Personal branding has evolved since management guru Tom Peters defined the term way back in 1997. (He also provided some wicked quaint advice, like "sell the sizzle, not the steak.")
Today, your personal brand reflects the information that's available about you on the Web, mostly on social media platforms. This post explains how to create your personal online brand online, based on interviews with four of the smartest people in the branding business:
1. Know yourself and what you're good at.
Your personal brand reflect who you are, so you can't possibly brand yourself if you're clueless about yourself. This doesn't mean navel-gazing, but rather a realistic assessment of your strengths and weaknesses, what you love doing, and the skills that you've mastered or are working to master.
2. Create a memorable brand name.
If you've got a unique name, make that your brand name. If not, create a brand name that's a hybrid of your name and your career direction. "You want people to find you, not somebody who's got the same name as you," explains Dan Schawbel, author of Me 2.0: 4 Steps to Building Your Future. Remember, though, if you put your direction in your brand name you're tied to that direction. (That's why Step 1 is so important.)
3. Capture your online turf.
Buy the domain name that corresponds to your brand name and secure the Facebook page, Twitter account, Google+ account as well. If you find that your brand name is already "owned" create a different brand name. With LinkedIn, you'll use your real name, so put your brand name prominently in your profile.
4. Build a website for your domain name.
This is easier than you think. There's no reason to struggle with a complicate website editor when you can create a perfectly usable site using a product like WordPress. (There are alternatives but WordPress is the de-facto standard.) You don't want a traditional website anyway, since they have an "institutional" feel about them anyway.
5. Set up automatic updating.
To reduce the busywork of all those different social media platforms, set up an application that allows you to simultaneous post to all of them. For that past few months I've been using the free version of Hootsuite.com, but there are many alternatives out there both free and fee.
6. Share useful content on a regular basis.
Don't try to be a full-time blogger. Instead share "helpful tips relating to the products [you] sell, relevant news, and personal updates that build emotional connection and convey positive character, such as a philanthropic interest," explains Clara Shih, CEO of Hearsay Social, writing in the Harvard Business Review.
7. Get feedback from people you trust.
The advice and encouragement of others helps keep your "brand development" on target. Philip Styrlund, CEO of The Summit Group, recommends setting up a "board of directors"--a few trusted colleagues who can assess your ongoing efforts and act as an informal sounding board.
8. Be authentic, even a bit risky.
As long as you don't come off like you're crazy or weird, a little opinion in your online presence is a good thing, according to Meg Guiseppi, author of the book 23 Ways You Sabotage Your Executive Job Search. "Don't assume that being authentic will turn people off," she explains. "Nobody is interested in working with a cookie cutter."