Why is everyone all of a sudden trying to become LinkedIn-famous? Is anyone else tired (like me) of reading about all of the branding “hacks” out there? After all, there’s a lot more to achieving great personal branding than tricking algorithms.
And,make no mistake: Achieving great personal branding is important. In fact, when it comes to being a truly innovative entrepreneur or industry professional, having a personalized online footprint is essential to your business strategy.
Research has confirmed this. Kredible found that 52 percent of vendors it surveyed said they’d lost business because of information customers found, or didn’t find, online, about them.
That’s alarming, because entrepreneurs and startup founders can’t afford to have potential customers stumbling upon the wrong information; and no information at all can be just as problematic. The same goes for job-seekers surfing the web to check out a prospective employer. According to a Jobvite survey of recruiters, 95 percent of those polled viewed a competitive personal brand as an essential differentiator for attracting the best applicants in today’s workplace.
I’ve found this to be true: My personal brand has afforded me unlimited opportunities, from earning me big business deals and partnerships, to reasons to travel, to everything in between.
So, make 2018 your own year for upping your game: Here’s a list of reasons why entrepreneurs, solopreneurs (and everyone else) should focus on personal branding in the new year:
1. Image is everything.
If you believe the old axiom that you need to put your best foot forward, a more modern version would be that you have to put your best face forward. While numerous HR-driven applications are pushing for photos and names to be removed from the hiring or sourcing process, to lower the possibillity of racial and gender bias, people use photos and visual branding for positive reasons, too.
That’s because there is a good deal that professionals can glean from your visual brand online. As Claire Bahn, CEO of Online Profile Pros, a profile photo provider, shared with me about my own personal brand, “Experts estimate it takes less than one-tenth of a second for someone to make an impression of you from your photo. They don’t bother reading your profile or digging deeper if their initial impression is negative.”
2. Personal banding is content you control.
Let’s face it. A lot of us have some sort of content out there — whether it be photos or an angry Facebook rant — that we might not be comfortable with potential employers, business partners or dates seeing when they Google our names.
Previously, I was the target of an online slander campaign, and I had to deal with negative press about my background. So much of the online world is outside of our control; so it’s important to flood the web with as much positive content as possible. That’s why having an active personal branding strategy is a crucial part of controlling your image online. I learned that if I wasn’t writing my own story, somebody else would, and it wouldn’t be the story I want to share.
The more content you put online, the more that effort will help your good content rise above any negative content that may be out there.
Beyond that, when people search for you or topics related to your work, and they find high-quality content, they’re much more likely to turn to you as an expert over a competitor. A Bahn explained, “It’s always a plus when someone finds content that demonstrates your expertise, interests and capabilities. If someone finds a blog, pulse post, etc. that shows you’re an effective communicator, they’re much more likely to look into you further.”
The same goes for applicants. An HR rep comparing two candidates is more likely to select the one that has lots of high-quality content online, beyond whatever he or she has shared on a resume.
3. Make yours a profile-centric world.
As Bahn put it, “People used to have one or two online profiles, but these days the average is closer to nine, if you include dating profiles.There’s just a lot more for people to research about you these days.”
With so many social profiles, it’s important to carefully select and manage which ones people will see. LinkedIn’s recent acquisition by Microsoft is just another sign that the professional world is recognizing the importance of social profiles.
4. Influencer marketing gives way to sponsored content.
A trend that rose out of the popularity of content platforms like YouTube and Instagram, influencer marketing, has created an influx of brands using popular accounts to push their product. As such, every platform has been bombarded by “influencers” trying to subtly market products without making those efforts look like ads.
Consumer tolerance for this behavior is slipping, however, and platforms like Instagram and even the U.S. government, are considering how to control these subtle ads that cut into brands’ advertising revenue while dodging FTC regulations.
What’s likely to emerge as a result is a push for more open and honest content marketing on these platforms. If you are an entrepreneur trying to get your product or service in front of consumers, you’re probably better off creating authentic and honest sponsored content that also gives you back-end data into ad performance. Relying on an “influencer” to casually mention how much he or she likes your product is dicey, at best.
5. Realize that building a brand takes time.
Whether or not you’ve considered managing your personal brand, the fact is, it’s not something you can do overnight. Sure you can brush up your LinkedIn profile, delete those embarrassing pictures from Instagram or make some of your profiles private, but that’s only a small part of the overall branding process.
Effective personal branding can help build new relationships, and get you noticed for a job, or by a new customer. It can help you build community, establish your authority and ultimately make you more money.
Putting in the effort to develop a strong online presence, along with a series of consistently branded social profiles, will help you develop a digital footprint that tells people all the right things when they’re considering working with you.
As you kick off planning for 2018 growth, think about clearly defining what you bring to the table as a professional, and what your business offers consumers. Then double-down on spreading that message in the right places online.