The majority of questions I get about personal branding revolve around protecting privacy. Coaches and administrators are concerned that students and staff know how to avoid the social media screw-ups of oversharing or inappropriate posts. But the more important piece is teaching people how to be their own media by building a strong personal online brand. Be in charge of your own information to help steer your search results and put your best digital foot forward.
Let's start with these five tips:
1. Work on creating succinct bios that highlight your professional mission. Look through profiles on the sites you're working on to see what others are doing. Business writer Jeff Hayden recommends avoiding these words: passionate, authority, workaholic, guru, serial entrepreneur, technologist, strategist, and unique (we are all unique). You will need these:
2. Buy your internet name domain, such as johnsmith.com. Consider the extensions as well (.net, .org, .biz), as they are usually inexpensive add-ons. You may not use your domain yet, but reserve it now so somebody else does not buy it. Companies like GoDaddy, Register.com, iPage, or Blue Host can sell you a domain, web hosting, or email services. They are fairly inexpensive.
3. Set up an email address that uses your name. Do not use a school (.edu), Hotmail, or social media email, such as your free Facebook email. I recommend using gmail as it is free and part of the Google family (see point number five for more information on the importance of Google accounts). It should reflect your real name, such as firstname.lastname@example.org, and it can be used for all your professional correspondence if you don’t have your own domain email. At present, gmail and personal domain email addresses are the best professional email standards.
4. Get a professional looking headshot. A headshot is a picture from the chest up with you smiling. Make sure you are dressed for the job you want, not the job you have, as my friend Chris Yandle would say. A couple specific tips: for men this means no caps or hats, for women this means no cleavage.
5. Set up five key social media profiles. This list may change with time, but all five of these profiles are good SEO material. Make sure when people search your name, you help direct what they see. Authors Herbert Tabin and Craig Agranoff (Do It Yourself Online Reputation Management) suggest spreading this task out over a week or so. If you set them all up in one session, Google seems to think you might be gaming their system. Also, keep these current and dynamic by adding accomplishments, new jobs, awards, whatever will further you mission. That way, Google won't perceive your information as stagnant.
Good luck setting up your personal brand and let me know if you have any questions. Please add to the conversation in the comments. This information is from my book Practice Safe Social: How to use social media responsibly to protect your reputation and build loyalty.