We’ve discussed personal branding before, and why it’s important for you to establish and control the ‘you’ that you put online. It bears repeating in light of incredible impact social media has on how we communicate, and more importantly, how we’re perceived.
the importance of building a social brand
You build a strong personal brand to remain competitive and stand out from the pack. This is true whether you’re an entrepreneur running a business, or a job seeker building your career. If you don’t leverage the power of social media, you’re effectively living in the dark ages and will be overlooked.
Online and social media are firmly entrenched in our work and personal lives. In fact, many are so universally recognized and commonly used, they have become part of our language and vernacular. We’ve all Googled or been Googled. Facebook and FaceTime are now verbs. Mobile communications are giving computers a run for their money, with new apps emerging daily to enhance networking capabilities anywhere, anytime.
These are what Forbes calls ‘Integrated Personal Branding Apps’ - they perform a variety of tasks previously executed by an administrative assistant, such as linking the appointments in your schedule with the LinkedIn profiles of the people you’re meeting, thus putting all the background information you need in the palm of your hand. If you’re checking out a potential client, you can be sure they’re checking you out, too. Everything you do on social media impacts your brand. What does your social brand say about you?
where personal branding is headed on social media
Forbes identified the use of video as the next trend in communication, especially as more people work virtually. Video content is easier than ever to produce, edit and enhance. What does this mean for you? No more sweatpants and hoodies. You’ll have to dress appropriately for work, even if that work takes place on your dining room table. How you present visually is a critical part of your personal brand. If that makes you anxious, a class or seminar on how to optimize your presentation skills may be a wise investment to open up new job opportunities.
In April 2016, SmartInsights posted a compilation of the most popular social networks worldwide via Statista, which identified Facebook as the most popular social network site, with over a billion active users (1.590 billion to be exact, or over 20% of the world’s population!), followed in popularity by Facebook-owned WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger. LinkedIn emerged in 20th position behind other social juggernauts like Pinterest, Snapchat, Skype, Twitter and Instagram.
All of these sites present opportunities for people to easily access information about you. The good news is you control that information. What you post, share and comment on is in your hands, or perhaps more accurately, your thumbs. Be clear, careful, concise and specific about what you share.
Here are more ways to enhance your personal brand through social media.
Over 12 million Canadians are on LinkedIn. 40% of them say they use it to search for jobs. 97% of recruiters are active on LinkedIn. LinkedIn is a great resource for finding information, seminars and training videos to your skills up-to-date or learn new ones. In doing so, potential employers and potential referrals see you’re ready and eager to learn and stay current with trends and emerging technologies. You’ll come across as active, rather than reactive.
Whether you’re looking for work or not, staying current with industry and hiring trends, keeping in touch with and building your network, and positioning yourself strategically will set you up for success when you’re ready to make a move.
Write about what you love, and what you know. Don’t make the mistake of thinking you’re not an expert – everyone knows something about something. Create a voice for yourself and establish a community of followers. Make sure to choose a domain name that’s easy to remember and professional.
Several user-friendly blogging apps are available to help you get started, including WordPress and Blogger. You can write, edit, publish, upload images and video, comment and monitor stats. Be consistent and update frequently – once a week or more, if possible. If writing isn’t your thing, apps like Tumblr allow you to post shorter posts and share photos and videos. Be selective and particular about what you write and post, the language you use and the images and links you share. Use these sites as if your audience is a potential employer. In many cases they are.
If you have a professional blog, create a Facebook page separate from your personal profile and use the same name and brand as your blog. Link it to your other social media sites and ensure the messaging and tone are consistent.
If the hassle of creating and maintaining a second Facebook profile sounds like too much trouble, make sure you have turned on the privacy settings for your personal channel, to protect yourself from curious eyes. Regardless of how private you think your Facebook page is, avoid saying anything offensive or damaging about potential employers or colleagues – in the great big world of the web you never know who’s watching; the word can spread like wildfire, particularly if there’s juicy gossip to share. That friend of a friend you met at a party and added on a whim might just be your boss’s cousin. Act as if anyone could screenshot any of your posts or updates at any time.
If you have a personal Twitter account you don’t want linked to your professional image, make sure to choose a name and handle that are entirely separate from your professional identity. Unlike Facebook, Twitter doesn’t have privacy settings to withhold your tweets from the general public. Something these people, whose offensive tweets got them fired, clearly didn’t consider. If an employer can tap your name into Google and your Twitter account pops up, they can and will see it as an extension of you and your personal brand.
If you choose to use Twitter in a professional capacity, make sure your account shares the same branding as your other professional social media accounts. Keep the tone and the appearance of your updates consistent. Share articles related to your industry, and comment on trends and current events. You can also follow and promote colleagues and industry professionals, connect with peers, establish and engage networks, or create a circle of influence. It’s amazing what you can do with 140 characters or less!
These networks are just a few examples of socially-driven sites that employers and other professionals use to determine who you are and what you represent. The same applies to Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr, YouTube, Google+, Vine, Snapchat, and countless others. If it’s publicly viewable and can be linked back to you, be aware it may be checked out by colleagues, clients and employers. Always be aware of what you put online and how it reflects on you and your personal brand because once it’s out there, it can be incredibly hard to take it back. If you wouldn’t say it aloud in public, think twice about putting it online.
Social media is how we connect with others. Embrace this shift and make it – and your personal brand – work for you.