Given that so much of personal and professional brand-building happen online, it is important to actively manage your personal brand as projected online. Here are 4 steps you can take to build your personal brand, in a sustainable way:
Manage LinkedIn actively
LinkedIn profile is the single most important branding tool online. With 175 million professionals, this is where people start when they want to know about you professionally. Don’t write it only with a job in mind; write it to showcase you to the world – your strengths, experiences, capabilities, interests and passion, group affiliations, etc. Don’t hoard too many recommendations, it starts losing value if you overdo it. Think before you add someone in your LinkedIn network (or accept an invite) – the company you keep suggest a lot about you (just like in the offline world).
Use Twitter to build your knowledge community
Twitter is probably the most confusing social networking tool – it is not very clear how best to use it professionally. But with its more than 500 million users, it is a potent tool for branding. I advise everyone to use it as your information filter to build a community around you. With so much of news, analysis, opinions flowing around, it is almost impossible to keep track of what is going on. Follow a few personalities and news sources that align with your interests or world view (if you think women entrepreneurs need to be encouraged, follow someone who is passionately doing something in this area rather than someone who is a well-known basher of the idea). To make sure your network stays fresh, make sure you actively stay on the lookout for fresh sources of information, and prune or augment your list as needed. Once you have this list of people and topics you align with, make sure you engage in the conversation by commenting, sharing and retweeting.
Showcase your talent via blogs
I can’t emphasize its importance enough. This is arguably the most important tool you can use to significantly impact your personal brand. Blog gives you an authority and influence based on your knowledge and/or passion. It also provides you with a platform to creatively express your thoughts, thereby creating a set of followers and like-minded peer group. While writing frequently is hard, if you can write first 10 posts, rest will come naturally through habit. Also, it is important to pick a topic that you want to write about, not something that you think people want to read about, only then you can keep the discipline of writing frequently which is key to maintaining a blog.
Stay active in your domain and interest areas
There are lots of online resources catering to any given domain, including discussion groups, news portals, influential blogs, industry forum sites, etc. Make sure you are active there, both in reading as well as in commenting and sharing. While sharing and commenting, make sure you share (or comment on) what you like, not what you think others will like. You should connect these to your blog through your comments (most sites will allow you to link to your blog while posting comment) and by commenting on them on your own blog and tweets, thereby adding value to the topic in your own way and initiating a discussion among your own followers.
All online channels are 2-way communication channels, and they need to be interconnected to get the best impact. A successful personal branding strategy mixes them together to come up with a uniquely personal approach which is used consistently and frequently.