Even though the web is full of blog posts describing with precision how to use social media for personal branding, many people find it difficult to figure out where to start.
Here are five steps for beginners to develop a media-rich online presence, using free (or reasonably low cost) tools. One step a day means that in a week, you can have an online profile you are proud of, and soon after, better personal search engine results (SER).
If you do take some of these steps, I promise you’ll feel creative, challenged, inspired, and experience a sense of relief that you are putting your best foot forward while in charge of your self-representation online. You don’t have to spend all day blogging, tweeting, or becoming a software engineer or graphic designer to launch your personal brand on the web.
Day 1. Capture & assess. First step, Google yourself. Notice carefully the SER, take a screencapture and file it away. Later this will make it easier to measure incremental improvements. Try for objectivity, take a step back and assess those Google results with attention to detail. If you didn’t know yourself, what impression would you take away from Google’s first page? Make note of what appears and (maybe more importantly) what is missing. Methodically follow the links, see if there is any digital dirt you want to try to have removed (not easy to do) or to change yourself (for example, too much information visible on your Facebook profile). Part of this step may involve adjusting privacy settings, untagging photos, etc. Likely easier to design your digital presence afresh, as best you can, starting with the cleanest slate possible. If there is information turning up in Google that you don’t like and can’t remove, in the steps that follow you’ll see how to bury it with fresh, accurate content.
Day 2. Claim your name. Second step is to claim your name on the major socnets, and while you are at it, register your own vanity domain name (like, sidneyevematrix.net, .com, .ca, etc.). The next time someone googles you, these sites (powered by major link juice) will show up in the top of SER (pushing other links back to page two perhaps). Not sure which are the “major” networks? Start with Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn. Next consider Blip.fm or Last.fm for music, Flickr for images, YouTube, Delicious (social bookmarks), Digg, and of course, your Google profile. When you register these profiles post a photo of yourself—consistent across all networks for increased recognizability. When you become an active user of these sites, it will demonstrate to others online that you have work/life balance, by giving a glimpse of your professional accomplishments and leisure pursuits. Together these two aspects of your online personality will best communicate a well-rounded persona including insight into your personal values.
Day 3. Collect, curate. Third step is to find, organize and self-publish your existing digital assets. Do you have whitepapers or slidedecks (slideshare), essays (scribd), photographs (flickr), videos (vimeo or YouTube)? Put ‘em out there. These are the elements of your digital portfolio, and all of those sites have many widgets so you can push the content you post on each of them back to also appear on your personal portfolio. Want to publicize what movies, books, or music you enjoy? Build some Amazon.com lists. These have remarkable SEO and will appear high in your personal SER—and Amazon booklists come with a widget so you can export lists to your ePortfolio and when you update them on Amazon, they are auto-updated on your site.
Day 4. Create fresh content. The fourth step involves putting those domain names and social media profiles to good use. Design a place where you will collect together and display all your digital assets. Ideally a website or blog (Blogger) that is widget-ready. But there are many free and low-cost platforms for your eportfolio to live. Got a creative title for your portfolio blog or site? That’s great. But don’t forget to (a) use your own name in the title or subtitle to optimize SER, and (b) fill in an “about me” page with outbound links to all your social media profiles. Not a web designer or graphic artist? You don’t have to be. Check out these beautiful free blogger themes. Get inspired.
Day 5. Communicate & contribute. Last step in building a personal branding foundation is to participate in, and grow your social networks. In other words, embiggen yourself. Add followers, fans, and friends on your networks and increase your reach, visibility and influence. Having a robust network, and maintaining it, indicates that you are producing relevant contributions, and exercising reciprocity and generosity. Good signs. Not exactly sure of the protocol for participating? Invest some time in active listening. The best practices will become apparent, models and mentors will appear, and tricks and tips will be revealed to those who invest in sincere network participation. Want to develop a relevant list of followers on Twitter? Become a master list-builder in your areas of specialization.
Once you have a media-rich and robust online persona, where diverse but on-brand messages are communicated accurately, you’ll want to protect your digital reputation. “Want to know what people are saying about you on Twitter? Facebook? Blogs? No problem.” To do so, the next step is to build a listening station. How? Look here.