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HomemibusinessPersonal Brand: Will Yours Haunt or Enhance Your Future?

Personal Brand: Will Yours Haunt or Enhance Your Future?

In the age of the digital tattoo, what you contribute to social networking sites today will impact your personal brand for life… so it’s well worth thinking about how you want to be perceived in your personal and professional life before you hit the keyboard.

As a working Mum with three kids, a dog, multiple fish and now a rabbit, the days, months and years tend to slip by in the blink of an eye. It’s impossible to sit for five minutes to think about my own future – let alone my children’s – yet it’s something I know I need to find time to do.

It’s not that I want to dream about the places they’ll win at university, to envisage them excelling in their chosen professions or settling into loving supportive relationships, each with their own three children, dog, fish…

It’s more that I need to consider how they are presenting themselves now, how those representations positively reflect their personalities – and how they will impact their futures as they enter into adulthood. I need to help them manage their personal brand.

If you’re out to build and promote your personal brand quickly, there is no doubt that social media is the most effective, cost efficient strategy

It seems strange – even vulgar – to think that my children need personal brands – let alone to consider the need to manipulate the ones they’re already putting out there. As if they’re products that I’m shaping, preparing for the retail market. Hoping to get the best price – the best return – on my investment.

It’s a Different World

Once upon a time, children were free to be themselves – the photos taken and interactions tightly held by just a few. Their thoughts diarised, locked with a
key and slipped under the bed.

Not so today. Kids encourage each other to post photos and thoughts on social networking sites like Facebook, bebo, myspace or Twitter, for the whole world to see. For some, the wilder the better.

Yet an emotional digital outburst perceived as harassment, or shared information considered a breach of confidence or copyright, could lead to serious legal action.

An ill thought out night with friends, or dare I say it, experiments with alcohol, drugs or sexual partners captured digitally and uploaded to social media sites will impact friendships, relationships and job prospects for years to come.

Unwittingly, they are creating a digital tattoo that can never be erased from their personal brand.

No Longer Just for Business

Branding used to be a ‘big business’ thing – millions of dollars invested to determine what makes customers trust one company or product over another… followed by the creation of a brand and an advertising campaign aimed at winning business and loyalty.

These days, while companies big and small continue to invest in building corporate brands, individuals too have realised the value.

A personal brand defines who you are – it’s always with you, communicating your personal and professional qualities, what you value, the way you behave and what people can expect when they interact with you. A consistently positive personal brand will help you win new friends, customers and patients, build wider social networks, and strengthen existing relationships.

Not that that means you should constantly sell yourself – that won’t appear to be genuine. You simply need to put your best self forward, with honesty, transparency and consistency.

Importantly, your personal brand also contributes to your company’s over-arching corporate brand. After all, customers are attracted to products or services promoted by the corporate brand but they transact with you, the individual. In most cases, especially in a competitive environment, the personal brand of the individual they deal with during the sales or service process will determine whether or not they return for future transactions.

Arguably, it’s more important for small businesses – like an optical practice – to employ staff with positive, aligned personal brands than it is for large corporations to do so. That’s because in a small business, customers are likely to deal with the same staff members or proprietors time and time again. The personal skills, expertise, sales abilities and one-on-one qualities of those few people will contribute to the company brand and build customer loyalty.

Where to Start

Your personal brand is communicated at every level – from the clothes you wear and the way you carry yourself, to the work you do, the leisure activities you engage in and the way you interact with people -personally, professionally and on-line.

If you’re out to build and promote your personal brand quickly, there is no doubt that social media is the most effective, cost efficient strategy to achieve your objective.

Create a Consistent Brand

Stop for a while and think about who you are as a person, and how you like your friends, colleagues, customers and suppliers to perceive you. This is the essence of your personal brand and it’s what you need to promote consistently in all of your personal and public interactions.

Importantly too, is the need to come up with one name that you can use on all of your social media sites so that your would be followers can easily find you. This sounds simple but it can be complex. For example, you may choose to use your legal name, but find that while its available on Facebook, its already taken on Flickr… by a 16 year old drug addled wanna-be rock star… not the personal brand you want to communicate to prospective eye care professionals or customers.

If you plan to create a profile on several websites, knowem.com is a good place
to check out the availability of your chosen name.

Build your profile

It’s all very well to create a Facebook page or a Twitter account, but unless you’ve got people regularly visiting your sites, no one will get to know you. The answer is to actively build a network of ‘friends’ or ‘followers’. To do this, you’ll need to participate on other people’s sites. Look at the social media pages of your colleagues, friends, suppliers and customers. Make intelligent comments on the issues they’ve brought to light, contribute to discussions. Pretty soon, people visiting the pages you’re contributing to will click through to yours. Then, they’ll begin to learn more about you.

Relevance Rules

Whatever you do, however you choose to do it, ensure the content you upload to social media sites is relevant and interesting. Once again, think first about the personal brand you aim to promote and then about the content your colleagues, customers, friends and suppliers most want to read. Be original and concise. Don’t post when your angry, tired or inebriated! And importantly, encourage feedback – start a conversation that will inspire others to join in… help people get to know the you that you want them to know.