Advertisements
 

Why Personal Branding Begins at an Early Age (and What to Do About It)

December 7, 2013

Photo source: Dave Lawler on flickr.

Introduction

I asked a class of tenth grade students how many of them have a personal brand. A few looked around the room to see who raised their hand. One student did. And that was it.

When I grew up, the Internet did not exist. Back then, personal branding was centered around experiences and achievements and how they combined to form a reputation – you know, tangible things. Today, those things still matter for your personal brand, but so much of that brand is formed online.

Junior Achievement Program

San Mateo High School

Photo: I visited a tenth grade class at San Mateo High School.

My visit to a tenth grade classroom was part of a Junior Achievement program called JA Career Success.

Junior Achievement is “the world’s largest organization dedicated to educating students about workforce readiness, entrepreneurship and financial literacy through experiential, hands-on programs.” (learn more: Junior Achievement website)

The JA Career Success program consists of seven sessions. I participated in the seventh session, which is titled “Get Hired: Know Your Personal Brand.” The session’s objectives, as defined by JA:

  1. Explore how to hunt for a job and the tools needed
  2. Determine choices they can make to create a positive personal brand as they build their careers

Why We All Have a Personal Brand

An informal poll of the classroom determined that every student is on Facebook (although their teacher does not use the service), 15% are on Twitter and everyone has an Apple device at home (iPhone, iPad or iPod). In short, these students grew up with mobile devices connected to the Internet.

So I told the students: if there’s one thing you remember from today’s program, it’s this:

You’re online, which means that you already have a personal brand.

Well said.

In other words: whether you like it or not, the digital footprints you’re leaving across the Internet are the embodiment of your personal brand. By being aware and proactive, you can manage that brand. By being reactive and unaware, it gets managed for you.

So let’s consider ways in which you can start managing your personal brand. And yes, it’s NOT too early to start this in high school, or even middle school.

5 Personal Branding Tips

1) Always Be Mindful of What You’re Sharing

This photo could become a future issue

Photo source: Dennis Harper on flickr.

I know that high school students will do things that their parents would not approve of (example: throwing a wild party at the house when the parents are away for the weekend).

High school students will have their fun and should continue to do so. But take a moment to ponder before clicking the “submit” or “tweet” button.

Be sensitive to what you share and know that there can be implications and ramifications. If you post something online, accept the fact that it never goes away.

Even if you’re careful to limit your posts to particular groups, the fact remains that the post is online. Understand that when you apply for a job as a forty year old, what you posted as a teenager could come back to haunt you.

Here’s a good mechanism: when you’re ready to post something online, think whether your parent(s) and your teacher would approve. If they wouldn’t approve, then don’t post it (hat tip to Junior Achievement for this).

2) Pay Attention to Details

When you interview for a job, body language can be far more important than the words you speak. You might have an eloquent and insightful answer, but if you’re slouched in your chair and not making eye contact with the interviewer, your answer doesn’t really matter.

With personal branding, every little thing matters. Start with your email address. People will need to contact you, whether it’s a college admissions officer or a potential employer. Select an email address accordingly. “ilovetoparty” at (gmail dot com) will not curry favor with potential employers.

If you have an unfavorable email address, get a new one to use for college admissions and job applications. Next, have friends and family call your cell phone and listen to your voicemail greeting. Does it say something like: “Yo. Do it now. Over and outtie”? That would make a college admissions officer think twice about your application.

3) Sprinkle in Brand-Appropriate, Proactive Sharing

Photo of an academic award

Photo source: COD Newsroom on flickr.

Yes, you should do some proactive “brand building,” even in high school. Some tenth graders will apply to colleges in a few short years. When you apply to a college, the admissions officers will review your social profiles.

Did you recently receive an academic achievement award at school? Have a friend take a picture of you (with your award), then post that to Facebook. This digital footprint can make a difference, when discovered by the admissions officer (hat tip to a parent volunteer, who provided this suggestion).

4) Don’t Let Your Inside Voice Get Outside

In other words, keep your posts and status updates positive. We all have our dislikes, whether it’s jobs, other people or situations. Think twice before you share those dislikes with the entire world. Social media should not be a venting mechanism.

If you found a new job, but really disliked your previous job, keep your feelings about the previous job on the inside. Negative comments don’t play well when viewed by potential employers. And who knows? Things change and the employer you disliked years ago may be one that you return to years later.

