Discovering your personal brand is the first step in the personal branding process for a reason. If you don’t know what you’re brand is then how are you going to convey it to the world? Your brand is what you will be known for. When your name or image is seen or heard, what will people say? Will that description or single word be what you want them to think? These are all questions you need to ask yourself now, not in five years! The reason is simple: brand yourself before someone else brands you.
First impressions have changed
The internet has promoted perception over reality, which is both a threat and an opportunity. A first impression is obviously the most important and if it’s not perfect or authentic, then you will lose that opportunity, whether it’s a possible job, speaking engagement, friend, etc. There are no second chances, especially now since there are an infinite amount of people and websites that are easily accessible and free to the world.
You will be judged based on what appears online in many different situations, such as:
- Google: Your name is google’d and the first result is clicked on. You will be accessed based on that single website they click. If you were prepared and had created content, joined social networks and had your own domain name, then you could, for the most part, know what that first point of contact would be. That is a huge window of opportunity to make an impact.
- Facebook: I always say that Facebook does more harm than good. Recruiters, for instance, use Facebook to conduct background checks more than any social networks. It’s very challenging to build a “professional” brand on Facebook, as you can easily do with LinkedIn. When people search on Facebook, depending on your setting, your name and picture may show up. If the picture is you doing something suspicious, then you lose out. Your Facebook profile might rank first in Google, which means that becomes your first impression in the above example.
- Domains: Some people will type in your name as a domain name without using a search engine. Did you purchase your domain name? If you didn’t, it will show them that you aren’t thinking about personal branding and that you don’t have a great web presence. Go to GoDaddy.com and use the promo code “oyh7” to purchase a $7.15 domain name. Try and get yourname.com or yourname.net.
- Shared content: The latest and most interesting first impression machine is content shared through social networks. For instance, let’s say you never heard of me before. Someone shares a link to a poorly written blog post that I wrote two years ago and another person clicks it. That would be a bad first impression through shared content. This means that everything you do has to be high quality, consistent and portray a positive image of your brand.
- Other social networks: I mentioned Facebook above, but people are searching for you on industry networks, LinkedIn and maybe using tools like Twitter search. Based on what your the search results are for your name in Google (this could be Yahoo! or Bing now too), it will create an impression.
You need to have SOME control
It’s hard to have control when people are sharing your contributions just about everywhere these days, at a pace that is like lightening. That being said, you still can take control of your online image, such that you know what impression you’ll make making so you can capitalize on it. For the most part, everything I mention below is something you can create, control and/or influence.
5 ways to own your Google search results:
- Domain name: As said above, claim your domain name right now. You should then put up at least one web page that people can access from this domain and so it becomes “crawlable” in various search engines. I recommend taking your resume, splicing it into different sections, such as “education” and “major projects,” and then having one page that talks about each.
- Social profiles: Social networks have very high Google PageRanks (Facebook=9, LinkedIn=8, Twitter=9), which means that once you create a profile, give it a unique URL and establish it, it will more than likely rank high for your name in search engines.
- Content: The best content you can create is in the form of a blog because it’s refreshed a lot (if you put work into it) and therefore ranks high and is shared more. You can also upload videos to sharing sites like YouTube or Vimeo and write for other blogs and/or news sites.
- Press: When a publication or blog writes something positive about you, especially if your name is in the title of the story, it can rank high as well, as well as give you traffic and credibility with that audience.
- Search engine optimization (SEO): Before, during and after you perform the above four strategies, you’ll want to think about how you can influence search engines. For example, if you want to own two keywords in the minds of your audience and dominate your niche, then you want to use them in the title and description field of your website or blog. There are many other SEO strategies out there, but since content is king, those with the best content will get the most links and therefore conquer search engines anyways.
What happens when someone brands you before you brand yourself?
Well, it depends on your mark of highest visibility. What I mean is that if you’re really success doing something you hate and you don’t invest the time to think about your branding, then you will always be known as something you despise. On the other hand, if you understand your brand and everything you touch has that branding, consistently, over a long period of time, then it will start to resonate with your audience. People brand other people very fast. It might have to do with what you’re wearing, if you’re beautiful or not, how you respond to a question or what your profession is.
The end result is that your audience is confused about what you do, what value you can provide to them, what your values are and your mission in life. There is no going back either. You can’t run down the hall and explain to them that you are someone different than you may have appeared. All bets are off. You probably don’t want to be known as the lazy intern or the drunk executive!
Pick a brand and sick with it!
You need to brand yourself even before someone even meets you in the first place. That way, the conversation is less of an introduction and people draw a line between who you are and what you do. I’m not saying that you won’t evolve your brand over time, but I’m trying to make the point that consistency is encouraged and preparation and execution are everything. When you’re not in a position doing what you love, then it’s hard to brand yourself based on who you are. When that happens, you’ll be branded based on a life you don’t want to have and nobody wants that. So take the time and think about what type of impression you want to make and what you want to be known for.
How do you think the people around you brand YOU?