Whether you’re with a company or self-employed, it’s wise to build your personal brand. Doing so will lead to fresh opportunities.
Your brand is how people perceive you. If you’re managing it correctly, more opportunities will open for you and your business. If you manage a team, encourage them to nurture their brand as it will reflect well upon the company.
Building up a reputation isn’t something that will happen overnight, it’s a long-term strategy that requires work and perseverance. But with the tools now available, you have more opportunities to manage and shape your reputation.
Here are the basics to building your personal brand:
Define who you are
The first thing you should look out for is how people perceive you. If you’re looking to become a source, or known for a particular level of expertise, you will need to build your public image.
Look at your abilities and experiences. What do you offer? What separates you from others in your field? If you had to evaluate yourself, what words would you use to describe yourself? How would other people describe you? If you’re unsure about the latter, ask some trusted colleagues or friends to give their descriptions.
If their answer reflects the direction in which you want to go, you’re on the right track. If not, you will need to explore why and identify the steps necessary to change it.
It may sound obvious, but when someone is vetting a potential employee, he or she will Google that person’s name to find out as much about the candidate as possible. Don’t think that this won’t be the case for you; the majority of employers will do it, meaning that you should be aware of the results that appear.
Take a moment or two to search your own name and see what results appear. Chances are, the first page will display your social media profiles first. There could also be blog posts, articles, comments, and mentions that will appear. The results that appear on the first page will shape a stranger’s first impression of you.
In the case of your social media profiles, these can be easily rectified through some editing and adjustments with privacy. Unless you’re directly involved with a site, it can be difficult to modify or change any other results that appear. In that case, unless a link in question is incriminating, focus on only the results you can change.
Choose a portfolio
There are so many ways to showcase your skills and expertise, but picking one—the right one—is necessary. Do you go for a blog, an About.me profile, or a LinkedIn profile?
The answer is relevant to your line of work. A creative type would do well having a Flickr or Tumblr page showcasing his or her work; the majority of professionals would use a LinkedIn profile to connect with others in their industry. LinkedIn can be the most straightforward way of connecting with people. For a small price, the InMail function enables you to contact people with whom you’re not connected.
An About.me page
is also a good way of showcasing your skills and bringing together all of your social media profiles. It’s worth trying if you’re looking for a more creative way to display your talents.
If you provide value, people will want to follow and interact with you. But you need to determine the type of people you want interacting with you.
If you need direction, define your niche and focus on that niche only. Provide links relating to it, follow leaders within that field and those within the local scene, contribute to discussions, and interact with people. People won’t know you if you keep to yourself, so take the first step and interact; most people won’t mind, some are happy to continue the conversation.
When people become more familiar with you and are regularly engaging in conversations with you, they will also begin to trust you and your opinion. This is important; it will mean that they will vouch for you, potentially increasing the number of business opportunities you will get.
Don’t expect anything in return
It may sound counter-productive, but it’s an effective method of getting your name out there. The same principles that apply to social media apply here. When you’re networking, it’s tempting to go up to someone with the intention that they can help you with something. While it’s perfectly normal to feel that way, getting something in return should be a long-term strategy.
Think about it, if a stranger approached you one evening, introduced himself, and shortly thereafter asked for a favor, would you consider it? Chances are you wouldn’t—you don’t know him. However, if it was someone that you knew for quite a while, you would probably be more willing to act.
• Business Insider provides 10 tips from different experts about the best ways to develop your personal brand.
Quinton O'Reilly is a writer of social media/tech stuff for Simply Zesty, where a version of this story first appeared. Follow him on Twitter at @qoreilly.
• Although focused primarily on businesses, The Branding Muse gives some great branding advice that you can adapt for personal use.
• The Guardian explains how you already have a personal brand, whether you choose to develop it or not.
• Forbes provides the first steps you should take to build your personal brand.
• Inc.’s interview with Julia Allison focuses on the important features behind a good personal brand.