5) Advanced Topic: Start Blogging

I started this blog five years ago and it’s helped a great deal with my personal brand. I’m able to share thoughts and ideas (with you!) and I consider it an add-on to my resume. In fact, blogs and social profiles (e.g. LinkedIn) are far more relevant than the old-fashioned resume.

One important point, however: figure out a “focus area” for your blog that’s tied to the personal brand you’d like to portray.

Your blog should not be an extension of Facebook, in which you share anything and everything going on in your life. Instead, it should be an outlet for you to share thoughts and observations.

Consider what you’re most passionate about and start writing about it. If you write well and share interesting things, I’m sure college admissions officers will take note.

Additional Thoughts on Personal Branding

Jonha Revesencio

Photo: Jonha Revesencio (@jonharules).

While writing this post, I posed a question on Twitter:

At what age should we start building our personal brand?

Jonha shared the following:

“In a world where technology has helped in facilitating questions, I think there’s not really an exact “age” to best build your brand, or as I like to put it, #BrandYOU. I think, though, that it’s most essential to “position yourself to be found so you won’t have to look around.”

That means it’s important to provide value even before you ask for one. I’ve given a presentation before college students about this and my main message is for them to use the time they spend on social networks by building their brand instead of using it for activities which will at some point break it (even before they try to build).”

Conclusion

Thanks for those thoughts, Jonha!

The concept of a personal brand was quite new to the tenth graders I spoke to. And that’s a big reason why I wrote this post: to create awareness around the fact that personal branding starts at an early age. Those who get an early start will have an advantage. Start working on your personal brand today.

Advertisements

6 Steps to More Effective Content Curation

June 8, 2013

A plan for curating content

Introduction

Whether you’re a corporate brand or a personal brand, it’s important to effectively curate (and share) good content. Effective curation builds influence and authority: share information that enables your audience to learn (and do their job better) and they’ll come back for more. Here’s my six step plan for more effective content curation.

1) Understand your audience.

Keep your captive audience captive

Photo credit: Flickr user Anirudh Koul via photopin cc

Rather than using analytical tools, I build an understanding of my audience less formally. On social media, a portion of my following includes those whom I followed (and they, in turn, followed me back). This segment I know fairly well, since I followed them in the first place.

For others, I develop an understanding based upon interactions: replies to my tweets, comments they add to retweets, etc. In using Twitter over the years, I’ve come to understand that my followers are interested in social media, technology, events and sports. And that’s not surprising, because those are my interests as well!

2) Understand yourself.

You may be saying “of course I understand myself!” And while I’m sure that’s true, this step is really about defining your brand and what it represents. The understanding of your audience is reciprocal: they’re also developing an understanding of what you represent.

Let’s say you’ve been sharing articles on science and technology for the past 12 months and just developed an interest in baking cupcakes. In the past, your tweets were 80% science and technology. Today, it’s 20% science and technology and 70% cupcake recipes.

The shift in interest is fine, but understand that many of your followers “found” you because of your science and technology tweets. This means that you’re less influential (to them) on that topic. If that’s not what you wanted, then you’ll need to re-balance your content sharing back towards useful science and technology.

If cupcakes are indeed your new thing, then I like chocolate peanut butter varieties.

3) Assess title AND content.

Assese both the title and the content

[Make sure both the meat and the gravy are savory.]

The title of an article (or post) is crucial. On Twitter, it’s the only thing your followers may see. I look for a combination of subject matter and compelling headline. Good headlines draw you in, while answering the “what’s in it for me” question at the same time. Of the following two options:

Blogging Tips from an Expert Blogger
10 Tips to Make Your Blog Take off Like a Rocket Ship

I prefer the latter.

Titles: to change or not to change.

Occasionally, I’ll share a worthy piece of content for which the title lacks a bit of punch. In my mind, the title doesn’t do the piece justice. So instead of tweeting the article with the supplied title, I’ll share the essence of the article in the tweet. If I’m short on characters, I’ll delete the original title. Doing this results in a higher likelihood of people clicking on the link.

The content (aka meat)

Now that we’ve covered the title, it’s critical to actually read the content (or at least skim it). If the content doesn’t match the title, or if the content quality isn’t up to par, then don’t share it.

