Developing Your Personal Brand

The Internet enables a person to build their own brand - though most individuals do so clumsily and by happenstance, some do so in a more carefully coordinated manner.

In some instances, this has been leveraged by companies to give their CEO (or other individual) a celebrity status, which could be leveraged upon.

Every person who is online, and even some who are not, have a personal reputation on the internet, though it may not be known to many. It may not even be known to you until it becomes a liability.

A survey was done of employers: 78% of them routinely use search engines to learn more about job candidates, and 35% admitted eliminating candidates based on the information they found online.

It's also true that bad news travels faster these days: when the actor whom "Dell Dude" had built into a spokes model was arrested for drug possession, the news spread to the far corners of the Internet very rapidly.

It's also not uncommon for people to "Google" their coworkers, managers, subordinates, and anyone they encounter. It's especially common in the modern dating scene to use the Internet as a kind of background check.

In addition to the information you post on a blog or personal site, the comments and reviews you post on other sites may be traced back to you, as may things that others write about you online.

Doing an "ego search" periodically is advisable. The less information there is about you online today, the greater your opportunity to begin with a fresh slate in building your own online persona.

The fundamental methods for branding online are the same for individuals as they are for products: identify your competitive strengths and communicate them to the desired audiences.

For an individual, the audiences may be a blend of the various roles they play in their personal lives as well as their professional one. So long as the roles are not contradictory, it should be possible to position yourself such that the appropriate audiences find the appropriate information - and find nothing that would have a negative influence in the information that pertains to your other roles.

As for what messages to send, consider your personality, your areas of knowledge, experience, and expertise, and focus on the ones you feel give you a competitive advantage. Also consider your goals, both shot-term and long-term - these will indicate how you should position yourself, and how you should modify that position over time.

There's also the question of how much to reveal online - and the answer is not clear. You should show yourself as a "real person" online - but largely, it's a question of person's level of comfort with being known by others (often complete strangers) as well as the degree to which being known is useful to them.