Branding. Long a buzzword used to describe the marketing of products, services and organizations, “branding” is now applicable to the individual as well. In fact, in a world where interpersonal communication is dominated by social media, your online personal brand ultimately defines who you are to everyone outside of your immediate social circle. If you don’t create your own brand, it will be created for you, about you and not necessarily to your liking.
For those seeking a new job or a change from the one they currently hold, taking the steps necessary to improve your online brand and propel your career forward is as important to succeeding in your job search as are the right training and experience, solid references or innate ability. Are you the right person for the job? You may never know if you don’t create a strong online personal brand.
As mentioned, the internet is the medium through which your online personal brand is broadcast. From Facebook and LinkedIn to Twitter and YouTube, social networking sites (SNS) provide you with the tools necessary to promote yourself. Don’t limit yourself to just these tools however; effectively branding yourself online requires consistency across all social platforms you use. In other words, what you post on your LinkedIn page (i.e., what you want others to know about the professional you) should be the same as what you post on Facebook, what you tweet on Twitter, what videos you share on YouTube or the articles or other content you share on Reddit/Digg.
Once you’ve decided to actively create an online personal brand, here are some steps to consider in order to maximize the results of your efforts:
- Namecheck. This tool does what it says: It checks multiple social media sites and the web to see if your name (and, therefore, your brand), is registered or otherwise in use.
- See to your SEO. SEO is what drives your web-based content to the front of the line (first page) of search engines. If your resume doesn’t include the words or phrases applicable to your industry, your online profile won’t be discovered during an online search. Internet marketing (branding) is driven by content. SEO ensures your content tells your story in a language employers can find and understand.
- Compare and contrast. Review LinkedIn pages of your contacts. Focus on those whom you know to be successful. Use what you find to refine your brand. Before your page “goes live”, have it reviewed by someone whom you trust and who is familiar with the industry in which you seek to make a career. Much as retailers wouldn’t dream of running an ad campaign without professional input, you shouldn’t create an online personal brand without subjecting it to objective and professional scrutiny. Review the posts and tweets of those you respect. Learn what works and what doesn’t. Especially what doesn’t!
- You gotta keep ’em separated! Always, always, always keep your personal and business emails and social networking sites separate. This can not be stressed enough. An inappropriate YouTube video or status update on Facebook easily accessible to recruiters or prospective employers can spell doom not only to a current job search but to your professional integrity as well. Remember, once on the internet, content lives forever.
An online personal brand is almost essential in today’s job marketplace. With unemployment still hovering above 8% and millions more underemployed, competition for the jobs that are available is stiffer than ever before. In order to differentiate yourself from those similarly situated, developing and protecting your online personal brand is perhaps the best way to propel your career forward.