Favor quality over quantity when it comes to curation. Even if you’ve “sold” me on a great title, I avoid sharing these types of content:

  1. Content that was written solely for SEO (you know what I’m referring to, right?).
  2. Blogs that have an imbalance between banner/search ads and content.
  3. Slide show content (i.e. want to read our Top 10 list? Click “Next” nine times).
  4. Content that’s too short (e.g. 1-2 paragraphs in total).
  5. Content that my audience would not value (despite the strong title).

4) Acknowledge the author(s).

On Twitter, list the author’s Twitter handle in the tweet. On Facebook, tag the author – or, tag the Facebook Page of the organization that published the article.

Acknowledging the source is a common courtesy, while linking to their profile sends them a little love. Authors will see that you’ve acknowledged them – and in turn, they may follow you, retweet you and share some of your content.

5) Add a splash of commentary.

When users share my tweets or blog posts, I appreciate it when they add their own thoughts within the tweet. Let’s face it: if you’re “merely” sharing article after article, just listing the title and link, you could be an automaton (rather than a human being). So try this:

For every 5 articles you share, include a comment in 1 of them

Here’s an example where I combine commentary (albeit brief) with acknowledgement:

In addition to commentary, feel free to insert relevant hash tags. For instance, if a tweet about event technology doesn’t already contain it, I often add the #eventprofs hash tag. I then change the “RT” to an “MT,” to indicate that it’s a Modified Tweet.

6) Re-share and re-distribute.

For curated content that you really love, re-share it again later on (but not TOO often). I’d love for my Twitter followers to read the great article I just shared, but the reality is that 90% of them missed my tweet.

In addition to re-sharing, provide additional distribution by publishing the content on other social networks. For instance, for an article you tweet, selectively share it:

  1. On Google+.
  2. On your LinkedIn profile.
  3. Pin an image (from the article) to one of your Pinterest boards.
  4. On Facebook.
  5. Write a blog posting and link to the piece.

Conclusion

Think of yourself like a museum curator. Hundreds (or thousands) of people are coming to your exhibit. Select (and show off) the pieces of fine art that you’ve assembled. Leave the lesser pieces behind the curtain.


In Case You Missed It: Posts on Pinterest, Twitter, Google Plus and Personal Branding

June 16, 2012

Topic: Pinterest

Topic: Twitter

Topic: Google Plus

Topic: Social Networks

Topic: Personal Branding


Harness the Power of Your Personal Brand

May 17, 2012

Introduction

In 2006, TIME magazine declared “You” their Person of the Year. TIME’s selection was based on the rise of YouTube and other social web sites that allowed individuals to become publishers. TIME’s cover concluded, “You control the Information Age. Welcome to your world.”

Some six years later, we have even more tools to publish, interact and discover. Facebook is approaching 1 billion global users, while the past 12 months has seen the rise of Instagram and Pinterest, to name a few.

In the midst of your status updates, posts, blog comments and photo uploads, I think there’s a larger meaning (and value) that you can achieve: migrating from simply “You” to “Your Personal Brand.” Let me explain.

Brand Around Your Passions

When I speak about personal branding, people often ask, “just where do I start?” I encourage people to identify their passions. For me, it’s sports, social media and virtual events! For others, it might be food, wine or art. Your personal brand has the highest potential when it’s based around your passions.

Personal Brand Benefits: PASSION

Now, let’s consider the benefits of your personal brand. I use the acronym PASSION. Let’s take them one by one.

Possession

Whether you’ve been at your current job for 20 years or 20 months, as an “at will employee,” you can be asked to leave tomorrow. Your personal brand, however, has guaranteed possession. No one can take it away from you – it’s your’s for the rest of your life.

Annuity

An annuity is defined as “a specified income payable at stated intervals for a fixed or a contingent period, often for the recipient’s life.” As you manage and grow your personal brand, it routinely “pays you income” in the form of recognition, authority, presence and “real” income (if you so desire).

It’s important to realize, however, that while your personal brand’s annuity pays out over time, it’s an investment that must be actively managed to guarantee continued payout. It’s a bit more involved than a conventional annuity: it’s more like a mortgage, in the sense that you need to “pay back” (contribute) each month (or each day!).

