“Had a very long day today. Got into an argument with my boss and a client. All I want to do is drink a glass of wine and take it easy, but I have to do laundry tonight. Arrrgh!”
This is the text of a post I once read on a friend's Facebook page. She was clearly frustrated after a tough day at the office.
There's nothing earth-shattering about this post and certainly nothing unusual. We all have periodic days we would rather forget.
That said, the Facebook post above does nothing to build my friend's personal brand, and worse yet, it probably harms it. In the branding game, we need to paint a picture of ourselves as interesting, fascinating and anything but ordinary.
We should never lie when we make a post in social media, but don't focus on the mundane. Focus on those things that will make people want to know more about you, wish they were like you and want to go out of their way to work with you. Be special. Be fascinating. Be intriguing.
The Internet is the greatest marketplace ever invented, because it is available worldwide 24 hours a day, is so vast that every imaginable product or service is available, has low barriers to entry and is composed of billions of prospective customers.
The Internet is also the worst marketplace ever invented, because with all the things that make it great, it's too loud and crowded, making it hard to be noticed.
The Internet (and the social media that are a part of it) is easy and challenging at the same time. It has the potential of bringing riches but is filled with land mines. You can't afford to take missteps.
That's why savvy professionals carefully manage their online brands just as they manage how their personal brands appear everywhere else. Below are some pieces of advice to keep in mind as you promote your personal brand online and take advantage of the countless benefits that come from the world's greatest and worst marketplace.
Game of fundamentals
Regardless of the medium used, your personal branding must be of value and stand on its own merit. In other words, nobody is impressed just because you have a presence online. People are impressed if your presence is interesting, fresh and provides value to them. When determining what you'll write or say online, think back to your area of expertise, the part of your professional self that is most interesting to other people. That's what you talk about when you make posts on social media.
The Invisible Man or Woman
I will periodically receive a call from a stranger, who says, “Jeff, I'd like to meet with you, get to know you and pick your brain. Do you have time for lunch next week?” As soon as I hang up, the first thing I do is Google that person. I want to know who I'm dealing with and what he or she is all about. Now, this may not be fair, but if nothing or very little pops up after I Google someone, I'm unimpressed. My assumption is that they don't have much going on; they're not involved in their profession or community.
It's safe to assume people are Googling you too. When that happens, you MUST have a presence. A number of positive things about you should show up in their search results. I recommend you Google your own name at least once a month. Also check Bing, Yahoo and other search engines just to make sure you cover all the bases.
If you are not satisfied with your search results, start building a better online presence now. Deliberately build a “Google trail” that people can follow to get to you by:
>> Maximizing social media. Postings, links and photographs show up in many searches.
>> Becoming a blogger. Write interesting articles about your area of self-marketing expertise. You can also comment on others' blogs or submit your writings to websites.
>> Tell everyone about each of your new blog posts via Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.
>> Shoot short but interesting videos related to your area of self-marketing expertise and make them available on YouTube.
>> Post messages using your real name on legitimate discussion forums that relate to your profession.
>> Write reviews of products and services on various websites using your real name.
>> Develop your own personal website where you post articles, photos and information about yourself in a flattering way.
>> If you are an officer in an organization or if you sit on a board of directors, see if the organization will include your name, bio and photo on its website.
>> Start a regular podcast.
Social media are such an important part of online branding, they deserve their own section:
>> Develop a nice list of friends, connections and followers on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. Don't just invite people willy-nilly. Make sure you know them or have had a professional interaction with them.
>> Participate in LinkedIn discussion groups
>> Ask and answer questions on LinkedIn. This has generated powerful results for many professionals.
>> Keep your profile information up-to-date, especially on LinkedIn, and include all your accomplishments. In a lot of ways, a LinkedIn profile is akin to your resume or professional bio.
>> Don't just tweet. Re-tweet the tweets of other Twitter tweeters.
Avoid the gotchas
A few words of caution are in order. Don't succumb to the temptation and do anything online that would undo the hard work you put into building your personal brand. Never slander or libel someone else. You may want to disconnect from or de-friend anyone whose online behavior is unbecoming or unprofessional. Carefully manage how you are depicted in photographs, and keep in mind that undesired photos of you may appear in someone else's social media. If you want to participate in nonprofessional discussion forums, consider using an alias or a pseudonym.
Remember that your Internet presence is to you what a big advertisement in the Yellow Pages has been for large companies — if you're not easy to find, you might as well not exist. But just don't put yourself out there for the sake of “existing.” Manage your online brand and carefully control your online presence. Be interesting and relevant, while always remembering that the most effective messages you can deliver are the ones that bring value to your readers, listeners and viewers.
Jeff Beals is an Omaha author and speaker who can be reached at email@example.com.