In today’s digital world we have all heard about the importance of building your online personal brand. All too often, people don’t realize that personal branding is not just for the job seekers or high profile celebrities and politicians. In fact, each of us has a personal brand reflected online already, whether we have done it intentionally or not. Being mindful and strategic about how we present our online personal brand can prove to be useful in both our personal and professional lives.
Consider for a moment that you are going to go on a blind date. Ten years ago, you had to rely on your mutual connection to be honest with you and give you information on the other person’s looks, their job status, what music they liked, and if they had a criminal history. A little scary if you ask me.
Fast forward to the wonderful digital age we live in today. Would you go on a blind date without researching that person with whom you are scheduled to spend your evening? Of course not! You are going to Google them and search for them on social media sites like LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook. You are going to conduct all the research you can to find out what kinds of information they share with others, who they are connected to and maybe even reach out to common connections for reviews or input. Photos and videos you find online will help you to know who you will be meeting when you show up for your date. You are going to “experience” the person before ever meeting them. And finally, you may go so far as to complete a background check before heading out the door.
All of this research and content helps us to feel better (or perhaps worse) about meeting our blind date before we ever leave home. The big question then is, what can personal branding teach us about how we approach professional marketing?
With the ability to first conduct research online and often with our mobile devices, consumers now tend to make their first impressions of a product sooner, even before they had a chance to interact with the physical product itself which created a whole other layer of complex decision making.
In 2011, Google introduced a new way to think about the consumers purchasing cycle called the Zero Moment of Truth (ZMOT). According to Jim Lecinski, author of Winning the Moment of Truth – ZMOT, “the trick is to use search to identify the moments that matter to consumers and act on them across your entire marketing mix.”
Much like traditional marketers today, how do you make sure that you are leveraging your online personal brand in a way that your blind date (or future employer, customer, etc.) will still want to meet face to face after checking you out online?
Here are three things that you can do on a personal and professional level.
- KNOW WHERE PEOPLE WILL GATHER THEIR FIRST IMPRESSION
As an individual, it is important for you to know where first impressions come from. Once you understand the concept that first impressions start long before you say “Hello,” you are better prepared to move forward and address potential concerns. Research yourself as you would your blind date. What do you find? Is it the impression you want to be giving? If not, now you can work to address it. If so, then you are right on track!
As a marketer, use this step to understand where your customers will go to search for you. What online sites do they frequent? If they stop by your Facebook page, does it provide the information necessary to help them? Are you addressing the questions that they might have about your products or services? Does your website resonate with your customers and contain up to date information? Does it provide value? If you are not sure, ask them for their feedback so that you can change and grow.
- MONITOR WHAT THEY FIND WHEN THEY SEARCH
When you dig through your online profiles, what would your network say about you? Not only understand who your network is and what that conveys but also, how do they speak to and about you? Do they recommend you or share content with you that is consistent with your personal brand? These questions are not designed to make you question every connection that you have, but to help you better understand if you are living up to the brand image that you claim to have established. Let me give you an example; if you are scheduled to meet someone, and they claim that they are a successful business person who believes in building up those around them, but online they are consistently posting negative comments about family, friends, and colleagues, how likely is it that you will believe that they actually are living up to their online claim?
For marketers, the same goes for monitoring your brand. Your customers have a lot to say, and that includes things about you and your brand. Do you know what your customers say about you? Do they support your product/brand or are they unhappy with the quality they receive? How you as a brand publicly handle both the positive and the negative feedback is very telling. Be good at listening to your customers and respond appropriately.
- BE GENUINE/AUTHENTIC
Building a shell for your personal brand is great, but if it isn’t a true and accurate depiction of you and how you live your life, the truth will soon be uncovered. Just like in those blind date scenarios where a picture was provided in advance and happens to be from 15 years ago. Trust is now gone and will be very hard to reestablish. Just be true to who you are and represent your brand in a genuine an authentic way at all times.
Very simply, this goes for marketers as well. Don’t over promise or project your product or service as something it isn’t. Losing the trust of your customers will forever impact your brand. In addition, those customers that no longer trust your brand will share their experience online, contributing to the ZMOT for future customers.
So whether you are branding yourself or your company, it is important to understand where people will learn about you, what they find when they search, how others talk about you and most importantly, to be genuine and authentic in all interactions. As a society, we gather our information long before we make that first meeting, so what information is out there and how can you ensure that the information provided is helpful and relevant?
Jennifer Radke has a passion for leadership, training and helping other people achieve their goals. As the Owner and Chief Strategist for Socially Inspired, Jennifer utilizes many different social networking tools to create, build and maintain strong client and partner relationships. She loves the strategy behind a strong social media presence and excels at helping organizations streamline their process for a more effective return on their time.
Note from IGS: Prefer your information visually? Click here to watch the free video based on this post.
Update from IGS: Employers! Here’s more intel on how your brand is doing with women in the workplace.