I love the part about “for the recipient’s life” in the definition, because it ties back to Possession: the annuity, like your personal brand, is your’s for life.

Searchability

Most businesses think and talk a great deal about “Search Engine Optimization” (SEO). It’s critical for your web site(s) to “get found” when potential customers are searching online. As you construct and develop your personal brand, a natural benefit is “searchability,” or the ability to “get found.”

In a 2008 blog post titled “Downsized? Fired? Here are the new rules of finding a job,” David Meerman Scott (@dmscott) tells us about Heather Hamilton, who describes herself as “Microsoft Employee Evangelist, Quasi-Marketer and Truth-Teller.” Hamilton performs an inverse of the typical job search process. Instead of posting a job description and receiving resumes, she proactively searches the web. As Meerman Scott writes, “So if you’re not publishing, you won’t be found by Microsoft.”

[As a side note, the above blog post by Meerman Scott is singularly responsible for the start of my own personal brand.]

As you join new social networks, it’s critical that you fully populate your profile there. This is a critical first step in establishing your personal brand. On LinkedIn, for instance, ensure that your profile is 100% complete. Don’t settle for 95%, make sure it’s a full 100%.

As you gain a presence across different parts of the web, be sure to “cross link” your presences within your social profiles. For instance, on my Twitter profile page, I link to this blog and to my book on Amazon. You’ll also notice that on this blog, I cross-link to many other “personally branded presences” on the right side of the page.

Now, let’s return to Heather Hamilton. If you’ve published content related to Hamilton’s search terms, then the following may appear in Hamilton’s search results:

  1. Your blog.
  2. Your LinkedIn profile.
  3. Your Twitter profile or a recent tweet.
  4. Your answer on Quora or Focus.com
  5. An eBook that you published on your blog.
  6. An article in which you were quoted.

So in conclusion, the more you invest in your personal brand, the more visible you can be. And with more visibility comes more chances of others finding you.

Sense of Self

By “sense of self,” what I mean is that you learn about yourself as you build your personal brand! I’ve been blogging since 2008. It’s helped highlight (for me) my passions, my strengths and my weaknesses. In a post about her own blogging journey, Amber Naslund (@AmberCadabra) writes, “One of my favorite quotes is from the writer Joan Didion, who once said ‘I write to discover what I think.’”

As I became active on Twitter and LinkedIn, I discovered something about myself that otherwise wouldn’t have been obvious: I love to find, meet and connect with others. Twitter has been amazing in its ability to find and follow others, share thoughts and ideas and get to thoroughly know (in my mind) someone I’ve never met in person. This discovery has led me to consider ways in which I can continue this “connecting” in offline settings, as well.

Identity

While your personal brand should align with your passions, going niche (vs. broad) gives you a lot of advantages. Building a personal brand around “technology” is challenging. Go a step deeper, based on what interests you. Consider “social web technology” or better yet, “social and mobile web technology.”

My personal brand focuses on virtual events and social media. The social media part is challenging, in the sense that many, many others are more knowledgeable than me. The virtual events realm is smaller and more focused, so there’s more of an opportunity to build an identity around it.

By “identity,” I mean that your personal brand comes to be known for something. My personal brand is closely tied to virtual events – I suppose the name of this blog says it all.

Objectives

Having a personal brand helps you set objectives around it. For some, it can be as basic as “continue to grow the brand.” For others, it might revolve around Twitter followers, a Klout score or page views on your blog. Yet others may seek to parlay their personal brand into a new job in a new industry. Your personal brand will evolve over time and objectives are there to help guide you.

Networks

Based on your employment history (or your small business), many of you have amassed a “network” of connections on LinkedIn. A personal brand allows you to significantly extend that network. Via social networks, your blog, comments on other blogs, guest posts on other blogs and articles submitted to publications, you can meet and engage with new people.

It can all start with a single Twitter hash tag. On Twitter, there’s a vibrant community of event professionals who gather around the hash tag #eventprofs. By simply reading, responding and re-tweeting (via this hash tag) over the years, I’ve gotten to know lots of event professionals that I otherwise would not have “met.”

Many #eventprofs are sole practitioners or run a small event business. So personal branding is critical to them, as their personal brand and their business’ brand are one and the same. In addition to the “#eventprofs network, I’m part of many others, including the networks on Quora, Focus.com, Instagram and Pinterest.

