We’re online, all of us. Google ensures this. Potential employers, clients, professors, classmates – all of them will Google you. A recent CareerBuilder survey found that a majority of employers that researched candidates used content found online to reject those applicants. What story will Google tell its users about you?
How we are portrayed online, such as through Google search results, is a key part of our “personal brand.” Our brand represents an online identity — a body, often disaggregated, of content that sheds light on our lives. In many instances, that online identity is the first impression a stranger develops of us.
If your online identity is the universe of online content about you, your personal brand is a narrative that you create to tell your story. Your personal brand is an interpretation; it’s packaging of your experiences and practiced or developed interests. Your brand illustrates your path and goals.
Curating engaging, tailored content and activity via the recognized, free social platforms LinkedIn and Twitter is one effective way to create and broadcast a personal brand that reflects your interests and goals. This article focuses on how to use LinkedIn and Twitter to develop an effective personal brand, such as by optimizing Google search results, and to share ways to establish your user presence.
WHAT’S YOUR BRAND?
Effective personal brands change over time and with our needs. As a result, effective brands can be used for a number of purposes, such as job searches, client development, professional networking, and social marketing. Personal brands are developed by selecting or creating content about your experiences, and practiced or developed interests. Content that does not define, reinforce, or refine your experiences and interests should be omitted.
The first step toward developing an effective personal brand is understanding that coherent and compelling brands speak with confidence and authenticity. Honing in on the content and narrative that allows your brand to reflect an authentic portrayal of your experiences and interests, and to demonstrate your confidence in that content, can be challenging. One route to speaking with confidence and authenticity is identifying your consistent strengths and proclivities. What articles do you read when you’re just passing time? From what activities do you draw strength or find enjoyable? Your brand should reflect your core practiced and developed interests, playing to your demonstrated strengths rather than mere aspirations.
Your second brand development priority is understanding how your brand reflects your goals. As you develop your brand, consider how your personal brand will be used and identify the experiences and interests that reflect your goals. And realize that your goals will change over time.
A third point to keep in mind when developing your personal brand is that brand development is an iterative process. You test ideas, refining what seems to speak confidently and authentically and that reflects your goals, and discarding what doesn’t fit or ring true.
Used thoughtfully, LinkedIn is one of the most powerful tools for establishing and maintaining a personal brand. Essential characteristics of a traditional, well-crafted LinkedIn presence include:
- Set Your Preferences. Preference settings should reflect your personal goals and tastes. For more visibility, make your profile publicly available, turn on activity broadcasts and enable updates on your home page (on LinkedIn). Note that you can choose how much of your profile to make publicly visible (e.g., via a Google search).
- Show Them Your Best Side. Use a profile picture that depicts you in a professional manner. Candid or amusing shots, however elegantly cropped, probably won’t cast you in the right light. Your picture should be at least 500 by 500 pixels.
- Personalize Your Profile. Most engaging LinkedIn profiles are personalized. Begin by creating a personalized URL for your profile. Add this URL to your resume, email signature, and business card.
- Headline and Summary. List your current title and employer in your headline. Don’t list phone numbers, email addresses or websites. Your summary is a personal introduction. It should tell a story – your story. Frame your experience generally or specifically to reiterate the interest, experience you’re trying to project. Include information that provides color: personal interests, a sense of humor or irony, a strong work ethic.
- Layered Experience. Provide a summary describing each organization that you have worked for or with and that is highlighted on your Profile. “Layer” your work for these organizations. Layering your profile involves adding detail and depth to the experiences described through linking to interactive content. Include links to your published works, infographic resume, website, and portfolio, as applicable.
- Education. Include a summary describing your schools. List courses that are particularly relevant to your professional goals. Always list professional, social, and other (noteworthy) extracurricular activities.
- Skills. Limit the skills listed on your profile to 10 or fewer, and focus on the skills relevant to your professional goals.
- Connect to Your Twitter Account. Your LinkedIn and Twitter presence should complement one another. Include your Twitter account in your contact information. Consider publishing LinkedIn updates on your Twitter feed.
A thoughtfully conceived and executed Twitter strategy that complements a curated LinkedIn presence can establish and broadcast a powerful, engaging online brand.
Use a Twitter account for professional or personal purposes, not for both. If you use Twitter to broadcast personal messages and opinion, consider anonymizing a “personal” account and establishing a “professional” account that’s easily linked to you (i.e., via your LinkedIn contact information).
Essential characteristics of a traditional, well-crafted Twitter presence include:
- Preferences. Twitter’s preference settings are extensive; set aside time to review and understand them. If you want your Twitter posts to be publicly available – the default setting – DO NOT select “Protect my Tweets” in the Privacy settings.
- Profile Photo & Header Banner. Good, effective Twitter profile photos are interesting. Ideally, they grab your attention and say something about who you are, what drives you. That said, you’re still looking for images that cast you in the right light. Consider your goals by developing your brand if you are unsure whether an image is appropriate. Note that your header photo should be 1252 by 626 pixels.
- Content. Tweets may not exceed 140 characters. Nonetheless, your Twitter activity can be more subjectively expressive than your LinkedIn activity, revealing aesthetic tastes as well as topical interests. Easy and, generally, “safe” expressive content includes Tweeting (or re-Tweeting) other users’ comments, news articles, quotes, and certain photos. Be mindful of whether your Tweets reflect your interest areas, tastes, and are consistent with your branding goals.
- The Company You Keep. Following other Twitter users – individuals, entities, or subjects – can keep you up to date on current events, information, opinion, and hint at your interest areas and affiliations. Twitter users may follow you to promote themselves, their products, or their services. You should periodically review your followers and remove those who don’t fit with your branding goals.
AVOID ADVERSE BRANDING
Minimize “downside” branding by carefully locking down your Facebook and Instagram accounts. Studies have shown that most people do not professionally benefit from allowing employers – current or potential – or clients to view their Facebook activity.
Remember, your online brand is your story. It’s an interpretation. Getting your brand right doesn’t happen overnight. Brand development consists of considering different stories. You experiment, iterate, repeat. You search for professional engagement that “makes sense” in the context of your goals, you talents, your priorities. You are relating what you’ve done to what you’re striving toward, striving to do or test.
About the Author