[This is an extended version of a piece I wrote on LinkedIn]
I harnessed the power social media and personal branding long before it was a term. I organically grew up as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and so many other networks were very young. It is natural for me to reach out, connect, and talk to my peers and to people I feel can offer me more insight in my career.
I’ve had many years to look back and hone the skills that came to me naturally. These days, my job is to teach those lessons to help an entire membership-based organization grow to be better connected and successful.
I also have opportunities like this week when I get to speak to Stony Brook University’s Women’s Leadership Symposium about the power of a personal brand. I plan to share a peek into how I’ve taken my career into new directions thanks to social media branding. I hope my insight to professors, students and other professionals will help each woman walk away looking forward to owning her personal brand.
First, I think it’s important to note that you can own your personal brand without sharing your personal address. You can do a few things that make it easy for people to contact you without releasing your official phone number or address.
Use Google Voice so you can share a phone number without feeling that you’re giving away too much information. It’s a great tool. If you purchase your own URL spend a little extra to keep your account information private. If you hope to use a lot of snail mail in combination with your online life, it can’t hurt to consider purchasing a post office box or a mailbox at a shipping store.
Second, think about how you want to be portrayed online. What type of skills and experiences do you want to be known for? Then, it’s time to get to business.
Search your name on all browsers
When I say “all” browsers, I really mean focus in on Google, Yahoo, and Bing. Make sure you aren’t signed into those services. That will give you a better picture of what other people see when they look up your name. Searching for your name online helps you get a look at your personal brand. It shows the digital footprint that already exists with your name. Often this footprint can exist without you even trying. Just participating in public events or having articles written about you can build up a digital footprint. Why not own it yourself? You can, but it means you need to create additional content on the Internet.
Do you have a name everyone seems to have?
That’s okay. Search your name and where you go to school or the name of your current workplace. You can also search your name and a generic term for the industry you work.
Do you like what you see?
Awesome. Then keep up the good work you’re already doing. But if you want to see more of you in search, there are ways to build out your online presence with the help of social media and blogging tools.
Create a personal website and social media accounts
If you want to build your name online, you need to own your name. I decided a long time ago I wanted to be known with a combination of my maiden and married names (I legally changed my maiden name into my middle name). I became “Jen Lee Reeves” each time I joined a social network. I also made sure I used the same profile picture with every account. That makes it easier for a person searching for you to know your accounts are connected.
For example, I’m writing this post on this blog, but a similar post is on LinkedIn. If you establish yourself on a blog tool like Blogger, WordPress or Tumblr, you have a free tool to own your work and your presence. Only telling your thoughts and ideas on social media means those products own your work. I strongly believe in offering your insight on your own website and distributing your thoughts across social media platforms. I’ve included a graphic that explains what I mean.
Another example was a time I held a really great conversation on Facebook with a special needs community I lead. I took that conversation and broke it down on my blog, Born Just Right, so I could give more context and continue to own the conversation instead of Facebook.
Everything either starts or ends on your personal site.
Join social media sites and link to your personal website
Search engines pay more attention to your personal website when more sites link back to it. If you have never joined any social media accounts before and you want to focus on your professional status, I would join in this order:
All social networks have the potential to be a tool to help you gain more insight for your career. LinkedIn is the most obvious. It’s focused on making connections with people with whom you have a professional relationship. I have a personal rule where I do not connect with someone on LinkedIn without having some kind of professional contact. I also do not connect unless I know I’m able to give a reference about that person if a potential employer asks me questions. The only time I violate that rule is if someone connects to me who can offer me an opportunity to help others find employment or I have an extra employment opportunity.
Twitter is the most public space to make connections. For me, it’s been the most important space to reach out beyond my existing circles of influence. It’s also a great space to just read what others have to say. According to Twitter, 60 percent of users ONLY read content and do not post or interact with other users. You can be that person, but you won’t be using it to its fullest potential.
Facebook has the ability to connect with just your friends and family but you can also offer public posts that anyone can read. You can also make your personal profile public. I consider this an additional space to share my personal resume. I only share professional information publicly. The majority of the music festivals and kid events are shared to friends only. The professional stuff is shared for all.
I feel the same way with Google+. Your profile is a great public space to help more people see you. Also, sharing your personal website links on Google+ is bound to get it into Google’s search engines a little faster than any other social network.
Pinterest is a huge link driver. If you use good visuals with your post, it can catch someone’s eye and lead them to your personal website. You might be surprised to see the kind of traffic Pinterest can bring.
Instagram is also a professional opportunity. You can share a personal link and share a mix of personal and professional. I can’t tell you how many conferences I’ve attended this year and the first thing someone says is they love my Instagram feed. Images are more memorable and taking the time to share those moments can go a long way.
Don’t jump into every social media space at once
Building your personal brand is not a sprint. It’s a marathon. Take your time and think seriously about which social networks can help you reach your goals.
My goal? These days it’s to help spread the word on how to be a good steward in the web word. That means being true to yourself when you “talk” online. Be a good person and treat every post you share as if you were putting a bumper sticker on a car or a sign in the lawn in front of where you live.
To make sure everything goes well, an important item you should also think of as you join each account is your security. A professional person inside social media does everything he or she can do to avoid getting accounts hacked. Use two-step login security features. Connect your cell phone and take the extra step to confirm that you are really logging into a service. It’s worth the protection.
Make sure you keep track of your social social media presence
There are some tools that help you keep up with all of the tools you use to manage your personal brand… Especially if you plan to not only use social media to listen but to also share content and interact with others. For tracking Twitter conversations and post, I love Tweetdeck. It’s eye candy to track topics and conversations. But if you want to follow multiple social accounts at the same time, it may be worth spending $10 a month using Hootsuite. Another way to save time is using Buffer, which will share social posts during what the company considers optimal times to publish posts to your followers. But if you use scheduling tools, be aware that you’ll see social media users interacting with you and if you sent a post encouraging engagement, you should be ready to participate.
Social media posts can be treated like email. You should reply but you don’t have to reply immediately. But if you are sharing posts during live events or ask questions, you should be ready to reply relatively quickly.
Make sure you share all of your social spaces
I always share my social media spaces on my websites and on all of my social sites (you can share all of your links on Facebook, LinkedIn and Google+) but I also absolutely love about.me. The site offers a free spot to claim your name and share every single social site where you can be found. Check out the simple one page website I’ve used for a long time.
Personal branding is obviously my passion. It’s made my entire career possible since 2005. You have the chance to use any and all of these tips to create a digital footprint that you can proudly show off to anyone searching your name. Good luck and have fun!