I think it should go without saying that you need to manage your brand online these days, whether you’re doing it for yourself or your brand. You should realize that, these days, customers, professors, potential employers – all of them turn to Google, Facebook and other online avenues to find out more about you before they even encounter you.
So what can you do to manage your brand online? Here are 5 steps, which I’ve reworded and summarized for my own application from this great article:
Step 1 – Search for yourself/your brand online
You’d be surprised at how many people have not done this very simple first step – Google yourself/your brand! Discover what the search results turn up with. It would be helpful to screen capture what you find so that you can determine later whether there have been improvements made after you’ve taken action.
Take a step back and look objectively at the search results: If you didn’t know yourself, what impression would you take away from Google’s first page?
Make note of what’s there and what’s not. Follow each of the links methodically and see if you come up with any “dirt” you want to try and remove or to change. On this note, it’s easier to design your digital presence afresh, as best you can, starting with the cleanest slate possible. If there is information turning up in Google that you don’t like and can’t remove, in the steps that follow you’ll see how to bury it with fresh, accurate content.
For individuals, a good place to look into could be having too much information visible on your Facebook profile. You may want to adjust privacy settings, un-tag photos, etc.
Step 2 – Claim your name
Claim your name on all the necessary social networks and, if you haven’t yet, register your own domain name (this is something many individuals fail to do). Include the necessary domain suffixes too, if you can afford it (.net, .org, .info, .biz, etc.) – which will reduce the risk of misrepresentation or worse, phishing. The added benefit is that next time someone Googles you, these sites (powered by major link love) will show up in the top of SER (pushing other links back to page two perhaps).
Good social media networks to begin with include Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn – which I consider the “holy trinity” of social media networking. You can also expand it to include Blip.fm or Last.fm for music, Flickr for images, YouTube, Delicious (social bookmarks), Digg, and of course, your Google profile.
Bonus for individuals: When you post your photo on these networks, try to use the same one consistently across all networks for increased recognition. Being an active user of these sites, demonstrates to others online that you have work/life balance, by giving a glimpse of your professional accomplishments and leisure pursuits. Together these two aspects of your online personality will best communicate a well-rounded persona including insight into your personal values.
Step 3 – Collect, curate.
Next, find, organize and self-publish your existing digital assets. If you have whitepapers or slidedecks (Slideshare), essays (Scribd), photographs (Flickr), videos (Vimeo or YouTube) – upload them! These then become elements of your digital portfolio, and all of those sites have many widgets so you can push the content you post on each of them back to also appear on your personal portfolio.
For a more personal touch, you can also publicize what movies, books, or music you enjoy by building some Amazon.com lists. These have remarkable SEO and will appear high in your personal SER—and Amazon booklists come with a widget so you can export lists to your ePortfolio and when you update them on Amazon, they are auto-updated on your site.
Step 4 – Have a “Centre” or Homebase
The fourth step involves putting those domain names and social media profiles to good use. Design a place where you will collect together and display all your digital assets. Ideally a website or blog (I use WordPress) that is widget-ready. But there are many free and low-cost platforms for your eportfolio to live.
Even if you intend to use a creative title for your portfolio blog or site, don’t forget to (a) use your own name in the title or subtitle to optimize SER, and (b) fill in an “about me” page with outbound links to all your social media profiles.
Don’t worry if you’re not a web designer or graphic artist? You don’t have to be. There are many, many free blog/site templates available for download – just Google it and get inspired!
Step 5 – Communicate & contribute.
Last step in building a personal branding foundation is to participate in, and grow your social networks. In other words, embiggen yourself. Add followers, fans, and friends on your networks and increase your reach, visibility and influence. Having a robust network, and maintaining it, indicates that you are producing relevant contributions, and exercising reciprocity and generosity. Good signs.
If you’re not sure of the protocol for participating, invest some time in active listening. The best practices will become apparent, models and mentors will appear, and tricks and tips will be revealed to those who invest in sincere network participation.
Want to develop a relevant list of followers on Twitter? Become a master list-builder in your areas of specialization.
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