Each year, I give my personal branding predictions in the December time frame, but this year, people are starting to ask me about the future earlier. In 2008, the focus was on behavior changes and in 2009, I concentrated on the economy and the struggle to protect your brand at all costs. This year, I’ve been analyzing a lot of trends that will have a major impact on our careers and how companies will manage, retain and recruit employees moving forward. A lot of my predictions involve technology because people have already started changing their behavior, but technology is going to open up even more opportunities.
1) Transparency across the web from social networks to search engines and back.
Social search, a term that represents the shift in search capability to include social network participation and engagement, is going to really heat up next year. Google has already announced that they will be partnering with both Twitter and FriendFeed, but not Facebook, to deliver “social search results” to the user. Facebook, on the other hand, will be tightly aligned to Microsoft’s Bing search engine, which is no surprise because they already had a partnership from before (and Microsoft hates Google). This means that Facebook status updates will appear in Bing search results, but only if the user’s privacy setting permit it. For instance, if you select to make your profile private, your status updates won’t appear in Bing and in other search engines in the future. Yahoo! will be in the game soon enough because competitively, everyone has to transition to what the market demands.
What this means for your personal brand: This is a sign that transparency will flow across the web. Your participation online will be seamless and widespread to a point where anything you publish will appear everywhere and have more eyeballs on it. You need to think twice before you publishing something as insignificant as a tweet now. Your job, your business and your personal reputation is at stake with every published status update, tweet, blog post, etc.
2) More people understanding their brand
What a lot of people don’t realize is that Twitter lists just made personal branding easier to understand. For example, if you review the 1,000+ lists I’m on, you’ll notice that most people categorize me in social media, HR, and branding lists. This means that people perceive me as representing these categories and that’s what I’ve projected to the Twitter community through my profile page and tweets. In Me 2.0, I explain that you’re doing a good job branding yourself when self-impression is equal to perception (how you describe yourself is how other people describe you).
What this means for your personal brand: Twitter lists is one way to verify that you’re coming off the way you had planned. If you want to be classified as a personal finance expert but everyone categorizes you into marketing lists, then something is wrong.
3) The new employment contract
Most companies are still trying to figure out social media, how it plays a role in company culture, if they should block social sites and how they should handle employees who have large followings. Recent data has come out to prove that personal branding can have a financial and branding impact on a corporate brand. eMarketer reports that 71% of employee bloggers have increased visibility for their company, 63% have converted prospects into purchasers through their blog, and 56% have seen their blog bring their company recognition as a thought leader in the industry. It’s obvious that visibility transfers from personal brand to corporate brand, but probably not as much the other way around.
Although, companies see the power of employees influence, they also are concerned that they aren’t as productive, that another company might snatch them and that it might infringe on employee legal contracts. Jeremiah Owyang (2008 Personal Brand of the Year) wrote an incredibly detailed post about how you should verify your employment contract because your company might own your social accounts. It just shows that the employment contract is going to have to evolve because the relationship between employer and employee is changing fast.
What this means for your personal brand: A personal brand is transferable, so that if you switch companies, your influence and network strength still hold. This also makes you more valuable and a “hot commodity.” Before you accept a job offer and if you currently have a job, you need to be sitting down with your manager and discussing how your brand can mesh with your role.
4) Your voice becomes stronger than your resume
The boundaries of online participation have fallen over the past five years, which means that your “current” voice is becoming more important than your previous experience. eMarketer reports that 25% of people have used their blog as a resume and have sent it to potential employers. If someone searches for your name online and they verify that you haven’t actively participated in industry discussions, then you are perceived as having less value as someone who has. A resume depicts where you’ve been in the past, with less indication for where you may end up in the future. Your online voice, whether it’s status updates or full blog posts, gives people a better sense of who you are, what you do and what you bring to the table. In most cases, your blog will appear higher in search results than your LinkedIn profile, so employers will be more keen on that resource than a “resume.”
What this means for your personal brand: Instead of concentrating on putting chrome wheels on your resume or adding a navigation system, invest time in sharing your voice online. Your voice can carry online and if you have good ideas, people will become aware of your brand and opportunities will be there for you.
