Are you in search of a new job, new career, or getting ready to start your own business? If so, prospective employers and clients are likely looking for you online to get to know you and decide if they want to hire you — even if they haven’t called you for an interview or to ask you questions about your business. Establishing a clear, well-defined voice using social media can help your future employer — or anyone you want to work with — understand who you are so that they are sold on your passion for your career and your expertise. Developing this voice boils down to marketing yourself, but has taken on a term of its own called “personal branding.” I had a few moments to sit down with Dan Schawbel, personal branding expert and Managing Partner of Millennial Branding, LLC, to talk about the most important aspects of personal branding. While personal branding is an ongoing, daily experience, Dan explains there are several things you can do today to start building your personal brand.
Define Your Niche
What are you passionate about? If you have a well-defined skill or expertise, or even a topic that you want to develop into a career, define this as your niche. Dan points out that with over 160 million blogs and almost one billion Facebook users “the only way to stand out is to be really targeted. He emphasizes being “just another tech blog,” for example, is not targeted enough. He encourages users to find an even more targeted passion and focus on that to help stand out against the millions and billions of other social media users doing the exact same thing as you.
While we’ve been a little harsh on RSS lately, Dan is emphatic that reading is critical to finding news about your topic and inspiration for new blog posts. Dan says to “read as much as possible, using sites like Technorati and Google Blog Search, to find as many resources in and around the topics you want to cover and then subscribe either via RSS or email to learn from it.” Dan says that “if you don’t, it will be hard to find about topics to write about.” He adds that “to be sustainable is to add value, and people constantly come to [him] complaining that they ‘don’t know what to write about.’” Dan says the he believes “the best writers are the best readers,” adding he often reads 700-800 RSS feeds at the beginning of the day. If you’re looking to start building your personal brand today, you don’t necessarily need to read this many, but finding a few blogs and adding them to Google Reader is a great start.
Start a Blog
Do you have a blog yet? If not, establishing a blog (or a website) for yourself is another essential aspect of building your personal brand — and this can be done in just a few minutes. Dan recommends using your own name as your blog or website (with a dot com for the domain name) or name the blog with your niche topic if you can get those key words (again, with a dot com.) Dan explains that using your name or key words is important to rank higher in search. Also, he advises that your website “should articulate who you are, and what the readers are in for.” It should also “include your credentials so readers can know what you’ve achieved, why you’re writing it, and where you’re employed,” though this latter point may require a disclaimer that your thoughts are your own and not of your employers. If you decide to use WordPress as your blogging platform, Dan warns against using any “free” theme without modifications. After all, this is about personal branding, and as Dan says — those themes are everywhere.
Join the Big Four Social Networks
There are dozens of social networks, but Dan explains that joining and maintaining a presence on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google+ are the most important for building your personal brand. Dan says that “those four networks have longevity, have the most amount of users, and people are accessing them daily.” For those looking to start building their personal brand, Dan explains that “it’s really important to access them daily and integrate them into your blog or website as much as possible. If I land on one of your profiles, I should be able to access your other profiles.” One of his suggestions when creating your social networks is to simultaneously create an Excel spreadsheet that lists the username, password, and last time you updated biographical or resume experience on each profile to keep them consistent. Dan has noticed that “as people grow and join new networks, they lose track of networks and, by staying better organized, they’ll keep their brand consistent.” Also, be sure to use the same profile picture on every social network.
Maintain Your Brand
Dan says that “the hardest part is figuring out what niche you want to fill.” If you can’t decide on that today, you may not be ready to start building your personal brand. However, once you’ve built the foundation personal brand, Dan suggests ways to keep building it by marketing yourself; write blog posts on your own blog, contribute guest blog posts on other blogs, and comment on other blogs as well. Dan also suggests other ways to build your brand, such as speaking, writing an eBook, and, of course, following and interacting with more people every day.
Are you working on building your personal brand? What tips do you have for others doing the same? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.