Many Generation Y and X folks with digital DNA are looking toward the online medium to build their personal brands. And this is without doubt a smart move on their behalf: the countless benefits and untapped potential that the Web 2.0 can offer for those serious about personal branding are too many to list. And yet, if you belong to this praiseworthy group I wouldn’t like to sugar the pill for you. Building a successful personal brand online – especially if you don’t have a sizable budget or access to the media or offline networks and resources – is anything but easy: it requires ample doses of dedication, persistence, creativity, resilience and above all time.
Being perfectly aware that time is a precious commodity, it is highly advisable to follow a proven strategy that delivers and focus on the areas of expertise that you will need in order to obtain the best possible ROI (return on investment) for your efforts. Thanks to the many low-cost or freely available resources on the Web – Personal Branding Blog is one of them! – it is possible to acquire all the skills an abilities necessary to plot your course to personal branding success role-modelling on those who have already succeeded in this phenomenal endeavor. You don’t always need to reinvent the wheel, though it goes without saying that generic personal branding principles must always be tailored to each specific case.
There are four crucial elements that you need to get right if you are to create a memorable brand you can feel proud of in the real-time, fast-paced online medium. They are what I will describe as ‘the four aces of online Personal Branding’ that I am happy to share with you here.
Values are the defining element, the backbone of an online personal or business brand. New social media and technological apps will arise in the coming years, and some of the taken-for-granted online avenues for the promotion of your brand may come and go, but your values (or lack thereof!) will remain the core of what Peter Montoya dubbed ‘the brand called you’ informing every post, every update, every corner of your online presence. Being true to the values you hold dear and making sure they permeate your online strategy will make you different, credible and authentic and help your community relate to you in a stronger and deeper sense that will sooner or later translate into tangible benefits.
Tips: Tempting as this may be, do not misrepresent yourself or promise more than you can deliver. Build your moral fibre as you engage your community in the social media. Be ready to apologize when you make a mistake or fall short of your professed values.
Thanks to the Web 2.0 and its associated technologies, we are more transparent than ever and it is significantly easier to transmit the essence of who we are. As you build your online persona, you are given the chance to make your personality and idiosincrasy shine and by so doing to differentiate yourself from the crowd. For that to happen, you must be ready to reveal a side of yourself that makes you a unique and likeable individual for your online community. Consistency and coherence pay and so does a sense of humour, but it is unwise to be prescriptive and there is ample room for your unique traits and character to be communicated in the best possible light.
Tips: Be yourself, and don’t pretend to be something or someone you are not. Show the same respect to others you would like shown back to you even if they are markedly different in their social, political or religious views. Round the sharp edges of your personality as you develop your brand.
3. Inbound Marketing.
Unless you have a sizeable marketing and/or PR budget at your disposal, inbound marketing will in all likelihood be the preferential marketing model to build your brand online. Inbound marketing invites you to produce a steady output of quality contents you will have previously optimized for maximum effect in the social media and the web so that you can obtain a number of specific results from interested potential customers amongst others. Since you probably will not be in a position to purchase people’s attention through advertising, you will have to earn it through magnetized contents that attract qualified leads that help you build and expand your brand. You will have to research the keywords that your brand will be associated with and also work out your ‘target clients’ that will make up your budding online community and help you reach your goals.
Tips: Become familiar with inbound marketing techniques by reading Hubspot’s Inbound Marketing and KunoCreative‘s Blogs and other quality materials. Seek to add value to your followers through your segmented contents that go well beyond a sales pitch and are not centered on you but on them and their needs.
4. Online Reputation Management.
I have argued elsewhere that personal branding and online reputation are natural allies. As you brand evolves and expand and the engagement of your community becomes more intense, you will sooner or later have to deal with founded or unfounded criticism and maybe even with an online communication crisis where you become the centre of attention. You need to be ready for such an eventuality by crafting an online reputation strategy that includes ‘egosurfing’ or ‘egosearching’ through a more or less sophisticated monitorization of your brand name and most crucial keywords. This will allow you to remain one step ahead and react to any potential crisis when it can still be defused and before it escalates and threatens to undo your hard work. A good online reputation is springboard to greater online influence and generates trust in your brand.
Tips: Set up a monitorization strategy with some of the freely available tools and programs (Twazzup, SocialMention, Google Alerts and the like) that allows you to keep up with online buzz about you. Make sure that you interact with your community following the best online reputation criteria: don’ alienate with offhand comments or harsh criticism, be ready to mount a strong yet elegant defence of your brand when unfairly attacked and once more apologize if you have fallen short of your standards or promises.
These four aces – Values, Personality, Inbound Marketing and Online Reputation – will translate into a winning streak for your brand if you use them synergistically, reflect upon and upgrade your knowledge on each of them. I invite you to take them on board and make them an integral part of your Personal Branding. They will be worth the effort.