5) People being forced to take niche’s
Anita Campbell of Small Business Trends recently pointed out how competitive it is to be successful in social media. She notes a 2009 Technorati State of the Blogosphere study, which shows that it takes three to ten posts per day to compete with the top blogs. The reason is because established blogs have created barriers to entry, such that they have a high Google PageRank and their brands are well-known. It’s hard to convince readers to go elsewhere when there are already trusted sources! Also, the sheer amount of posts the blog posts publish makes it hard to compete because Google values page freshness and it’s more content that people can spread through social networks.
What this means for your personal brand: You are going to have to be either very specific with both your topic and audience or you’re going to have to have a superior product. If you feel that you’re the Madonna of a certain topic, then you will eventually be able to compete with the big blogs because of your confidence, hard work and content that will spread.
6) Video becomes a brand-standard
According to “The Global Web Index,” from Trendstream, with research conducted by Lightspeed Research, early this year 72% of US Internet users watched video clips monthly—making video bigger than blogging or social networking. Video is being used for humor and music, but in 2010, we’ll see people use it more for job searching (video resume) and for their websites/blogs as introductions to their worlds. Michael Gerber is one of a handful of people who are using video as an integrated part of their websites. If you land on different pages of his website, a video image of him comes out to talk to you about that content. Video has many different uses, from employer branding to sales pitches to resumes. As more and more people become comfortable with it, it will end up becoming part of the career/resume arsenal.
What this means for your personal brand: Video is the best way to connect with your audience because people are getting to know you before meeting you. If you don’t get good at video then you will suffer a disadvantage because your competition will put out video.
7) Monetization through branding becomes clear
There are 325 million Facebook users, who use the site a combined 8 million minutes each day. 94% of the companies will be maintaining or increasing their investment in social media tools next year. In 2010, about 12 billion dollars will be spent on online advertising. These numbers should verify that people are going to start making serious money off of social networks and blogs in 2010 and beyond. Companies are allocating more of their budgets to online spending and the amount of users and readers that sites have right now are adding up to traditional mediums, but the online world is easier to measure.
What this means for your personal brand: It means if you’re entrepreneurial, even in the slightest, you have the ability to make money doing what you love online. It could be a blog or your own social network that could put you in a position, where you’re making money, while in bed, blogging.
8 ) Social media being used more for career development
A lot of studies have shown that social media tools and networks are primarily used for social conversations and less business and career type conversations. In 2010, there will be a lot of pressure on individuals to stand out (unemployment rate is at 10% right now). A lot of people are going to turn to the internet for support (and answers), which means that social media tools will have a clear purpose for any serious professional. Our society is going to start putting a lot more pressure on people that aren’t taking advantage of social media next year. We are past the early adoption curve and now the late majority will show up next year.
What this means for your personal brand: To stay current with your industry and to be found online, you need to become an active contributor. Social media tools will become your resume, your background check and a means for your to climb your own corporate ladder.
9) More people working for free to build brand equity
The NACE reports that companies are hiring 7% fewer College graduates in 2010. Any smart college student should be searching online for influencers, who they can support, without any pay. At the same time, students will have to have regular jobs in order to pay loans and any other expenses. Aside from students and recent graduates, if you’re unemployed or you’re looking to switch careers, working for free (even if it’s 5 hours a week) is something you should seriously consider. The experience isn’t going to come any other way.
What this means for your personal brand: Experience is more important than education and if you can’t get a job, you need to do whatever you can to gain experience, even if it means working for free. On your resume, you don’t list how much you get paid anyways!
10) Online identities becoming as routine as employer drug tests
In 2009, Careerbuilder reported that 45% of companies are using social networks as background checks. I’m going to go with 75% of companies for 2010 and then 100% of companies in 2012. Just like a drug test, going online to review an applicants brand is easy, cost effective and can save headaches later. There are issues that arise such as possibly losing good talent because of one Facebook picture or judging someone based on their picture and not on their credibility.
What this means for your personal brand: Everyone is going to have to be very careful with what they put online. Go through your online presence right now to make sure it best represents you as a professional. Try and see your profiles through a companies eyes too.