Actively engaging in networks helps raise the visibility of your personal brand and brings with it annuity, searchability and many other benefits.

Conclusion

Got a passion? Then put some PASSION around your passion. Developing your personal brand can lead to business opportunities, speaking gigs, fame and fortune. Why not get started today?

Related Links

  1. Blog Post: 7 Tips for Building Your Personal Brand Online 
  2. Slides: How to Build Your Personal Brand and Advance Your Career with Social Media

Note: I invite you to connect with me on .


7 Tips for Building Your Personal Brand Online

September 5, 2011

Pictured: Examples of notable personal brands, @digiphile and @funnelholic.

Introduction

It’s amazing what you can achieve today with a blog and a social media profile. Blogs have the potential to turn individuals into both media magnates and media magnets.

“A list” bloggers today can reach an audience wider than that of many magazines and national newspapers. Users who share, connect and engage on Facebook, Twitter and Google+ can be “followed” by tens of thousands of users (or more) and engage with their “fans” on a daily or hourly basis.

Building and sustaining your own personal brand is well within your reach. But it takes time, effort and energy. Here are seven tips to guide you on your journey.

1) Define the target audience for your brand.

Even Justin Bieber has a target audience. He’s not writing songs and tweeting for my mom, despite the fact that she may find him cute. Your brand should be defined by an area of specialty or expertise, in the same way that “digiphile” and “funnelholic” have done it (pictured above). This is an important first step, because it defines the type of blog you’ll create, the type of tweets you’ll generate and the type of content you’ll share with your followers.

2) Decide where to invest your energy.

There are only 25 hours in a day (I’m counting those days when we turn the clock back an hour), which means that you can’t be active on all social networks all the time. It’s far better to be highly active on one social network than it is to low levels of activity across ten. Of course, your mix is going to change over time, but it’s important to start off by “budgeting” your time. My priorities (at the moment) are blogging and Twitter.

3) Two words: BE USEFUL.

Keep this goal in mind in everything you do. Whether it’s sharing a link on Twitter to writing your first blog post, being useful brings awareness, appreciation and equity to your personal brand. When sharing links, consider content in the same way an museum director selects works for her next exhibit. Curate content like fine art. The more your target audience finds your content (and the content you share) useful, the more value your brand derives.

4) Engage and Interact.

Social media should not be solely about sharing links. It should include equal amount of engaging with others and interacting with content. For every five blog postings you author, find one third party blog and leave a comment on it. For every four links you share on Twitter, perform one Retweet or “at reply” to another user. As you find interesting content on the web, endorse it to your target audience (via “Like”, “+1” or “Tweet” buttons). But remember point #3 and make sure you’re being useful.

5) Use the same profile photo everywhere.

As you publish blog postings, tweet, comment on blog postings, answer questions on LinkedIn and “Like” an article, use the same profile photo. Doing so gives others the impression that you’re everywhere. It’s an easy way to build brand equity, without doing too much additional work. Use a recent photo, so that people may recognize you when they see you in person. I often meet strangers who ask, “are you the guy who blogs about virtual events?” and who would believe anyone could be recognized for doing that!

6) Promote others before yourself.

It’s actually quite easy to promote yourself via social media. However, you’ll find that others may be turned off by blatant self-promotion and that you actually do more damage (than good) to your personal brand.  So promote others and tell the world how great they are.  By introducing your Twitter following to other great Twitter users, you’re doing your followers a service (i.e. being useful). As you become more and more useful, you’ll find that others begin to promote you. An endorsement from others is far more meaningful than one from yourself.

7) Adjust and adapt.

Your journey towards personal brand equity will not travel on a straight line. You’ll need to adjust for things that are not working and experiment with new things. Previously, I wrote about how my use of Twitter is different in 2011 compared to 2008.  For me, that’s part of the fun, figuring it all out. It’s also one of the most rewarding aspects of social media experimentation: achieving progress by way of adjustment and adaptation.

Conclusion

There’s never been a better time to build your personal brand online. If you hone in on an area of specialty and follow your passions there, who knows – even Justin Bieber may some day “follow” your advice.

Related Presentation

I presented related tips at a workshop for the EMC West Coast Women’s Leadership Foundation. You can find the slides below.

Note: I invite you to connect with me on .


%d bloggers like this: