Branding isn’t just for businesses and groups. You, as an individual, have a brand. It may not be as publicized and as defined and what we commonly think of as branding, but your image and reputation is your brand. It’s how others see you, what you value, and your perspective or beliefs.
In today’s environment, defining, managing, and controlling your personal brand is critical. We pump so much out into the digital landscape, it’s easy for friends, businesses, colleagues and groups to find out about our opinions, family, career, and past. Even if they aren’t actively searching for you, your smart phone, apps and websites utilize data to automatically suggest applicable connections and content to you. For example, if you attend and check-in on Facebook at a chamber event, Facebook may automatically begin suggesting new “friends” to you who were also at that event. So these people you just met are already seeing your Facebook profile. Is your Facebook profile ready for business associates to peruse or do you have some embarrassing photos still posted publicly? This is just one of thousands of scenarios where controlling and managing your personal brand is important.
Having a strong personal brand will influence the opinion others have of you, and it can help you land a new job, connect with a new client, or many other positive repercussions. On the flip side, if your brand is weak, non-existent, inconsistent, or unprofessional, you could be passed up for a promotion, loose an account or miss an important connection.
How do you define and manage your personal brand?
- Define Your Two Personas
First, start by defining what your personal brand is versus your professional brand. This can be as simple as making a list of characteristics for each, as pictured in the example. It’s okay if aspects of yourself end up under both columns. If you’d like to take this exercise a step further, write a short paragraph describing each persona. This will come in handy later.
Some individuals will have more overlap than others. I find this commonly among realtors. In many cases, they are their brand, some even using their face almost like a logo.
- Establishing Your Goals
Adding onto the first step, create a new header labeled, “Goals”. Now, list what your goals are for each persona. Look back at the words you chose for your personal brand. What do you want to accomplish related to those? What are your personal goals for the next year and next five years? Do you want to reconnect with those you grew up with? Do you want to raise awareness for a cause you believe in?
Now do the same for your professional persona. What do you want to accomplish professionally? Do you want a promotion, new job, or to start your own business? Do you want to be recognized publicly? Do you want to build your clientele? What can your professional persona bring you?
Knowing these are invaluable. It will help you choose or create content for each persona.
- Target Your Audience
Now that you know who you are and what you want, you can match your personas to the right social media outlets, web platforms, business affiliations, and groups. Once again, overlap is bound to happen, but you will have to determine if you have two profiles on one platform or if one platform can serve both personas with one profile.
Let’s start with the common social media platforms: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Snapchat.
Futurpreneur.ca does a great job in its Breakdown of Social Media Platforms and Their Uses
Facebook – Used for a wide variety of purposes. Users can join public and private groups, both professional or personal. Facebook offers great, customizable security settings to give you the ability to restrict your profile as much or as little as you like. Furthermore, you can segment your “friends” providing the ability to share personal posts and photos with family and friends and professional content with colleagues and acquaintances. Additionally, you can create a separate professional profile, group, and/or business page. Facebook is the all-around most versatile and adaptable social media platform.
Twitter-Like Facebook, it is used for a variety of purposes, but in a completely different way. With Twitter, you need to know what the users in your area are utilizing it for. In Central Florida, I have found it primarily used for news distribution and business-to-business communication. In other areas, individuals are Tweeting personal information. You have the ability to create a personal profile, a professional profile and/or a business on Twitter. Depending on how Twitter is being used in the areas you are targeting, you can create the account type(s) you need.
LinkedIn-The most focused of the social media platforms. LinkedIn was created for and is primarily used for professional/business purposes. You can create a profile for your professional persona and a business page if needed. Predominantly, the content posted on LinkedIn is solely business related.
Snapchat-A new platform generally used by millennials and younger. This platform is generally used for personal, private communication. Posts are viewable for a limited time by the audience you’ve selected. Additionally, private messages can be sent to groups or individuals which disappear after being viewed. Depending on your professional persona and goals, Snapchat can still be a great method of connecting with your audience. Large corporations, national brands and celebrities are utilizing it professionally. On a smaller scale, bars, nightlife venues, restaurants and breweries are using Snapchat professionally to connect with younger audiences.
When determining if a web-platform, online group, and any other platform or affiliation is appropriate for your personal branding, reduce the opportunity to a simple description and audience. This will help you determine if it’s an opportunity personally, professionally, both, or not applicable. Don’t waste your time joining a networking group that doesn’t put you in contact with the audience you need to reach in order to meet your goals. Don’t sign up for a new social media if it isn’t going to further your personal goals or put you in contact with your friends. Pick and choose wisely. Your time and information is precious.
- Security settings
Aligning your social media security settings with your personal branding goals is important. Based on your goals, you need to determine what level of access strangers, followers’ friends, and friends have to your profiles, posts and photos. How personal or private is your personal brand? Do you want your personal persona to be completely private and only shared with friends or is your personal and professional personas tied together? How much access the public should have to your personal side should dictate the level of security you choose.
One of the best things about Facebook is that you don’t have to choose. As discussed above, you can segment your friends and give each photo, album and post an individualized level of security/access.
- Think before posting – choose appropriate venue
This sounds simple, but I see poor judgement in posting almost every day. Before posting content, sharing a local event, or article, determine 1) if sharing it helps you accomplish any of the goals you listed 2) if it does, should it be personal or professional.
For example, I see an article on a local political candidate who I agree with. What goal does this help me achieve? I can raise awareness for the political party I affiliate with and the issues the candidate is pushing. Where should I post it? It aligns with my personal goals and persona, so I should post it on my personal social media platforms, like Facebook and Instagram.
There are many lists of what not to post, and these may seem obvious, but they aren’t because many people make these mistakes daily. Here’s one YouTube video recapping what not to post.
Even when posting on your personal pages, it is important to remember that you are still vulnerable. Simple rule: don’t post anything you wouldn’t want your parents or boss to see. If your post doesn’t add value to your goals or to the readers, don’t post it. Additionally, do not post cryptic open-ended statuses. For example, It’s time for a change, That’s IT. I am DONE dating, This is a big day!, and random celebrity quotes with no explanation.
- Control – check, ask for feedback, google.
This is the control phase of your branding. Periodically, assess your security measures to make sure they are still providing the level of access you want. Security settings change regularly on social media platforms and need to be checked.
Make sure what you’re doing is helping you and adding value to others’. Ask your friends (in person, not in a post) what they think of your personal branding and social media presence. Invite them to give you honest feedback. Scroll through a month’s worth of posts and compare them to the goals you outlined. Are you following the plan? Do you need to right the ship and get back on task? During this step, you can delete any posts that do not directly align with your branding plan.
Using an incognito browsing tab, Google yourself. This is the ultimate check-and-balance. Is what appears in the search results what you want visible by the general public? If not, revisit security settings again.
You may find old profiles and material that you no longer have access to. If you do not have access to the old content, you will have to go through the processes to have that information removed. Each site will be different.
This is a dense topic and I’ve only outlined the basics, so stay tuned.