There have been countless incidents in which professionals have lost their jobs, been evicted, or even been arrested for things they’ve done on social networks. There has never been a more important time to discuss the many ways you can sabotage your personal brand, and how you can prevent these mistakes before it’s too late.
A new report by Microsoft states that 64% of HR managers think it is appropriate to look at online profiles of candidates and 41% have rejected people as a result. Your online presence which may consist of both content that you provide (on your LinkedIn profile for instance), as well as what’s written about you by people you may or may not know is slowly becoming part of the formal recruitment process. It’s also where first impressions occur before in-person handshakes are made, so you have to make sure you are managing your brand online, before someone else does it for you. The following are five ways to avoid sabotaging your personal brand.
1. Don’t Ignore Brand Mentions
58% of Americans don’t even Google themselves, but employers and potential customers certainly will. It’s safe to say that people are already talking about you, either online or offline.
As you create your personal brand on a variety of platforms, your name will start popping up in search engines and on social networks. This can be both beneficial to your brand or harmful depending on the context. The viral nature of social networks, as well as their new ubiquity, should encourage you to start listening in on what people are saying about you.
Negative mentions will spread fast unless you keep your ear close to the web, so I recommend you setup a Google alert for your name, your company’s name, key competitors, partners, and industry buzz terms. There are many other free tools that can help you monitor your brand. You can also try Social Mention for a more complete solution to brand mentions on social networks.
2. Don’t Spread Yourself Too Thin
A future problem, which some might say is a current problem, is the volume of social networks and the amount of status updates and messages you receive each day. If you’re active on each and every social network that launches, you will start to spread yourself too thin, which can really hurt your brand. You won’t possibly be able to update all of your social profiles, as well as keep track of pictures, profile information, groups, etc. In general, you should only join the largest social networks (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn), as well as those networks in your industry.
You should reserve your full name on as many of the popular social networks as possible by using a service such as namechk.com, before someone who shares your name claims them and you’re locked out for life. But just because you have claimed your name everywhere doesn’t mean you should expend valuable time and energy maintaining a presence on every social network.
There are some websites that allow you to scale your social feeds so that one status update can automatically spread to other networks, without manually publishing content. You can use hellotxt.com or ping.fm to spread your status message to many social networks at once, including Twitter, Facebook, MySpace and Bebo. You can also go to your LinkedIn profile and syndicate your tweets for your LinkedIn status update automatically or by using “#in” for each tweet (if you want to be selective). There is also a Facebook application for Twitter so you can syndicate your tweets through your Facebook profile.
3. Know Your Audience
It’s really easy to forget who you’re connected with on social networks as they grow. You might start out with high school, college, and summer camp friends, and then add some co-workers when you start a new job. There will be a point where you’re going to have to make a strategic decision, who you accept and who you don’t. The second you add your manager or colleagues is the time when you have to rethink what you publish or what you syndicate from other social networks. One mistake could cause you trouble.
On Facebook, you may want to have a profile page for your inner circle of friends and family members and then a Facebook Fan Page for your professional image. This way, you can make your profile private and hide it from search, while having a fan page that you can point your coworkers to. They will know that you are hiding your profile but should respect your privacy, especially since you’re giving them the option to follow your fan page.
4. Limit Self-Promotion
Certainly, self-promotion is an extremely important part of building your brand because if no one knows of your achievements or the company you work for, then how are they going to do business with you? Yet, I’ve noticed that people often over-promote themselves in various ways across the web.
Successful self-promotion only works in moderation, because if you’re constantly only promoting yourself, many people will unfollow, unfriend, or block you from their network. The best way to build a strong personal brand is to promote other people, which creates goodwill and a connection, as well as distributing value based on what you have to offer: Your expertise. If you’re helping people 80 or 90% of the time, then people will be much more accepting of your self-promotional messages the other 10%. You will also start to notice that other people will promote you and their endorsement is even stronger than your own proclamations.
5. Be Consistent
Consistency is extremely important when it comes to any kind of branding, from personal to corporate.
Selecting a unified “picture” and spreading it across all your social media your website, your blog, your presentations, your press kits, your business cards, etc. will build image recognition in the mind of your audience. Consistency is significant for pictures, your name, as well as the fonts, the colors and the overall message that you communicate through your online properties.
There is no question that you already have a personal brand whether you built it yourself or not. The way to differentiate it from everyone else is through management. By paying attention to mentions of your name online, not spreading yourself too thin, knowing your audience, offering more value than self-promotion, and being consistent, you can be very successful.