Dan Schawbel is the author of the bestselling book Me 2.0: Build a Powerful Brand to Achieve Career Success (Kaplan, April 09), and owner of the award winning Personal Branding Blog.
With a bad economy, more pressure at work and overwhelming competition, investing in yourself and your future is crucial. There are a lot of new trends and tricks that you can take advantage of now. Below are five easy and initial steps you can take to start building your brand today. These will help you control your online identity, protect your future, centralize your digital assets, safeguard your brand from threats and more.
Tell us how you’ve taken control of your personal brand in the comments below.
1. Claim your Google profile
To get started, register for a Google account. If you are already using Google documents or Gmail (), then you have an existing account. Use your full name when you register, so you can get a vanity Google Profile URL. Next, when editing your Google profile, you’ll need to put a check mark where it says “Display my full name so I can be found in search.” The more information you fill out, the higher up your rank will be, so include links to your blog, and other social networks, and fill out your profile information accordingly.
2. Reserve your name on social networks
Aside from having a Google profile alongside a blog or traditional website, you’ll want to see if your brand name is available on various social networking sites. By using Namechk.com or Knowem.com, you’ll be able to see where you can claim your brand name on almost all the social networks (at least the largest ones that count). Both of these track social networks such as Facebook (), LinkedIn (), Sphinn, Ning, Odeo, FriendFeed (), etc.
By reserving your name on the largest social networks and the ones that are meaningful to your industry, you’re protecting your brand against the competition. There are probably other people with your brand name around the world and, if there aren’t, one might be born in an instant. By locking down your brand name, you’re securing your future, whether you choose to leverage all of these profiles to promote your brand or not.
3. Establish a personal hub
You need to have a central place where people can go to learn more about you and everything you’re working on. For instance, Nombray.com allows you to display all of your social networking profiles, blogs and websites under a single domain name (yourname.com). This way, people can make sense of your digital presence and you won’t have to direct them to various websites, which can get tedious and obnoxious. Aside from Nombray as a personal hub option, you have the power to select the digital asset you’re most proud of to be included in all of your marketing materials. It could be a blog that vividly displays your digital identity, including pictures of your social networking profiles, press mentions, a video resume, endorsements from clients or managers and much more.
Choose only one website for your personal hub because people, namely recruiters, don’t want to have to search the entire web for your information. Having a central hub allows you to use one website and put that on your business card, resume, and other materials because you don’t have enough space otherwise.
4. Have a reputation management strategy
Some companies are having a difficult time not just entering the social media realm, but protecting their brand from disasters that may occur. Domino’s recently found this out the hard way when employees filmed themselves doing “questionable” things to some Domino’s food products. That video circulated around millions of times and was in a lot of newspapers, on TV and on various blogs. The end result was that they lost customers, that people are probably questioning a lot of other places like Domino’s, and the President of Domino’s USA had to respond with a video apologizing to the world.
The moral of the story is that a single person can damage your brand, whether they work for your company or not. It doesn’t matter if that brand is a company, product or person, the results are real and it forces us all to have a reputation management strategy. Are you viewing the comments said about your brand right now using Google alerts and search.twitter.com? Do you have a system in place where you’re reacting to comments in a specific way? For instance, if someone tweets something negative associated with your brand, how are you responding? Depending on what is said, it might be wise or foolish to respond back. If someone says something positive, I think you should at least say “thank you” and if you’re lucky, you might even get an endorsement out of it.
5. Promote your expertise
In the beginning of this year, I mentioned the “social media resume,” which called for multimedia elements and sharing features that a traditional resume lacked. In your own personal branding campaign, there are other ways to get your experience out there, aside from a social media resume. The latest one is called twtjobs, a service for Twittering your resume, with many fields that you would find on a resume, such as experience, industry, 140 character resume, experience level and more. The term “resume” has become ubiquitous online because everything you publish becomes your identity or “who you are.”
Therefore, you can promote your expertise through thousands of different channels and they will all differ based on who you are, what industry you’re in and what you want to be known for. Sure, you’ll still probably need a resume, at least in the interview process, but you can convince a recruiter upfront that you’re the best person for the position based on what they discover online. Build a social media resume, turn your blog into one, or put your resume on Twitter () if you’re looking for a job.