Certain life-events can call for a total re-imagination of your personal brand. Whether you are shifting career paths, running for public office, vying for a big promotion, or becoming a parent, you may want to reinvent your online presence. Every single piece of information that can be found about you on the internet comprises your online reputation. Whether you know it or not, this reputation affects your relationships, career, and daily life. Regardless of your reason for wanting a fresh start, with the right steps you can create a digital footprint that aligns with your goals. It’s time to take control of your new brand.
As technical as it may sound, re-structuring your online presence doesn’t need to feel like a chore. The beauty of the internet is that an individual can design whatever personal image they want to create. There is endless room for creativity, and as long as you are authentic to yourself, it can be an enjoyable and rewarding process. You don’t necessarily need to have a “bad reputation” on the internet to want to reinvent yourself. Examining and rebuilding a digital footprint can be a reflective journey of self-exploration. Taking an honest look at the way people perceive you can be scary, but also enlightening.
Your personal brand affects more than just your business. The way you appear online helps people understand who you are. “Both online and in person, personal branding is key to helping people understand who you are and what value you can bring to the table,” explains Executive and Career Coach, Kate O’Sullivan. “In terms of career progression, having a clear reputation around what you’re like and what you’re good at will make a big difference in your success and the opportunities that come your way. What do people think about when they hear your name? How do they describe you when you’re not in the room? These things all add up to your personal brand. If you don’t really have a brand or you don’t have a strong one, you’re likely missing out on introductions and opportunities that would otherwise be coming your way.”
A lack of online presence is almost as harmful as a negative reputation. Neglecting to build your digital footprint can confuse your target audience. “If you don’t have a strong online presence, it will make people wonder, and it won’t do anything to bolster your reputation,” says Kate. “The reality is that people you’re going to work with, recruiters, and even colleagues will most likely look you up online when they first meet you. If you have an online presence that hasn’t been touched in 10 years, what message will that convey? At the very best, it shows them you’re not in touch with the job market. At worst, it may make them think you don’t understand the importance of your digital presence. It also means you missed a good opportunity to tell your story and highlight your background.”
Often, information that is misleading, inauthentic, or generally off-brand gets posted about people online. Just because this information exists doesn’t mean it represents the subject in a genuine way. If you Google your own name, and you don’t like what you find, you may need to reinvent your online presence. Old photos from college, press coverage about a previous career path, or opinionated political posts that no longer reflect your views could be standing in the way of your clear personal brand. By examining your digital footprint, you can determine whether your online presence needs refiguring.
How do you measure your online reputation? When you are examining your digital footprint, consider all of the information about you that is online. The internet is vast, and there is a lot of ground to cover. You may need to start from scratch and move through the map section by section. Take notes about which content bolsters your brand and highlights your strengths, and which content shines a negative light.
As you work your way through the Reputation Map, comb through each page and profile. Delete any removable content that doesn’t support the image you are hoping to create. Clean up social media profiles. Scan each post, comment, tagged photo, and video tied to your name. Ask yourself, “Does this data paint me in a way I want others to see me?”
While examining each profile, also look for opportunities to add new content that supports your brand. If you have news, photos, videos, or other media that compliments your online image, update your social platforms. If you don’t, create a to-do list of content that will add to your positive online image. Take new photos, write a blog post, or gather testimonials. Be specific and focus on the brand you set out to build – details such as what you are wearing in your headshot, or the name of your website, will all influence your new digital “look.”
Kate suggests starting rebuilding with Linkedin. “For most people, a strong Linkedin profile is the first step. Be clear in your summary about who you are and what your experience is. If you’re looking for a new job, make it clear what job you’re looking for. We are all online today, and it’s easier than ever to find out information about people. That means you should expect people to read about you online, and you should make sure your online presence is reflecting your personal brand.”
Even though you are working on your individual digital footprint, brand building can be a collaborative process. Reach out to other people who are growing their presence as well. By working with others, you can utilize cross-promoting content. Look for influencers who are in the same niche as your brand. You may want to ask them to write a guest blog for your site or let you contribute information to theirs. Ask friends to share your new videos or articles on social media in return for sharing something they posted. The goal is to flood the internet with new, positive content – teamwork can make that process move much more quickly.
Maintaining momentum in building your online presence can be challenging. Personal branding is a life-long endeavor. You must create new content consistently for a reputation to stand firm against further false information. Having a plan is vital.
“One of the biggest challenges in maintaining your own online presence is consistently creating high-quality content,” explains Kofi Frimpong, entrepreneur and founder of Socionado. “As an entrepreneur, there’s so much that you are dealing with. It’s easy to forget that maintaining a social presence as an authority in your field can help you establish and garner new relationships. In order to maintain consistency, it’s important to create a content schedule and plan your content ahead of time (typically a month). Building a social presence this way will lessen any interferences with your day to day duties.”
As you create your content strategy, don’t forget about your core message. The values you built your personal brand on should remain apparent in your content as time progresses. You can’t maintain a strong personal brand without authenticity.
“Especially for my more experienced clients or people trying to build a business around their online brand, the biggest challenge can be focusing your message,” adds Kate. “Trying to be everything to everyone is going to result in a very diluted personal brand without a lot of personality. You want to be compelling and memorable. That may mean that you’re not everyone’s cup of tea. I think it’s better to know yourself and be yourself online so that people can really get to know you.”