Personal Branding; Why it Matters and How to Get Started

As someone who grew up with social media and watched it evolve, it is interesting to see how its role in our lives has changed. It used to be that I could post something and only a few people in my small social circle would see it. My influence was small, and my responsibility for what I posted was minimal. It was almost like the Internet was a second reality that “didn’t really count.” Since then, social media has grown to a point that posts are easier to find (thanks to hashtags) and they are a direct reflection of who you are as a person. Depending on what you put online, this can be a scary thought.

Now that we are older and about to jump into the work force, it is crucial that we pay attention to how we brand ourselves on social media. A simple Google search of your name can determine whether or not you get a job. Think about that next time you post that questionable picture from spring break.

For me, I could sit and do social media for a company or brand all day, but for some reason it is so much harder to create a unified social media presence when it’s for yourself.  Since this is something I am genuinely interested in, I scoured the internet and found several good tips on how to begin personal branding. Let’s begin.

Define yourself- We’ll start with this quote from a really good article about personal branding. Seriously, you might want to read it.

So what is a personal brand?  A personal brand is the total experience of someone having a relationship with who you are and what you represent as an individual; as a leader. Think about what that means to you. Let it simmer. Ask yourself and then ask a close friend – what is the total experience of having a relationship with you like?    Write down the top 5 things you would expect others to experience and have your close friend do the same. Are the answers the same or similar in meaning?  If they are, good for you!  If not, you have some work to do.

Defining your personal brand first takes a lot of introspection. Think about who you are and what your strengths and weaknesses are. As the above article says, personal branding is not about selling yourself, it’s about defining yourself and what you can bring to the table. This introspection may or may not lead to a quarter life crisis.

Audit what you already have– Social media will be one of the first ways a lot of employers get to know you. Social media is not your personal brand, but it is a tool to display who you are. Even if you know what  changes you need to make to your social media accounts, you have to take a look at what you already have. Take a look at your posts, pictures and even who you follow. That tweet about your crazy ex? Probably needs to go. Same with the photo album that is entirely bathroom mirror selfies.

Make better content- Be intentional about what you post. Don’t tweet while you are angry or emotional. Whatever you share should contribute to who you are as a person. That doesn’t mean you can’t have fun or make jokes on social media, but it does mean that you need to be responsible. Take a moment and think whether you should retweet that questionable joke, and in general just be respectful.

Those are just a few tips on how to get started, but there are entire books written on this subject. I would recommend taking a look at this article and this other article that give some more in-depth ideas. This might be something you want to consider for yourself sooner rather than later.The reality is that social media has become an extension of ourselves and we have to take responsibility for it.  Have fun!

Olivia

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