A lot of people I’ve spoken to don’t know where to start when it comes to personal branding, so today I wanted to focus on how to build your own personal branding system by modeling my own.  A personal branding system is how you consume, organize and share information every single day in order to maintain your voice, remain relevant and to be able to communicate interesting ideas and opinions to your audience.  If you don’t have an efficient system of your own set up, then you will end up wasting your own time and therefore, your brand won’t reach it’s full potential online.

The following personal branding system allows you to monitor online conversations, keep up with industry trends, protect your online identity, and much more.  It is fairly basic and doesn’t have most of the social networking sites, which I also use.  Those sites are typically used in the distribution step.

1. Gather and monitor

The first step in your personal branding system is to gather information. In this step, you want to focus on aggregating information from a variety of sources.  You may add new blogs or alerts in the future, but most of the effort comes when you’re first starting.  I recommend setting alerts for your brand name, your company’s brand name, competitors, partners, and keywords in your industry.  Also, you want to subscribe to popular blogs in your niche and news sources that deliver broader information about your niche, from media channels such as the New York Times.  Once you setup all of your alerts and gather the right blog and media subscriptions, centralize it in one Google Reader account, so that you can capture new information daily.

Here are my recommended tools:

Google Reader: At the center of your universe should be Google reader.  It serves as an aggregator for all information that you consume daily.  For me, Google reader has been the only way to follow larger conversations, keep a tab on brand mentions and ensure that I have all the necessary information and content available for brand distribution.

Google.com/Alerts: Set a comprehensive alert, delivered through a feed (RSS), with search terms such as your name and industry keywords.  A comprehensive alert covers blogs, news, web and video.  If there are mispellings of your name, then set alerts for those as well.  For instance, most people spell my name wrong, so since I have those alerts setup, I’m still able to monitor my reputation without letting those mentions slip away.

Alltop.com and Technorati.com: I figure out which blogs you should be subscribing to, use Alltop.com and find your category.  Then, subscribe to every blog in that category and if you’re finding that some of the blogs aren’t as useful at a later date, unsubscribe.  Technorati lists the top blogs in various categories and you can search for categories as well.  Aside from these two sites, I recommend that you subscribe to Mashable.com, TechCrunch.com and ReadWriteWeb.com to gain insight into the technology and social media landscape.

Tweetbeep: Twitter is a great place to find out what people are saying about you or certain keywords right now.  The best way to keep track of it, without using a third party application or logging into Twitter on your web browser of choice, is to use a site called Tweetbeep.com.  It has hourly updates, so even if you’re using search.twitter.com for real-time Twitter search, you won’t be missing other tweets.  You can even keep track of who’s tweeting your website or blog.

Backtype: This is a great tool for seeing conversations around a topic or a blog post.  It’s also a site that allows you to subscibe to mentions of a brand or topic in blog comments.  Most of the time, people are unaware of what people are saying in blog comments if they haven’t subscribed to the comments or seen the post.  This site solves that and drives that information into your Google reader.

Boardtracker: This tool will monitor discussion forums where your brand name is cited or topics that are relevant to your industry.  Sometimes blog posts get copied into discussion threads too.

2. Organize

Now that you have set yourself up for success by capturing all the information that is important to you, your business and your career, it’s time to organize it so that you can refer back to it at a later point.  This step is significant because if you just collect and distribute, it will be hard to locate certain articles or mentions that might help you in a new project.

I use Delicious.com to organize information into categories.  It gives you the ability to not only organize by subject, but also by date and search against all of your bookmarks.  This is valuable when you want to archive the best articles from around the web to use at a later point.  It’s also interesting to see what other people are bookmarking because it shows what the hot topics are.

3. Distribute

Once you’ve collecting all the information that’s relevant to you and then organized it, it’s time to communicate it to your audience in some form or another.

Twitter: Aside from starting and continuing discussions and retweeting on Twitter, it’s very important you are seen as a valuable contributor.  By leveraging the work you’ve already done organizing the best and most interesting content in your world, you should share it with your following.  You will get more retweets because you’ve put more effort into finding articles that are retweetable.

Presentations: A lot of presentations have facts, stories and examples woven through them.  Since you’ve already organized research you’ve seen floating across the web and case studies in your industry that you’ve bookmarked, you already have the content for your presentations.  Your presentations can be kept current by the work you do every day gathering and organizing content in your world.

Your blog: Instead of tweeting or in addition to tweeting a story that’s in your Delicious page, you can continue the discussion on your blog.  I recommend that you lead with a fact or a quote from the article, link to it, and then take a stance on it.  This way, it shows that you’re keeping up with your industry and you have a topic that you can write about.

Your turn

What is your personal branding system?  Is it similar to this one or have you created your own?  Please share in the comments.