Somehow or the other I came to be known as a quasi-expert on personal branding. And with the unemployment rate topping 8% the pace of people coming to me and asking about personal branding has taken quite a spike in the past month of so. Surprisingly, all of the people that are doing so are currently gainfully employed (those that are not just want job leads, which is a bad strategy).
Also surprising is that they are really coming to ask me about online identity management, which is just one facet of a holistic personal branding effort. While I may save the broader personal branding discussion for a real expert or a later day, personal branding is essentially the way an individual communicates their unique promise in value in the same manner a company would. Online identity management focuses on creating a positive and distinguished Web presence of a person on the Internet.
Here are ten steps I recommend to manage your online identity.
1. Conduct An Vanity Search Audit
Have one of your friends do a vanity
search audit (Google, LIve & Yahoo!). I recently had a meeting with a young lady to discuss
managing her online brand. She was a little surprised I googled her
before our meeting. Even more surprised that I found one of her niche
social networking profiles with a reference to drinking and partying.
2. Clean Up Your Debris
If the audit uncovers anything unseemly, pick it up and discard it.
3. Control Your Social Network Audiences
Control is not a bad thing. Close down your more social social network profiles to your real friends. You don't want people that are searching for you as part of a background check to see comments from your college roommate on Facebook or MySpace. Maybe that is just me. Then again, maybe not.
4. Be You
Cleaning up your debris and making sure some potential hiring company or business partner does not have full access to all your social networks does not mean losing your personality and becoming some sterile drone (discretion is a good quality). Be nice, be helpful, demonstrate a little expertise, and above all be yourself. It is the only way that you can be consistent enough to create a brand of you.
5. Create Home Base
A place where you put all the stuff that you want people to find out about you. It can just be a collection of links to other places to find you on the Web, an online portfolio, a blog, or all of the above. You can do this on the cheap with tools such as blogger.com but you don't want a cheap personal brand and…
6. Home is Really Google
Jeremiah Owyang, a senior analyst at Forrester Research believes that a company's home page is really google.com. So is your personal home page. Professionals are googling you. Before they meet you. Before they interview you. As an example the number one keyword phrase driving traffic to FoG is "Lance Weatherby". It has the second keyword phrase beat by 100%
In his article Jeremiah points to some research that indicates the top three search results are clicked on 75% of the time. You want to own those SERPs (Search Engine Results Page) and if at all possible you want to dominate the entire default preference of 10 results. How can you do that?
7. Register a Personal Domain
I can not think of a single person that I know that has a personal domain that does not have the number one SERP on a vanity search. Fifty six percent of the people that search for you are going to click on that number one link. Own it and control you online identity destiny.
8. Customize Your LinkedIn Profile
LinkedIn is purely professional and can be effectively managed as a pillar of your online identity. Personalize your LinkedIn public profile to the form http://www.linkedin.com/in/lanceweatherby. It will return better search results. Instructions for doing so as well as other methods to promote your public profile are here. To expose your profile to anyone using LinkedIn go to the Edit Public Profile Settings and select Full View. Make your profile as complete as your resume.
9. Scribd It
Great place to post your bio, resume and other portfolio materials. Make sure the files you upload are saved with your full name in the file name. I put my resume up in January. It is currently the fifth SERP on my name.
10. Use Niche Social Media
You can use niche sites to fill out your top SERPS. ClaimID (which I really like a lot), Naymz, and Rapleaf are all online identity management services that could be utilized. If you are really active and social online a number of niche sites could fill this void. Flickr, Twitter, YouTube, you name it. Just be aware if it is searchable people will search and find it.
And everything else. To create a positive online identity that highlights your achievements and skills you must actively manage your Web presence. Hopefully these steps will get you moving down that road.