personal brand

How to Build Your Personal Brand Online

As we live more of our lives online, it just happens, even if you don’t consciously craft it. Everyone today, even two-year-olds, has an online persona.

Maybe yours has developed organically and is a portrait of your casual self, filled with shared cat videos and the latest memes. Perhaps you maintain a professional persona separately. You have constructed a work-self, separate from your casual-self that your friends and family know.

Right now, Google your name. Try it with and without the city you live in your professional title. Did you get results you wouldn’t necessarily want others to see? Or no results at all?

We’re going to explore how you can craft and promote your personal brand that is a valuable reflection of the real you. If you do it right, it will be honest and naturally promote who you really are to the world.


What is a Personal Brand?

Think of it as your elevator speech. Your personal brand is how people know you. They may know you as a reliable accountant, an eccentric musician, a Star Wars fan, or a collector of Coca-Cola memorabilia. It is your reputation. Your elevator speech is one way to articulate who you are and what you do quickly and clearly to strangers.

If you are one of those people who maintains two separate images, you may run into that uncomfortable moment when one life overlaps with the other. You’re out with the kids visiting a fall festival and having a fun time when you spot an important business client. Do you hide? Do you feel you can greet them with enthusiasm and confidence?


Why is Your Personal Brand Important?

You will be in high demand when you have a good online reputation. Business will come to you when people grasp the value you bring. When people want to work with you, it is a good thing. That is true whether you are in business for yourself or working for an employer.


Go Deeper, with Integrity

There is a renewed interest in being real. Check out #2 on this list from Entrepreneur. Professionals have been shaping their personal brands consciously more than a decade, creating a character that they play in the office or boardroom. Compartmentalizing can start to feel dishonest.

Authenticity and integrity are attractive. Profiles that don’t appear to be hiding a “man behind the curtain” stand out. In his book, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years: How I Learned to Live a Better Story, Donald Miller shares his discovery that he has choices about the life he wants to live, rather than accepting the status quo. He realized that he can be the director of the movie of his life. He is able to make his story more interesting and the one he wants to live.


Real Name or Online Persona?

If you are the product and it is tied to you directly, you can use your own name. As an entrepreneur or business owner who may decide to sell off this business in the future, it may be better to use a persona.

If people know you as “the _______ answer guy” or “the ________ wizard” your value is attached to a certain service or technology. That may be your position today, but if the technology changes or you want to pass the business to a successor, it will be helpful that it is not attached to your real name.


Share it with the World

Choose the right social platforms for you. Most of us have experience with some form of social media. Carefully consider ways that others look to you for knowledge. If you limit your contribution to liking articles on Facebook or LinkedIn, that may be enough.

The bar for entry is low. The competing noise is intense. Quality content comes first. Share your ideas and try to get into a rhythm that feels comfortable. Eventually, your audience will be eager for your next post, video or podcast. Most importantly, produce quality and in the most natural way. If you hate writing and miss the days of working at a college radio station, you may find that a podcast is the right venue for you.

If you have valuable experience and perspective, consider creating your own content. Even if you aren’t a skilled wordsmith, you can assemble your notes and hire a ghostwriter to complete a professional piece of content. If you have enough to support your own blog, that can be a very valuable and fairly inexpensive path to your new enhanced platform.


Take the Reins

Don’t let fear get in the way. Use a tool like the one shared by The Muse. Fill out the PDF to work through an analysis of your strengths, your weaknesses and how you best perform in business.

If you want to go deeper still, there is Peter Drucker’s classic essay Managing Oneself to help you grasp where you are and defining where you want to go next. Decide what you want people to find when they Google you, and what impression you want to make.

The investment in your personal brand is initially quite small and the rewards are great. Good luck getting your true self out there. The world is waiting for the good stuff you can share! A strong personal brand will make it easy for your followers to know you and find you out there in the big world.


PHOTO: Mary Pahlke / CC0 Public Domain

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