platform for sharing share ideas and links to your content.

·      If you are an aspiring public speaker, and really have something to say, explore hosting a YouTube channel.

In all cases remember:

·      Be professional and interesting in equal measures, but be interesting first.

·      Posts with visual content are 40 times more likely to be shared on social media.

3. Building your Social Media Presence

The way many people dip a toe into digital branding and networking is through personal blogs that can be shared to other social networking sites or Snapchat videos. They are an easy way to start broadcasting yourself and connecting with other professionals.

Remember:

·      Keep things simple.

·      Make sure your digital aesthetic reflects your personality as much as your tangible style does.

·      Say less rather than more.

·      Always ask yourself “What do people think when they hear my message?”

When creating a personal brand, craft a consistent story that can be applied across channels to market the best version of yourself. A social media management dashboard like Hootsuite or Hubspot can be a great tool to support this consistent messaging. If one piece of content is off brand, people may start to question the credibility and authenticity of your entire brand.

4. Remember Your Objectives

Content you post to social media should be align with the way you conduct yourself in meetings and the physical materials you distribute. That goes for blog posts, too. Any content by or about you needs to tie into the larger message you are trying to communicate. For example, in the heat of a major NBA game think twice before you post an offside Facebook rant, or if you are upset with your flight being delayed and you can’t resist tweeting the airline…be polite. 

5. Stand out…in the Right Way

Resist any temptation to embellish your accomplishments in order to stand out. Leaving aside the ethical problems of embellishing the truth, there is the simple fact that someone will eventually find out. This happens time and time again on the internet and no one is immune, including top executives. An online faux pas can even halt a planned career before it starts.

The “more appealing” version of you is not you, and the more you network, the more this will be glaringly apparent. The key to establishing a lasting and engaging personal brand is to be consistent, authentic and entertaining.

Inconsistency is one of the things that gives people away when they are bending the truth. I have walked away from many deals because of personal conversations or social media interactions that made me question the person’s character.

6. Remember the Human Connection

Your digital profile may open doors, but don’t forget the “personal” in personal brand. In the end, you will be the one called upon to sell your abilities in an interview or when courting a new client. Get out there, network, engage, and share all of your qualities face-to-face. Personal interaction is still critical in building trust. How many times has a potential employee looked perfect on paper, only to emerge as a total dud in person? How many people have you accepted as connections on LinkedIn only to regret it as soon as a message pops up in your inbox hawking their latest promotion? Think of social media as a tool to engage in dialogue, not bombard your audience with a monologue.

Digital branding can help you make a good first impression, but in the end it is still the real you that seals the deal. So make sure to keep at least a few of your business cards on hand.