What pops up when you Google your name? Is it something you approve of? Is it helping or hurting your professional image? If you haven't Google'd yourself lately, I suggest you do so. Your competition, employer, boss, friends, customers, prospects, and really anyone you come across is already doing it. The good news is, you can directly impact the way "you" are represented in the online world and can boost your personal brand in several simple and inexpensive (mostly free) ways.
Why should you have an online presence anyways?
Competition is getting stiffer in all aspects of the business world. It starts with getting a job. Did you know that 75% of HR departments are required to search job applicants online and 85% said that someone's online reputation influences the hiring decision. It's very important that the content you have online represents the way you want to be known for. The fact that you did the most keg stands out of all your friends during Spring Break 2007 isn't what you want Google to highlight when your name gets typed. This won't help you get a job, it won't help you get referrals, it won't help you get more prospects, and it's not going to lead to more sales.
"If you are not branding yourself, you can be sure that others are doing it for you." - unkown
So what are top performers doing? How are they doing it? How are they differentiating themselves? Top performers are using the breadth of (mostly free) tools available on the web to get their name out, become more noticeable, hirable, and desirable. They are writing industry-specific articles on LinkedIn, making "how to" videos on YouTube, commenting on customer's Facebook posts, and guest speaking on podcasts. I know what you're thinking, "I don't have enough time to do all of this!" Well guess what? Your competitors do. A recent study showed that sales reps who use social media outsold their peers who don't by 78%. These sales reps are building a brand for themselves and making their appearance known on the web which is where their prospects are hanging out, where their existing customers are hanging out, where most everyone is hanging out. Your potential customers are looking for you - can they find you?
3 Ways to Build Your (Online) Personal Brand in 2018
1. Create a More Engaging LinkedIn Profile
An engaging and informative LinkedIn profile is critical in today's business world. For most of us, it's the first thing that shows up when you Google your name and 96% of hiring managers use it for recruiting. Here are a couple tips to ensuring your profile represents a noticeable brand for yourself:
A professional photo - Having a profile picture makes you 7x more likely to get viewed. Ditch the pic of you at your family reunion that you cropped out. Instead, get a good head shot using something like the iPhone's "portrait mode" for a high-quality image of yourself.
Define your role and add a headline - for example, "Account Executive at XYZ, Inc - High-performing SaaS Sales Professional."
Write an inviting summary - Tell people what you do, how you do it, how it will benefit them, and how to contact you. This is where you can really sell yourself within the profile and focus on relevant details.
Brand your profile with a background photo - Use an image from your company (most provide this for you) or create something relevant that is a PNG, JPG, or GIF size 1584 x 396. Don't use the stock photos from LinkedIn, that's what everyone else does.
Create content - Since most people don't create and share their own content on LinkedIn, there's no better way to differentiate yourself than to post useful information that came from yours truly.
Complete your profile - It's important to have as much of your LinkedIn profile filled out as possible. Don't leave out any opportunity to share more about what it is about you that people should know.
"Be yourself. Everyone else is already taken" - Oscar Wilde
2. Get a Personalized URL
Just like a company brand has it's own website, a personal brand should be no different. Today's top producers are generating their own web content, building out newsletters, providing free downloads, recording video and making it all available to the outside world via a website with theirname.com. The beauty of having your own website is that you are in full control of what is displayed and therefore what is portrayed. Did you know that 66% of hiring managers look at your Facebook to help determine if they should hire you? They do this so they can learn more about you and see if you would fit their culture. The challenge with Facebook is that not all of the content about you on there was created by you with features like "tagging." Not the case with your personalized site!
Here are the top 5 reasons to have a personalized site:
It works around the clock. Make connections and create opportunities 24 x 7
Makes it easier to find, connect, and contact you
Demonstrates you are serious about whatever it is you do or what it is you have to offer
Showcases everything about you in one place and is controlled only by you
Differentiates you (only 4% of the workforce today has a personalized website) in the marketplace
If don't have a website yet, it's easy to build one nowadays. You can use tools like Wix, Squarespace, or GoDaddy which make it dead simple to create and won't take much time to do.
"Your brand is what people say about you when you are not in the room" - Jeff Bezos
3. Start a Blog
There's no better way to share your thoughts, ideas, best practices, and shape your brand than through writing a blog. This is your PR machine. Similar to having a personal website, a blog is something you can control and can help you create new connections and opportunities. It will give you an opportunity to share your knowledge and demonstrate your expertise which will differentiate yourself in the marketplace. It's also a way to give back, inspire others, and learn new things. Here are a few benefits of blogging:
Helps you manage your online identity
Learn new things
Improve your writing skills
Connect with new people
Be proclaimed an expert in your industry
Create a following
Build trust in the community
Generate public speaking engagements
Since I've started blogging, I've been asked to be a guest on several podcasts, speak at different events, and coach many salespeople that otherwise would have never happened. Imagine what it could do for you?
"If I lost control of the business I’d lose myself–or at least the ability to be myself. Owning myself is a way to be myself." - Oprah Winfrey