When you’re creating your personal brand, there are a few pitfalls you need to watch out for. They’re basic mistakes, but a lot of people still make them, and hurt their chances to make an impact in their job search or their campaign to boost their workplace reputation. Here are four of the biggest personal branding mistakes people make.

1. Failing to define your niche

The best way to build your personal brand is to define it as narrowly as possible. Don’t just be “the person who does the thing at the place with the guy.” Focus narrowly on a niche that you can be a leader of. If you’re in marketing, be in something more than just marketing. Specialize in marketing for large nonprofits, for small coffee shop chains, or for community theater troupes.

By defining your niche, you can delve more deeply into the information about that niche. You can be come the expert and influencer in it, the person that everyone else turns to for the best information. Find the right niche, and you can make a living in it.

2. Relying on your resume and the job boards, not your network

Many unemployed job seekers I talk to tell me their job search is going to be their new full-time job. They’re going to spend 40 hours a week scouring the job boards and submitting resumes. The problem is, the job boards have some of the lowest odds of success when it comes to finding a new job.

You’re better off putting that time and energy into developing your professional network. Spend that time on LinkedIn, Twitter, and writing your blog. If you need to scour the job boards, do it for 20 minutes a day. When you find a job at a company you’re interested in, connect with your potential coworkers on LinkedIn and Twitter, and impress them with your networking ability. Once you land your job, work to maintain your network so you’ll be able to continue to grow your expertise (see #1), and tap into it again if you find yourself searching one more time.

3. Sharing too much on your networks

Not only can you overshare on Twitter and Facebook, but you can reveal too much information, or too much boring information. Since you’re trying to develop a personal brand, you want to make sure you’re not bombarding your audience with a bunch of tweets, or boring or overly-personal status updates.

If your Twitter and Facebook audience only follow a few people themselves, you’re going to look like a fire hose of updates, so ask yourself whether you really need to send out 50 updates a day. Similarly, avoid tweeting out mundane information that you think people might enjoy. No one really cares about whether you went with the whole wheat or sourdough for your tuna fish sandwich — that’s boring. No one wants to know about that lump on your neck that pulses when you drink coffee — that’s too personal.

If you’re trying to grow your professional brand, be professional in your updates. Link to interesting industry-related articles and blogs, ask and answer questions, and communicate appropriately. Ask yourself what might happen if a potential employer or client saw your tweet. That doesn’t mean you can’t tweet out personal information. It just means you need to be selective about what personal information you’re about to send.

4. No quality control in your content

Blogging is supposed to be much more relaxed and laid back than regular written communication was 20, or even 10, years ago. We’re allowed to have typos, and grammar and punctuation errors in the content we create, and no one thinks anything of it. While that may be the case for the most part, some people — especially those who are going to hire you — may pay attention to it, and drop you from consideration based on a series of errors.

Scour your blog posts for typos and mistakes before and after you publish them. Change them as soon as you find them, even if they were published a month ago. Double-check all links you put in your tweets before you send them. I don’t know how many times I’ve shortened a URL only to discover I accidentally deleted a letter without realizing it. Similarly, double-check URLs you want to retweet. Make sure the link works before you retweet it, so it doesn’t look like you’re just blindly RTing people.

Personal branding is actually pretty easy. You’re building your reputation by connecting with influential people, and letting them see the awesome things you do. Whether you’re looking for a job or building your professional reputation, the steps are the same, as are the pitfalls. Stick to the basics, avoid the mistakes, and you’ll be well on your way to building a solid foundation for your personal brand.


Erik Deckers is the co-owner and VP of Creative Services for Professional Blog Service in Indianapolis. He has been blogging since 1997, has been a published writer for more than 24 years, and a newspaper humor columnist for 17 years. Erik co-authored Branding Yourself: Using Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself (Pearson, 2010) and also helped write Twitter Marketing for Dummies.