How many of you know what you look like online? Do you have a professional image that fits your business persona? What does your profile and snippets of information tell people about you as a person and a professional? Is there a clear connection between you and your business?
What does it matter you ask? Surely, it’s not that important. My brand is my business, not me.
A penny please for every time I have heard this.
So next question. When you get out and about networking and meeting with people, shaking their hand, having a conversation, connecting on some commonality and looking them in the eye. Which do they remember? You or your business name?
Oh both you answer. Really? I know from personal experience, usually, it’s the face and name that I remember. If I have their business card, then I will be able to look and see the business name but generally speaking, it’s the person I’ve connected with, not a faceless business. Because the person I met was the face of the business.
Is personal branding a buzzword?
Personal branding has been about for a few years now and the comments I hear are generally in the tone of just another buzzword and marketing noise. However, recently there’s been a lot of chatter, from notables like Dorie Clark, Mark Kawasaki and Mark Schaeffer who have presented very logical and practical arguments for placing a focus on your personal brand.
Let’s strip away all of the noise and just focus on what personal branding is and why you should look after it.
What is personal branding?
First and lasting impressions are made in micro seconds. It doesn't matter whether or not it's face-to-face or online. People will make a million assumptions and jump to a million conclusions in a millisecond before they have even thought about whether or not the assumptions are reasonable.
Personal branding is as simple as that. What impression do you leave when people look you up online?
From a digital perspective, people will make assumptions based on the image you select to represent you online, the type of website that you have and whether or not it looks homespun or professional, how up to date and complete your LinkedIn profile is and whether you have a Facebook profile. What’s available to see about you, both personal and professionally speaks volumes. As does what’s not there.
Consider this example. I met a lovely chap at a networking lunch the other week. He is an IT consultant. He helps businesses keep their IT/ computer needs running and up to date.
He has no website, no LinkedIn profile or Facebook profile. As an IT professional, that immediately says a few things to me. He is not up to date with trends, he is not successful enough to have his ‘sh**^%’ together, and I have no evidence to go on as to what kind of business he runs and whether it’s a good fit for me. All I have is his ‘sales’ pitch when I met him and impression from our first meeting.
Given that 78% of consumers trust peer recommendations, if there is nothing to go on to validate what he says, then the chances of me trusting him and wanting to learn more about him, are against the odds.
His lack of digital presence leads me to my next key point.
Why would you bother with personal branding?
To be found. If there is nothing on you to be found, you can’t be found.
It really is as simple as that. If, as part of your business you get out and about networking, then it makes sense that you have a digital profile that matches the personal impression you make when you are meeting people.
If you are reliant on referrals, providing information online about you and your business substantiates the referral, and may be whats needed to galvanise the person into action and reach out to do business with you.
But isn’t that the role of your business profile? Your business profile is equally important, but if people remember you – not the business name – then what good is your business profile.
Your personal profile is an extension of your business. It’s about making you AND your business as discoverable as possible. If you are running a smaller sized business, you may be interested to know that more people ‘trust’ smaller businesses, because the perception is that they will do the right thing, as it’s a ‘real person’ behind the business. Providing a face to the business is the way to give them a sense of the real person behind the business and someone for them to trust.
I also think that it’s important to let your personal network know that you are open for business. Word of mouth and referral marketing is still the most trusted form of marketing. If people know you, like you and trust you, then it’s natural for them to recommend you when it’s appropriate. So once again, being easily found online for someone to refer you seems like a logical thing to do.
How do you create a good personal impression in the digital age?
It’s not that hard. A few simple housekeeping things and you can make a great impression for those looking to find you.
Your email signature
When you’re sending emails out, make sure that your details are in the signoff. Include your company name, your email address, a website URL to your business name if that's where you want to drive people, social media accounts, and obviously a logo.
It provides easy access to all your digital ‘proof points’ and makes you look professional.
