Think about your first time with social media. Maybe a school chum introduced you to MySpace. Perhaps a parent finally relented and let you have a FaceBook page of your very own. Or, like many, social media developed around you –– staying in the background before you finally decided to sign up on a platform.
Most people have at least one social media profile. Unfortunately, the longer we stay with a site the more it becomes a hodgepodge of memories –– from vacation shots to party pics. If you Google yourself (and everyone should) what will you find? What would you think about the person in the pictures? Truth is, we all create an online identity. I’m suggesting you take ownership of it. More importantly, use it to help you achieve your goals. How? By creating a personal brand identity.
Who are you and what do you hope to accomplish? Are the answers online? Your first task is to take an unbiased look at what comes up when you enter your name in a search engine. Chances are the results are inconsistent. Your LinkedIn profile shows a polished professional while your Insta page presents as a jet-setting bikini model. There’s nothing wrong with either of those personas. Choose one.
This is the tough part. Polonius didn’t have social media when he said, “This above all- to thine own self be true,” in Hamlet. Yet it still rings true. It’s easy to see where others trip up online but hard to find the snares that tangle our own lives. A trusted friend can definitely help here. You should also write down a list of goals along with your attributes. Most importantly, what are your values? What do you care about? Your online profiles should reflect that.
By looking at who you are and what you have done (along with your past experiences) you’ll be able to chart a path to the future.
2. Do A Cleanse
Take the time to remove as much scandalous and questionable content as you can. Yes some things seem to live online forever. The key is focusing on what comes up with a Google search as well as what is available on your public profile. Most employers and clients will look at your social media and online persona. Don’t let this get in the way of an opportunity. See what info you can have removed. You may also have to reach out to friends who have posted questionable content where you can be seen. Set up Google alerts so anytime your name pops up with new info you’ll know about it.
3. You Do You
Think about how large corporations brand themselves. The products sold by Wendy’s and McDonald’s aren’t terribly different. It’s not like one of them has a rep for waffles. Yet while they both sell burgers, Wendy’s cultivated a brand as being fresher. The company’s online presence reflects that –– even if their tweets are more about having a fresh mouth than fresh food.
Creating a personal brand identity is about crafting an online persona that is uniquely you. One of the 21st century’s biggest shifts was the sometimes messy blending of who we are on the internet and who we are in real life. In the MySpace days, online profiles were often anonymous. We shared our true selves to online friends while presenting a public face that was often quite different. Today who we are online is often seen not as an avatar for us but who we really are. Use that to your advantage.
Your personal brand is all you: your image, voice, and presence are all that matter. People can tell when you exude authenticity. And trust me, they’ll like what they see.
Most potential employers and clients will search for you online. Let them find a true representation of who you are –– if that is a rock-climbing investment banker who likes ‘60s muscle cars, that’s fine. Don’t copy others –– don’t be influenced by influencers. Who you really are is more than enough.
4. Consistency is Key
Instead of a mash-up, you want your profiles to mesh up. Use photos from a single shoot for your profile pics. You can be a bit more playful or lighthearted on Insta than you would be on Linked In. Yet the images should be similar, along with things you may not have considered such as the font you use in blogs or online portfolios. If the same font is used, it gives your persona consistency. This has the effect of making viewers more trusting and accepting of what you present. You should also use this font in the real world, on letterhead and on business and calling cards.
You need a clear voice that is focused, and recognizable. It should be consistent and uniform throughout all your platforms. By doing this, people will start recognizing your brand.
5. Choose Platforms and Stay Active
Don’t neglect niche platforms like Wattpad for writers and Goodreads for readers. There are probably a few niche sites you like that you can contribute to. Twitter is a great place to present your subject matter authority. Try to briefly answer a question or two daily. Update Insta with shots from the latest conference you attended. Blog. Doing all these things will not only help you with creating a personal brand identity but raise your name in search engine results. Potential employers and clients will easily see what you can bring to the table. Having more followers means more people who will hear your message –– and theirs.
The other advantage to crafting a brand is it makes it easier to know what not to post. Everyone from large corporations to individuals occasionally posts off brand (or off color) content. Yet knowing who you are and the image you hope to project will make most choices obvious. Bonne chance!
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