Building Your Personal Brand in Bits and Bytes

From: Kent S.
Sent on: Wednesday, August 6, 2008 10:20 AM
By: William Arruda
When was the last time you googled a colleague or vice versa? It's becoming commonplace for people to research one another online before they ever meet face to face. Learn about the importance of carefully crafting your online identity.

Since July 2004, when I last wrote about googling, the number of daily Google searches has increased to more than 250 million each day. Googling has become more that just a past-time; it's a phenomenon. And personal googling is becoming even more prevalent.

Way back in 2003, Faith Popcorn, the renowned futurist, identified a trend she calls "Persona Propaganda." She says, "Google has created the concept of the 'Public Resume'?a new kind of pervasive, email-able DigiTruth. Now, everybody can know everything about almost anyone."

According to a Harris Interactive Poll, 23 percent of professionals admit to googling people before meeting them. And a survey by Recruiters World revealed that nearly two thirds of respondents use Google to research job candidates.

It should come as no surprise that professionals are using the web to learn about potential job candidates, customers, consultants, and business partners. After all, we use the web every day in all aspects of our work.

It's no longer a luxury; it's essential for you to build and continuously manage your online identity. The personal googling phenomenon brings with it an incredible opportunity for you to increase your visibility and build your personal brand.

Being googled is the new-millennium version of the reference check. It provides your colleagues, managers, customers, hiring managers, executive recruiters, and so on with some critical information about you. What they learn from your Google results will color their perception of you.

If you're meeting with a new client, applying for a new job, or running for a board position at your local professional association, you can count on being googled. Therefore, managing your online identity is an integral part of growing your business or managing your career.

The ubiquity of the web and Google enables you to reach a large number of people with your message and lets you express your brand to those who are seeking to learn about you. It also helps you with the serendipity factor, enabling you to reach out to those whom you don't even know you need to know. When they perform a web search on the topic about which you are passionate, you will show up in the results, thereby facilitating a connection.

Having your own website or blog gives you a multi-layered landscape on which you can build your brand. Through the use of colors, fonts, images, and multimedia, you can more effectively express your unique promise of value and reinforce your brand differentiation. It's a much richer brand communications vehicle than brochures or resumes.

So, what does your current online identity reveal about you?

Right now, open a new browser window, go to www.google.com (or google.[country extension] if you are building your brand in a specific country), type your name into the window, in quotes, and see what the world's most popular search engine says about you. How many entries were returned to you? What did those results say about you?

This is your baseline Google result.

Now that you know where your online brand stands, you can proactively build and manage your e-identity to expand the depth and breadth of your Google results. And you can check back in a few months to measure the change in your Google profile.

Building an online identity is as easy as it is essential. It starts with just one post, one article, or a one-page website. Here are six ways to get you started:

Write articles for online portals that relate to your area of expertise or your passions. HR.com, MarketingProfs.com, and selfgrowth.com are just three out of thousands of options.

Submit content to article banks. They will make your articles (along with proper attribution) available to others who are seeking content for their newsletters or websites.

Build your own website or career portfolio. Yahoo is offering small business owners free, customizable, three-page web sites. Companies like Brandego will build you a custom career portfolio. Remember, one quality page is going to do a lot more for your brand than ten poorly executed ones.

Create a blog. Blogging gives you an opportunity to express your opinion and will not take up much of your time, because posting can be just two or three lines long. But get in now. According to Seth Godin, there's a new blog every six seconds.

Participate in online forums and information exchanges. Share your expertise or passion and increase your visibility at the same time.

Review books at Amazon and other online bookstores and link back to your website or blog.

William Arruda is a brand strategist, public speaker, author and founder of Reach Communications in New York City.

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