Personal branding has been a hot topic on the Web for quite some time – you must have at least heard of the phrase.
Many are writing about it, some are thinking about doing it, and then there are the few who actually practice what they preach. In the next three articles I will present a short overview of personal branding tools and methods, so if you’re interested, read on!
Personal branding is a process encompassing many activities with a common goal. Whether you’re on a job hunt, trying to become influential in a niche or promoting your hobby, the result you’ll ultimately want to achieve is the control over content that’s related to you.
Why would you want this? Well, think about all the accounts and profiles you’ve created since you joined the Internet. There are bits and pieces of yourself all over the Web; some paint you in a good light, some are pretty embarrassing. Together they form your online persona and directly influence the impressions people get about you when they type your name in the search engine. Taking control over all this information is called online reputation management, and though it might seem impossible, it’s worth doing.
First you will need a personal branding strategy. This doesn’t have to be complicated; you can take a piece of paper and lay out the plan in a few bullet points.
- Think about how you want to advertise yourself – what are your strengths, skills, things that make you interesting and different than the rest?
- Choose a niche or a field of interest in which you want to work and make connections.
- Define what kind of content is appropriate to share and employ self-censorship when necessary. Don’t get fooled by the “personal” part of the phrase – your personal brand is not about exposing your intimacy and compromising your privacy. It’s about being professional, about choosing the best of your work and presenting it to the world in a tasteful, appealing fashion.
- Set boundaries between public and private content and stick to them when posting to social networks.
- Be consistent and honest.
A successful strategy will ensure that the search results for your name primarily show the profiles and blogs that you manage, and positive, relevant content that you created, instead of fake blogs and your old Geocities page.
Of course, you’ll have to invest some time and reserve an online space for your brand. You can host your own website or create profiles on social networks and various portfolio and identity management services. Here are some tools to get you started.
Founded in 2009, About.me is the go-to personal branding tool for beginners in online reputation management and an invaluable service for everyone who knows how to tap into its potential.
In addition to its basic functionality, About.me works as a social networking platform. Not only can you create a digital resume and manage your personal brand, but you can also connect with other users and receive useful feedback. Your Home page provides information about people who viewed your profile and makes it easy to contact them.
Editing your page is a pleasure thanks to intuitive dialog boxes with tabs which lead you through customization. After creating an account and choosing a username – preferably your real name, as it’ll be part of your vanity URL – you can modify the visual aspects of your page: the layout, photos, colors and fonts. You should also add some basic information about yourself: a headline, short bio, your education and work background as well as interests, which are shown as tags.
You can add links to external content; for example, your other online resumes, blogs or websites. About.me allows you to connect various Apps and social networks to your profile. Account Settings will let you set the frequency and type of notifications you wish to receive.
Apart from features you’d probably expect from a personal branding tool, About.me has some other outstanding tricks up its sleeve. Spotlights are one of them.
Basically, About.me helps you focus on one aspect of your personal brand and emphasizes it by creating a Spotlight on your profile. All you have to do is follow the instructions.
Let’s say you want to create a Hire Me spotlight. In this case, you’ll have to provide detailed information about your skills, education and previous jobs, and About.me creates a Spotlight that is essentially a summary of your experience. This is really useful because it helps you establish clear goals for your personal branding project. About.me can also help you promote your page by providing advice and links for easy sharing via email and social networks.
Another great thing are stats about your profile – a somewhat reduced version of Google Analytics for your About.me page, if you will. You can track how many people viewed your profile, and if they didn’t do it anonymously, you can see who they are and even reach out to them, perhaps to thank them or ask for some constructive criticism. Like I said, About.me really seems to encourage communication between users, which is great for creating a network of prospective clients. The Collections feature only highlights this idea, as it allows you to organize your contacts into groups.
Creating a page at About.me is perhaps the best thing you can do for your online presence and it should be among the top priorities in your personal branding strategy. It will help you get acquainted with personal branding tools and serve as an introduction into online reputation management. As your project progresses, you can compare the features of other tools against About.me when deciding whether you want (or need) to use them. Cool perks, like the option to order free business cards from MOO.com, are also part of the About.me package which will improve your professional image.
You’ve probably heard about Flavors.me, since it’s very similar to About.me and people usually get an account on both sites at the same time, especially if they’re just diving into personal branding. The core features are nearly identical to those offered by About.me, but the major difference is that not as many options are free at Flavors.me. This is why I would recommend About.me as your primary personal branding tool, although you can always create a Flavors.me account as well; if nothing else, at least to reserve a URL with your name.
If you don’t have the time, knowledge or resources to maintain a landing page for your business or personal brand, Flavors.me can do the job thanks to its easy page design process.
You can customize your page from zero to (almost) perfect in just a couple of minutes. The options are standard: appearance-related tweaks (background and profile photos, colors, layout and fonts), connecting external services and pulling information from your social media profiles.
The range of services is really impressive: from the usual suspects (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest…) to names I’ve never even heard of (Hypemachine, Bandsintown, Goodsie).
Unfortunately, there are some unimpressive things about Flavors.me. In my opinion, those are the ones that come with a price tag – mobile design, custom domain and stats about your profile, just to name a few. Since About.me offers stats for free, it’s easy to see why someone on a budget would choose it over Flavors.me.
However, Flavors.me does have an awesome feature: they, too, offer free business cards made by MOO.com to all their users. Yay, more free business cards! I’d say this feature alone is good enough reason to create a Flavors.me page.
Think of Flavors.me as an additional, easy-to-manage platform which allows you to collect information from other services and profiles, and presents your online persona in a pleasant and professional way.
The tools presented in this article are excellent for creating a general impression of your skills and interests. However, they aren’t particularly suitable for showcasing your actual work mainly because of their feature limitations.
If they are indeed too simple for you, read the next two articles in this series which will introduce you to great online portfolio tools that can move your personal brand to a higher level.