While sitting with a hot steaming cup of pressed coffee this morning, I decided to pull out the computer and tackle the 167 new emails in my inbox. I have to be honest, after reading through the first 20 I was tempted to simply press delete and look away until I was prompted by my computer that there was nothing more to delete. I am sure there have been times where you were tempted to do that very same thing!
Anyway, making the most of my time spent in front of my computer on family day, I decided to get serious. Email #158 was worth reading. It was a blog post on "5 ways to avoid sabotaging your personal brand online." The blog quotes Dan Schawbel, bestselling author of Me 2.0: Build a Powerful Brand to Achieve Career Success, and explains his take on how to avoid brand sabotage online. The blog is focused on "personal" brand success, but I believe that these 5 simple cautions are just as applicable for a business as they are for an individual.
Below is a portion from the original post. Take a read and consider whether or not you are protecting and fostering a positive brand image online.
There have been countless incidents in which professionals have lost their jobs, been evicted, or even been arrested for things they've done on social networks. There has never been a more important time to discuss the many ways you can sabotage your personal brand, and how you can prevent these mistakes before it's too late.
The following are five ways to avoid sabotaging your personal brand.
1. Don't ignore brand mentions
58% of Americans don't even Google themselves, but employers and potential customers certainly will. It's safe to say that people are already talking about you, either online or offline.
As you create your personal brand on a variety of platforms, your name will start popping up in search engines and on social networks. This can be both beneficial to your brand or harmful depending on the context. The viral nature of social networks, as well as their new ubiquity, should encourage you to start listening in on what people are saying about you.
Negative mentions will spread fast unless you keep your ear close to the web, so I recommend you setup a Google alert for your name, your company's name, key competitors, partners, and industry buzz terms. There are many other free tools that can help you monitor your brand. You can also try Social Mention for a more complete solution to brand mentions on social networks.
CBB Insight. Google your business and yourself! Set up brand alerts.
2. Don't spread yourself too thin
A future problem, which some might say is a current problem, is the volume of social networks and the amount of status updates and messages you receive each day. If you're active on each and every social network that launches, you will start to spread yourself too thin, which can really hurt your brand. You won't possibly be able to update all of your social profiles, as well as keep track of pictures, profile information, groups, etc. In general, you should only join the largest social networks (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn), as well as those networks in your industry.
CBB Insight. Be realistic and pace yourself.
3. Know your audience
It's really easy to forgot who you're connected with on social networks as they grow. You might start out with high school and college friends, and then add some co-workers when you start a new job. There will be a point where you're going to have to make a strategic decision, who you accept and who you don't. The second you add your manager or colleagues is the time when you have to rethink what you publish or what you syndicate from other social networks. One mistake could cause you trouble.
On Facebook, you may want to have a profile page for your inner circle of friends and family members and then a Facebook Fan Page for your professional image. This way, you can make your profile private and hide it from search, while having a fan page that you can point your coworkers to. They will know that you are hiding your profile but should respect your privacy, especially since you're giving them the option to follow your fan page.
CBB Insight. Are you keeping your personal and professional social networks separate? If there is overlap, what are you doing to make sure you are presenting yourself properly?
4. Limit self-promotion
Successful self-promotion only works in moderation, because if you're constantly only promoting yourself, many people will un-follow, un-friend, or block you from their network. The best way to build a strong personal brand is to promote other people, which creates goodwill and a connection, as well as distributing value based on what you have to offer; your expertise. If you're helping people 80 or 90% of the time, then people will be much more accepting of your self-promotional messages. You will also start to notice that other people will promote you and their endorsement is even stronger than your own proclamations.
CBB Insight. Don't solely use social networks as a way to promote your company's sales or special offers.
5. Be consistent
Consistency is extremely important when it comes to any kind of branding, from personal to corporate. Selecting a unified "picture" and spreading it across all your social media (website, blog, presentations, press kits, business cards, etc.) will build image recognition in the mind of your audience. Consistency is significant for pictures, your name, as well as the fonts, the colors and the overall message that you communicate through your online properties.
There is no question that you already have a personal brand; whether you built it yourself or not. The way to differentiate it from everyone else is through management. By paying attention to mentions of your name online, not spreading yourself too thin, knowing your audience, offering more value than self-promotion, and being consistent, you can be very successful.
CBB Insight. Do you have an Internet Presence?