Ten years ago LinkedIn did not yet exist. Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Google+ neither. Nowadays anyone with a computer and an internet connection can build connections and share information with the entire world. This offers huge opportunities for your future job searches and your career in general.
In this article you will discover how to strengthen your network, visibility and findability through personal branding. Through personal branding you can distinguish yourself from other applicants. And you can ensure that interesting jobs will find you, even if you are not yet actively looking for a new job.
The importance of personal branding for your career
Let’s say there are 10 applicants for a particular job, and one of these candidates has a blog where she shares information and her opinion about her field. She is also active on other social media and as a result she has a large network of engaged followers. Which candidate do you think has the biggest chance to be invited for a job interview?
And who do you think is the first in line for a management position that requires vision and leadership? A manager with a paper resume or a manager who inspires and shares his knowledge online? That’s right! The latter will be contacted regularly, even if she is not yet looking for a new job.
Start building your personal brand. Now!
Social media are useful tools to expand your personal brand, network, visibility and findability. But it takes time and energy. Therefore, you need a targeted and phased approach and a great deal of perseverance. Some tips to gradually build your brand:
1. Select (only) the social media that suit you
Handle social media consciously. Especially if you have little experience with it. First decide on your goals. Then choose the social networks that support these goals. You do not have to participate in every social network. Certainly not in the beginning. In real life you cannot attend all parties either, can you?
Do you want to expand your network? Then start completing your LinkedIn profile. Do you want to increase your findability? Google+ may be the perfect medium. Do you like fast communication? Twitter may be your thing. Do you make videos? Open a YouTube channel. Do you want to share presentations? Use SlideShare or Prezi.
Whatever you do, make sure that ‘your’ social media suit you and that they support your professional goals and your personal brand. For this reason it may be wise not to use the (more) informal Facebook for business, except when you own/are a business that you want to promote to your target audience.
2. Listen, comment, share and let others share. In that order.
Social media are often compared with receptions (or pubs, depending on who you ask). At a reception you don’t join a group of people to take over the conversation, do you? The same rules of conduct apply to social media. First listen to what others have to say, then make smart comments, follow up by sharing useful information and only promote your own message after you’ve established your position in the group.
On LinkedIn for example, first look at the information others are sharing through status updates. Then examine the dynamics of the most important LinkedIn groups for your field of expertise. Which blog posts, questions and opinions are shared and who is active in these groups? Also look at Twitter and Google+. Find friends, colleagues and thought leaders and listen to what they have to say.
Once you fully understand the dynamics of the conversations you can react appropriately. Like, share/retweet or respond to status updates from your network. This way you give recognition to others and you can share interesting information with your network. This is a win-win: you help others spread their message, and you provide your network with hand-picked gems of information.
Subsequently you can select and share useful information yourself. For example, if you have read an interesting blog post then you can share it with your network. And preferably write your opinion with it, or an opinion or question that provokes reactions. In this way, you will become an interesting conversation partner.
When you have established your place in your network then you can finally share your own blog posts and other content (but never exclusively or predominantly). That way you will gradually be seen as a source of information and inspiration. If you have arrived at this point, it may be time for the next step in personal branding.
3. Build your own stage
If you have the knowledge, experience and a clear opinion about your field of expertise, then you can build your own stage where you can interact with your audience. By this time you will most likely already have an audience (your social networks). You just need to take the last step: start your own blog or website to share your thoughts with the rest of the world.
A blog can be created in 8 minutes or less. However, updating a blog takes a lot of time, energy and discipline. But you will get a huge reward. Your visibility, findability, brand and network will expand quickly when you regularly publish new articles, pictures, presentations and/or videos on your blog. And you will learn a great deal from your audience!
If you then share your content via social media (with a link back to your website) and if you invite people to share it further then you will attract more and more visitors to your website. And the more people visiting your blog or website, the higher you will end up in Google’s search results. And the higher you end up in search results … the more people (and recruiters) will find you. You get the idea!
As a side note, you don’t have to wait to build your platform until you have an audience on other social media. Starting a blog or website can even be a tool to create and engage an audience from scratch. However, kickstarting your blog (and the discussions on your blog) with your existing networks is much easier.
4. Protect your personal brand
Last but not least: protect your personal brand! Try to avoid or protect controversial pictures on Facebook and stay polite on the internet. At all times! Many recruiters will ‘Google’ you before they contact you. Make sure you will be proud of the picture they get from you.
As your network and online visibility grows, you will also increasingly have to deal with people who disagree and who openly express their feelings via comments on your status updates, blog posts, etc. Always choose « the high road ». Stay polite and continue to help others. This will also contribute to your personal brand.
Personal branding takes time, so start now!
In this article we briefly discussed how you can expand your personal brand, your network, your visibility and your findability in 4 steps. In short:
Select the networks (LinkedIn, Twitter …) that suit you and your professional goals. Be selective to get results with a minimal time investment.
Gradually join the conversions in these networks. Listen to others, help others and promote your own content only in a mix with content from others.
Build your own stage (blog/website) to post and share your messages. This will increase your online visibility and findability drastically.
Protect your brand by being courteous. You only have one brand. Make sure you are proud of the online image others will get to see of you.
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