Branding is what people say about you when you’re not in the room.
— Jeff Bezos, Amazon CEO, richest man in the world for a day.

In today's online world, the first thing employers, recruiters and colleagues see of you is your online presence. Most people’s online presence is a mish-mash assortment of things they like, may once have liked, had people encourage them to try or in the worst case, things the internet won’t let them forget.

The aim of personal branding is to take that cacophony of noise and harmonise it into an orchestra that shows the world the very best of you and furthers your professional goals. Personal branding allows you to craft an image of yourself which fits the story you want to tell. Using social media to share stories, experiences and ask questions are all steps to creating a unique and personal brand.

Remember, the goal of personal branding is not to create a false online image but rather to share your personality and help find better opportunities in the future.

Masters of Personal Branding

Today’s online world is dominated by big personalities, from bold and brash Gary Vaynerchuk, the shy and retiring Dharmesh Shah or the pioneering Ann O’Dea leading Inspirefest and Silicon Republic. These personalities dominate the tech scene but sometimes personal brands can go much further, sometimes they leak into society at large.

For example whenever someone is asked about who founded Facebook, everyone shares the image of Mark Zuckerberg in his trademark grey t-shirt and curls. The energy and expression of Emmanuel Marcon carried him to the French presidency. Both of their brands were carefully crafted to optimise their success and stick in people's minds.

Historically, no one has mastered the branding game better than politicians. Whether you go back to Thomas Jefferson’s image of himself as a small self-made farmer which gave him the popular support to become President. Or JFK’s youthful vigour and easy speaking style, which won him many debates over the more experienced Nixon. Branding and public image has always been massively important in politics, and with the invention of the internet, it is time the public used this tactic to its advantage too.

About twenty years ago Tom Peter released this article, first bringing the world’s attention to 'ME Inc.' and kick starting an era of branding that goes way beyond the world of million dollar companies. Since then the power of the internet has grown exponentially, now that social media presence can rule or ruin our job prospects, it has become imperative that we take charge and develop our own identities.

Should I Ensure Everything is on Private?

This is the logical assumption however there can be major benefits to online sharing. Below we briefly touch on some of the reasons why social sharing and online presence is a boon for the young professional.

1.  Getting the best from your career:

People will often say LinkedIn is the most important social media website you can have, others will say LinkedIn is pointless and claim they’ve never met anyone interesting on there. I encourage you to look at both types of profiles.

The first thing you will notice is those who believe in LinkedIn, will have spent a long time building a strong profile. They will rank highly in search and most importantly will have had recruiters reach out to them. This is the power of positive online branding. Recruiters will often reach out to those who have spent time working on their online brand and actively help them develop their careers.

2.  Developing your digital network:

A massive part of your online presence are the people in your network. This subject goes hand in hand with branding and has its own nuances. As such, we’ve dedicated its half of this blog to digital networking. Follow the link above to find our introduction to the art of effective digital networking.

For now, it’s important to remember ‘your network is your net worth’ when it comes to finding the right opportunities.

3.  Leaving an impression with the people you meet:

When you meet people at conferences, meet ups or networking events, what is the first thing you do when you leave but want to consolidate that contact?

You attempt to connect with them online, but what if you tried to reach out to them and couldn’t find a trace of them? Is that the impression you want to leave behind? The brand you leave behind online is how people will remember you. People make decisions on whether to invest further time with you based on how you present your online brand and whether it aligns with their interests.

4.  People > Project:

We’ve been really lucky in our time to meet some really experienced, successful and inspirational people. They have all been successful in diverse and distinct fields but each one shared the same piece of knowledge ‘The people matter most’. The first consideration investors make is who are the team. What are their experiences, success and how do they present themselves. There are countless stories of investors willingly investing in long-shot payoffs just to have the opportunity to work with amazing people.

Similarly for recruiters, one of the major concerns is whether or not a potential candidate is a ‘culture fit’ for the company. One of the most successful strategies for combatting this test is ensuring a strong online identity highlighting how you fit within the culture of the company.

Your online presence is the first consideration investors and employers will study when making decisions on who you are and if you're worth their time. Always make their time investment pay dividends.

Guidelines for Branding

This a quick overview of what will be covered in later posts but it’s important to know a few things before you get started. Personal branding can be a powerful tool when used correctly, but when we let things slip through the cracks, they can have devastating consequences. It’s important to remember our online behaviour follows us into our day to day lives, so it’s important not to become the latest update of So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed.  

1.  Be Authentic:

The most important rule for personal branding: Don’t lie. There’s never a need to and long term it makes life much harder. A simple example of this is take someone who portrays themselves online as an avid surfer, having surfed everywhere from Achill to Honolulu. However, you start work and 12 months later, someone points out they haven’t been on a single surf trip?

What happens here is that they're embarrassed and on a serious note, HR must check their credentials to see if they're faking anything else. Avoid messes like this and be honest with your online identity. No one will mind if you’re not into extreme sports or if reading is your favourite pastime. Online branding is about sharing your personality above all else.

2.  Fit The Narrative:

While it’s important to share your story, remember no two companies think, act, or share the same rules. The greatest contrast is likely between sober minded accounting firms and often raucous startups.

While working at an accounting firm, they may not appreciate you portraying yourself as a carefree surf boarder who leaves work at 3pm on Fridays. This image could damage how potential clients view the employees of the firm and question if they are truly serious about their work. Conversely, in the technology sector, the same image is a powerful reminder that ‘getting shit done’ is all that matters. It highlights their flexible working hours philosophy making it a powerful recruitment tool.

Always ensure that the image you’re portraying aligns with your company’s goals. Or, at the very least, ensure what you’re sharing won’t get you fired. Remember, you’re representing your company as well as yourself.

3.  Self-Moderation is Key:

Before you post anything online, ask yourself one question: ‘Would I say this out loud in a crowded room?’. Posting online a lot like shouting in a crowd, 99% of what you say will be lost to noise, however, that 1% might become a chant. Make sure that people the chanting your name are doing it for the right reasons.

If you need some inspiration to moderate yourself, look to Justine Sacco, one moment of stupidity has come to define her career. Unfortunately there are many stories like this out there, where dumb tweets or Facebook posts have cost people their careers. Think of yourself as policing your own stupidity, only your closest friends should know.

4.  Define Your Content Plan:

Defining your content plan and how to manage your brand will be covered in depth in further articles. For now, I will keep it simple, ‘consistency is key’. If you’re twitter is all about surfing, ensure your Instagram references surfing too. If there are major contrasts or your social media profiles contradict each other, people will wonder why. Each of your social media profiles should compliment each other and developing key themes you would like to share around will help this.

Concluding Challenge

Believe it or not, this has been an all to brief introduction to personal branding. The goal of this blog is to teach you how to leverage the internet to your professional advancement. The first step to doing this is standardising your presence on social media. As such, below is a one line challenge, doing this will make you easier to find online and begin to harmonise your online profiles. Best of luck!

Write a tagline bio that you can use across social media and share with us on the form below.

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