Personal branding” is a buzz term these days. Google the phrase and you’ll get over 16 million hits. Now take your search a step further and Google yourself. What comes up? If you don’t find much, or if the results are irrelevant to your expertise, now’s the time to create your personal brand online.
Potential customers often conduct a search of people they might do business with. Think about it. Before engaging the service of a surgeon, accountant, consultant, broker, banker or other business expert aren’t you likely to do an online search to learn more about them? Too often, these searches don’t find much, or they find irrelevant information like statistics from a marathon someone ran five years ago. If people don’t find the information they’re looking for, you may be missing out on a business opportunity.
You can build your personal brand online in the form of articles, blog posts, social networking profiles, podcasts and videos. The more content you produce, the more people will see you. The more valuable your content, the more credible you will be. This is how you improve your brand and influence.
Producing valuable content can be a time-consuming and daunting task. Here are steps on how to begin the process with simplicity:
Step 1: Create online profiles
Most social networking sites let users create in-depth profiles. Use these profiles to package yourself–i.e., describe your area of expertise and define your unique selling proposition. Here are some sites to explore:
Or any other relevant social networking site for your industry.
Once your profiles are up, people can find them by searching on your name. Each of your online profiles should be consistent, and should clearly articulate your unique selling proposition. Tip: Present yourself as a subject matter expert, don’t cut and paste from your resume.
Step 2: Answer Questions
Once you have a well-defined profile and brand position, it’s time to produce content. Start off simple, and with a small time commitment, by answering questions posted on social networking sites.
Step 3: Post comments in blogs and news sites
Commenting on news and industry articles within your area of expertise is a great way to build your personal brand. Most industry sites, online newspapers and blogs have an area at the bottom of the articles that lets you post comments. Your comments can expand upon the knowledge offered in the article, or point the readers to more information. You can even direct them to an article on your own site, but be cautious of “advertorial” posts. You will get barred from posting comments on most sites if your responses are viewed as advertisements, or as ads in disguise.
Here are some sites to post comments on:
Local and national newspaper Web sites such as chichagotribune.com or USAToday.com invite users to post comments about stories published on their sites.
Blog sites also allow you to post your feedback to articles. Here are two highly trafficked blogs to look at:
Wall Street Journal Blogs — http://blogs.wsj.com
The Huffington Post — http://www.huffingtonpost.com
Many general and industry magazine sites let you post comments on articles:
The Economist http://www.economist.com
Business Week — http://www.businessweek.com
Fortune Small Business Question and Answers —http://money.cnn.com/smallbusiness/
Step 4: Writing Articles
Writing articles can take time, but they have a triple pay back. You can post the article on your Web site, distribute it through your (or other) email newsletters, and submit it for publication to numerous online and print magazines. Typically an article takes about eight hours to brainstorm, write, edit and proof. You can shorten that time by hiring a professional writer and giving them a list of bullet points you want your article to cover.
Step 5: Videos and Podcasts
Some people communicate more effectively through online video (vidcasting) or audio (podcasting). Consider posting video content on your site, and then reposting it on all the video sharing sites. Note: Search engines find videos by their titles. For best exposure be sure to include your name and area of expertise in the title of your video. Also, YouTube lets you create your own channel and control the content that goes on that page. It doesn’t require a lot of technology to produce highly engaging and interesting videos. If you’re unsure how to get started, ask your Web developer. They can point you to technical resources that will help you get started.
Step 6: Give people a reason to call
It’s rare to get compensated for your content, but good content will generate leads. When people find your content and it speaks to them, they want more. Show them where they can find you. Always include a byline under the title of your article with a brief bio at the end that links back to your site. For videos, be sure to tell people at the end how they can find out more information, and display a link on the screen. For podcasts, tell listeners how they can reach you. Every link back to you is an opportunity for leads to find you.
Business owners and executives often link their content back to their company Web site to evangelize their business and their position. Employees, freelancers and individuals should create a personal Web site and link back to that site. It’s easy to buy your name as a Web site domain, but your site name can also be related to your area of expertise. Your site should offer a collection of content that shows the depth of your knowledge. Be sure to give readers a way to contact you and a way to make purchases online.
Personal branding takes time and effort. Think of it like dieting and exercise. You have to make it an ingrained habit and part of your lifestyle. If you build it, they will come.
Vistage Speaker Jeremy Miller is a Partner with LEAPJob, a sales and marketing recruiting firm in Toronto, Canada. LEAPJob recruits sales and marketing professionals for many of Canada’s most recognized companies.