Your LinkedIn profile
Make sure that your LinkedIn profile is up to date with all of your experience and skills. Here are a few items to check off as having your LinkedIn profile in good shape:
- Include a succinct summary that highlights what you do, what your business does, and how you help your ‘target’ market.
- Make sure your LinkedIn profile has a link to your business website.
- Make sure that you’ve got some personal recommendations from people that you have either worked with or you have done work for in the past.
- Give endorsements in order to get endorsements around your skillset.
Even if you think that your customers are not on LinkedIn, it’s a great way to make sure your name is easily found in the search engines. LinkedIn has a lot of search juice and will ensure you rank for your name when someone searches for it.
Your Facebook profile
If you have a Facebook profile, then you have a choice to make. Use the privacy settings to make it public, friends or ‘only me’. If you make it public, then make sure that there is a clear link to your Facebook business page from your personal profile. You don’t want people to find you, then not be able to connect you to your business.
If you set it to ‘friends’ then only those people that you accept as friends will see your posts, which might be your goal, if you want to keep your private life private.
The catch on being ‘private’ is that there are limitations to what you can do with your business page in terms of reaching out and connecting with people who are not your friends on Facebook.
If you choose to make your profile public, and you’ve been on it for a while, particularly through your wild and wacky younger years where perhaps you might have done and posted things about you that perhaps aren’t showing you in the best light, then use Facebook memories to go through and remove any inappropriate posts. If you know that you have friends that have posted things that are compromising, go and ask them to remove it.
Own your name
You should consider, even if you don't build your own website, purchasing your name as a domain name. You should also check the search results in Google for your name and see what comes up.
If other people share your name then you need to take steps to make sure you rank equally or preferably above these ‘other’ people.
Consider building a simple website for your name. This step does depend on what your business is and whether it makes sense to have a dedicated website. If you are positioning yourself as an expert in any way shape or form, then generally a simple one-page website that provides details of your expertise and either how you can be booked for speaking gigs or how to contact you would make sense. Make sure it points to your other important digital points such as your business website and LinkedIn profile and other social media platforms.
You should also look for and take your name on all of the principal social media platforms. You can actually check the availability of your name with a really cool tool called https://namechk.com/.
This will list all of the key platforms like Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter etc and tell you whether your name is available. At the very least you should go and grab what’s available, even if you don’t end up having an active account.
Have consistent image and contact details
Make sure you have the one consistent photo for each of your profiles. Your photo should be professional, well lit, that is your face only, and symmetrical, and appropriate to your business. If you’re a fitness trainer then don’t dress in a suit. If you’re a consultant, then don’t have a holiday snap of you, looking relaxed with a glass of wine in your hand (unless that’s what you’re consulting on!).
A consistent photo across all platforms will ensure that you are easily recognised as soon as they see you. Consistent contact details will add to that. Where appropriate, there should be a brief and consistent description of you that accompanies your name and contact details. It might be what you do and something unique and different about you.
Publish on your expertise
If you are in the business of selling something that you are an expert on, then make sure you have published some content that helps to demonstrate this. This takes many formats. LinkedIn is great for publishing articles under your profile, as is on your business website or personal website – making sure you have a ‘by ….. ‘ tag on the articles.
Better yet, guest blogging on other people’s website is good for raising your profile and helping you get discovered.
There are many other ways to put your ‘expertise’ forward. For example, my trainer is great at putting forward sensible myth-dispelling information on fad diets and exercise regimes just on his Facebook page. It doesn’t always have to be formal articles, but certainly, content that speaks to your beliefs and expertise helps to build a credible and useful profile online.
Being discovered means that you must have a good digital profile in place. Don’t miss opportunities to make the most of your personal networking efforts and have them go to waste. Showing that there is a real person with values and substance behind it will only work in your favour.
Thanks to https://pixabay.com/en/users/milivanily-742747/ for the image. Much appreciated and published under CC0 Public Domain