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How to build and maintain your personal brand

You may have heard the phrase “If you’re not on Google you don’t exist”. It’s a rather sad reflection of current society, but it is nonetheless true. It doesn’t really matter what you do or want to do with your life, having an online presence or personal brand will help you achieve your goals. A pertinent question then is: how on earth does one build and manage one’s personal brand?

For starters you have to know what you want to achieve. For instance, are you focussing on your personal brand to increase your chances of employment or are you an entrepreneur who needs to secure business? Will you be balancing your personal brand with your professional brand? Or do you just want to hang out on the net?

Even just hanging out on the net requires a little planning because one misplaced tweet or unfortunately tagged photo could ruin all your future prospects, whether you like it or not.

Do a little research

William Arruda recommends that you determine your baseline before forging ahead. A basic Google search for your name will show you what your current online presence is (if you have one) and whether it’s mostly good or bad.

Be consistent

One of the key points to remember when building your brand online is to be consistent across all networks. This applies to appearance and content.

Use the same photo in your blog bio and across all your social media profiles. This helps people identify you and associate your name with your face.

The tone of your communication will change according to the channel you use, but your essence should remain the same. It doesn’t do you much good to maintain an exemplary professional appearance on LinkedIn and then come across as a reckless boozer on Facebook.

You also want to have the same name across all networks. This means that you should have the same name in your blog URL, Twitter handle, Facebook profile and LinkedIn account. If possible you should also buy your domain name, just in case you ever get round to creating a personal website.

If you don’t claim your name online, there is the chance that someone else with a similar name will do so and your brand will be tarnished by some other reckless boozer. It’s also possible that someone could intentionally use your name to paint you in a bad light – it depends on the determination of your enemies. So, you not only enhance your brand by securing your name, you also protect it.

Be authentic

Be true to yourself. Don’t project a false image because it will come across as such. If you wouldn’t behave in a certain manner in the real world don’t do so online. If you wouldn’t say something in the real world don’t say it online. And if you’re not a brown-noser in the real world don’t suddenly suck up to people online. In fact, even if you are obsequious in person (shame on you) ditch it when you get online because people will see right through you and dismiss you summarily.

Interact

Make a habit of reading blogs that interest you or that you find relevant, but more than that, comment on them. Bloggers appreciate comments; comments are supremely validating and if they generate a stream of communication involving several other readers that is even better. You don’t have to agree with everyone, but don’t be merciless in your criticism either. Also, don’t be dumb. Make your comment count, don’t go with “Nicely written”, which is bland and pointless. Rather say “Nicely written, I especially liked your view on blue cheese as a topping for potato dishes. In my opinion nothing beats blue cheese and potatoes.” It’s not a brilliant comment, but it shows that you actually read the piece and that you two are of a similar mind.

The same applies to Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. Follow people and the chances are good that they will follow you back. Friend people and the chances are good that they will friend you back. Retweet updates that you find interesting or funny. Engage in conversation. Like things that your Friends post. Recommend people, join their groups, ask them questions and you’ll find people responding in kind.

Establish your value

You want people to recognise your worth. The best way to do this is to establish yourself as an expert on something. Obviously if you’re trying to market yourself you want to establish your expertise in your particular field.

You don’t have to limit yourself to one field. If you have varied interests you can punt yourself as knowledgeable in all of them, but be wary of coming across as a know-it all. Being an ace auditor as well as an expert on skateboarding is cool. Being an ace auditor and an expert on skateboarding, ornithology, archaeology, renaissance history, rugby and bionic prosthetics is pushing it.

Dan Shawbel is a doyen of online branding (he’s written two books about it). He advocates that whatever your platform you create a marketing plan. This should include links to your various networks in your email signature, investing in a website, writing guest blogs or articles, publishing regular updates, monitoring your presence constantly (Google Alerts helps) and growing your networks.

Schawbel wrote a strong of guest posts on personal branding, which appeared on Mashable. You should give them a read.

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