Building a personal brand online is an endless task. Even after you’ve established a presence on the social networks, there are many pitfalls and mistakes that can be easily made that will damage your brand. Setting and sticking to a few key guidelines can be the difference between continued success and putting a big dent in your efforts.
#1 Nip it in the bud
Even with the best will in the world, the occasional update by a friend or contact could prove damaging. Knowing how to stop this and ensuring that your privacy settings are up to date and correct is imperative in reducing the risk that these types of update pose. For example, in Facebook you can adjust your settings so that friends can’t tag you in a photo without your specific authorisation. The photo will appear on their timeline, but you won’t be shown as tagged on all of your other friend’s feeds. Making sure that only friends can see your feed on any social network is the first line of defense in controlling your online brand.
#2 Think twice
On all but the most innocent of updates, it’s always worth double-checking that you’re happy with the post content that you’ve written. Ask yourself if you’d be happy for your current manager, as well as any future prospective employer, to read the update. As long as you feel that this would be fine, go ahead and send the update.
#3 You’re public property
Whether you like it or not, the vast majority of the internet is public domain. Even if you’re posting to a private network or across a secure connection, it’s worth treating everything you say as if it could be seen by everyone, everywhere. Obviously, instant-messaging type conversations (such as Skype) are private, but you need to treat every conversation as if your brand could be judged by it. Remain professional and courteous at all times, regardless of how well you know the person you’re talking to or updating.
#4 Treat others as you’d like to be treated yourself
One great way to maintain a healthy outlook regarding online collaboration and discussion is to treat everyone you interact with as you would like them to treat you. Will Smith once said that this was how he lives his life and he has one of the most well known and universally popular personal brands in the world. Even if someone treats you with less respect than you deserve, don’t rise to it – instead, try to resolve the debate or disagreement like an intelligent adult. If you do this then you’ll stand out above all those who may not handle the situation quite so successfully.
#5 Give to receive
In order to gain respect and influence you need to be happy to (and be seen to) help others. Take an active role in forums, Facebook pages, Google+ communities and LinkedIn groups. Answer questions, ask questions and thank others for their replies and input, write quality articles that will help and inspire others in your professional field or with similar interests and ask for interaction. If you’re seen as an expert then people will share your articles, follow you and your personal brand will grow.
#6 Don’t come across as desperate
Following three times as many people than the number that follow you, sending out random LinkedIn invitations to hundreds of strangers and sending Facebook invites to people that you have never met are all bad ideas. These are the tactics of individuals who are trying to build a following which is just numbers, not a true reflection of their reach or influence. Building your personal brand takes time and effort, there is no shortcut, don’t try to take one.
#7 Be consistent
Keep your updates high in quality. Whether they are links to your own work or to the relevant work of others, make sure that you only post genuine, quality information. Setting an update frequency that is too high will not only annoy those that have subscribed to your update feeds, but will also prove impossible to maintain a high level of quality. Be realistic.
The same rule applies for your online profiles. Keep your profile photo consistent, as well as the basic info that you make available online.
#8 Monitor and learn
Knowing where you might be going wrong with your personal online brand will allow you to adapt and adjust your approach in order to hone and improve your processes. There is a word for this that you should live by: Kaizen – Japanese for “improvement” or “change for the better”, refers to philosophy or practices that focus upon continuous improvement of processes.
Study your Twitter feed and which updates are shared and/or ‘favourited’, how many likes and/or comments you get on Facebook for certain updates and interaction on LinkedIn to assess the genre of article or updates that do well, and which don’t do so well. The updates that are not so popular may not be due to the topic, it may just be the style in which they have been written – this should be a consideration when trying different approaches.
#9 Don’t be afraid to show yourself as an individual
It’s called a ‘personal’ brand for a reason, it’s YOURS. It doesn’t belong to your company or someone else, it’s YOURS. As such, people want to see you as an individual with unique views, opinions and personality. As long as you aren’t continually offending people with mindless rubbish, then sharing your opinions and views is part of your brand.
#10 Remember the little guys
Even if you have a personal brand that is wildly popular, you have endless followers and can’t put a foot wrong, remember and interact with those that may not be so lucky or are just starting on the personal branding journey. Offer your advice and assistance and make sure you help in any way you can. Be nice.
#11 Don’t burn bridges
This one’s obvious, never burn bridges. Only those who are a bit short-sighted would do this knowingly. Slating a previous employer, upsetting individuals that you may need in the future or publicly insulting a person/brand connected to you online without justification are all ways to fall off your brand pedestal.
#12 Don’t sit on the fence
Don’t be seen to be someone that follows the herd every time. Everyone respects those with the conviction to speak their mind when justified and who are not afraid to admit when they are mistaken. If you’re in a herd then you won’t be noticed, if you speak up you will be.