When people look for you on Google, what do they find?
These days, it’s likely that someone will “meet” you online, before they every shake your hand. What does your online presence say about who you are, and what you can do for your prospective clients or buyers?
Developing and cultivating your online brand is as important (and in some cases, even more important) as developing it it through more traditional channels (i.e., through networking, advertising or PR). When you build brand equity online, you don’t have to push, peddle or shamelessly promote yourself, instead you’re “pulling” opportunity to you.
So how do you do it? It’s both easier and harder than you think it is. Easy because it’s not rocket science, but hard because it requires some patience and dedication. It doesn’t happen overnight.
1. Define your brand. WHO ARE YOU? Define it as narrowly as you possibly can and distinguish yourself as much as you can from everyone else. Embrace your uniqueness and remember: you can’t be top of mind for everything in your field. Ask yourself what you need to be top of mind for. Then brand yourself as that.
2. Start sending valuable information out into the cyber-verse. Blog, upload content to your website, tweet, make videos on YouTube… no matter what you choose (perhaps start with just one), just make sure you name it and tag your name on EVERYTHING. Oh and don’t forget to buy your URL – http://www.yourname.com. Make sure that you’re linking everything to one central place, this will prevent the clicks from getting diluted by going to a bunch of different sites/places. Another great idea is to guest post on other blogs that have lots of traffic.
3. Get a GREAT profile pic! One that reflects your brand – not a crop of a personal photo. Not one that’s 10 years old. A professional headshot, like these:
Notice that depending on the pose, the props and the crop, the same person can look completely different! Choose carefully – pick something that aligns with your brand. For a fun touch (i.e., Facebook or Twitter), juice up your photo with at http://www.befunky.com (turns any photo into a cartoon!)
4. Twitter is another great tool, since it gets crawled by Google and can quickly start popping up in Google search results. Problem is, most people sign up and either never tweet, or they start promoting themselves/their business. It doesn’t really work that way. The idea is to deliver value to your target audience. They WILL find you if you do this. In addition, if potential clients are looking for you and find some great tweets about your area of expertise, they’ll be more likely to trust you. Also, set Twitter alerts to notify you when people are looking for what you provide (i.e., I have alerts set for “speaker needed conference Miami” so that I know when there’s an opportunity for me out there.
5. Lock in your profiles at LinkedIn and Plaxo and any other industry-specific business networking sites that make sense for your niche or industry. Flesh them out, and use hyperlinks (when you type in a link to your blog or website, make sure you always type “http://” before the address so that it automatically becomes an active link wherever possible). Make all of your profile public if you really want to start getting some results from LinkedIn. Link back and forth between your LinkedIn Profile and your website (use a LinkedIn Logo and make it clickable to your profile.)
6. If you do speaking engagements or research projects, start uploading content to sites like SlideShare, Vimeo and YouTube. Tag the title with your name and company!
7. Own your name everywhere you can: Facebook (don’t forget to get facebook.com/yourname if you still can), Digg, StumbleUpon, Flickr, etc… You want to own it so no one else can get it and also so you can link even more back to your central site. By the way, you can use a service like Ping.fm to update the status of all of your profiles at once.
If you do all of these things (it does take time), I promise that you’ll start to see the results. In fact, take a “baseline” right now. Do a Google search of yourself, and count the number of times you come up. In a month, then 3 months, then 6 months then a year, do it again to see how far you’ve come.
Good luck and happy personal online branding!!