Fact is: most everyone talks about personal branding as though it has become an involuntary action, like a reflex or breathing. Not so… and mistakes abound.
Often, poor branding does the exact opposite we had intended; instead of impressing a potential employer, partner or influencer… we create a bad first impression, alienate or perhaps even offend (spammer!)
How do we get started? How do we go well past the generic “clean up your Facebook” advice to make a real impact? And how do we leverage the relationships built in a sincere, proactive way?
To help answer those questions, here are 20 steps to take right now to create, expand, and leverage your personal brand in 2013:
1. Create a Custom URL on LinkedIn
Accomplished simply from your ‘Edit Profile’ page on LinkedIn, “LinkedIn.com/in/YouTernMark” is better branding – and far more memorable – than “LinkedIn.com/#/US42_378107/user/998”.
2. Create a Custom URL on Facebook
Easily accomplished in your ‘General Account Settings’… again, your custom URL will look much better on your resume than “Facebook.com/php?id/10988845771”.
3. Buy Your Domain Name
Nothing helps SEO and branding more! Examples include firstlast.com (LindsayTuttle.com), firstmiddleinitiallast.com (LindsayATuttle.com) or, for those with a consistent career path or title, firstlasttitle.com (such as LindsayTuttleCPA.com).
4. Register your Social Media Handle
Even if you aren’t using all platforms of social media (Twitter, Google+, etc.) go register your social media handle on each site now (don’t let someone else get it first!).
5. Grab Your About.me Page
6. Get a Professional Headshot
Go spend a few dollars – perhaps even at the JC Penney’s Portrait Studio at the mall nearest you – to get a professional headshot. This is hugely important to show a positive, professional image.
7. Develop Your 30-second Elevator Pitch
Who you are, what you do, how you do it and, most important, what makes you… YOU. Highly recommend Chris Westfall’s mentorship in this area at WestfallOnline.com.
8. Develop a Unique Profile on Social Media Accounts
In each one of your social media profiles – every single online platform – make sure a large portion of your elevator pitch is consistently front and center. At the same time, avoid generic statements and clichés that make you sound, well, just like everyone else.
9. Promote Your Image
Do the same with your brand-new, professional headshot… upload your smiling face and positive attitude everywhere!
10. Print a Business Card
Go to VistaPrint.com or Smartlevels.com and have student and/or job-seeker business cards printed; be sure to include your social media contact info, including the link to your custom LinkedIn and Facebook URLs.
This is the single best way to jump in to the digital networking process! In your chosen occupation, a regional job hunting group or maybe an alumni group – jump in and engage.
12. Participate in Two Twitter Chats per Week
Another amazing networking tool, as well as a great place to find mentors. My favorites: #jobhuntchat and #InternPro on Mondays and #HFChat on Fridays.
13. Visit Blogs and Engage
Pick your Top 5 blogs by industry, job category and maybe your shared passion of the blogger. Then, each day, comment on at least five blogs. Tip: you can accomplish this on “Answer” sites as well; check out Quora, LinkedIn Answers, etc.
14. Network Face-to-Face
Every week, attend one networking event in your community. This is not easy sometimes, but can – and must – be done; this is how people get to know the “real” you!
15. Pay It Forward
While networking – offline and on – make sure you’re focused on helping others. This is the single best way to engage with influencers (and with this approach, you’ll soon be asked about you… perfect!)
We make a new contact, perhaps get a business card… and then never follow up! Instead, develop a “follow-up plan” that includes an “it was very nice to meet you; here’s an article I thought you’d find interesting…” format (again, you are helping them!).
17. Engage to Be Likable
People like to work with, talk with, and recommend people they like! Even introverts can excel in this area… try itfirst online, where you can hide behind your keyboard until you get a little more comfortable.
18. Be a Social Connector
If there is one way to really stand out with your personal brand, it is to be known as a connector – the person who says, “There is a person you must meet… I’ll send an e-mail introduction.”
This is networking karma gold.
19. Focus on ROI for Your Brand
Of all the people you’ve now met online and in-person, who is the most influential? Who has the greatest potential for a mutually beneficial – perhaps even a mentor or partner – relationship? Most important: leave the drama queens behind. They can’t help you (and you cannot help them!)
20. Maintain Those Relationships
Don’t work so hard on developing new contacts you forget about those you’ve already met. At least once per month, and no less than once a quarter, keep in contact with those on your “Influencer” list.
That’s it… the 20 most helpful tips to create, expand and leverage your personal network in the New Year. What would you add? What has worked well for you, and your brand?
About the Author: CEO and Founder of YouTern, Mark Babbitt is a serial entrepreneur and mentor. Mark has been quoted in the Wall Street Journal, Mashable, Forbes and Under30CEO.com regarding job search, career development, internships and higher education’s role in preparing emerging talent for the workforce. A keynote speaker and blogger, Mark’s contributions include Huffington Post, 12Most.com, The Daily Muse, Alltop, StudentBranding.com and Intern Advocate.
Mark has been honored to be named to GenJuice’s list of “Top 100 Most Desirable Mentors” and was recently featured on HR Examiner’s “Top 25 Trendspotters in HR” and several top blogger lists, including JobMob’s “Top Career Bloggers of 2011”. Contact Mark via email or on Twitter!