Most everyone talks about personal branding as though it has become an involuntary action, like a reflex or breathing. Not so.
Personal branding is a learned skill. Or rather, a learning skill–as we all make mistakes, refine, and redesign until we get it as close to perfect as our situations and goals dictate.
Questions abound: How do we get started? How do we go well past the “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:
1. Buy your domain name.
Examples may include firstnamelastname.com, firstnamemiddleinitiallastname.com, or firstnamelastnametitle.com (such as LindsayTuttleCPA.com)
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!).
This is done simply from your profile page; as an example, “LinkedIn.com/in/YouTernMark” is better branding–and far more memorable–than “LinkedIn.com/#/US42_378107/user/998”.3. Create a custom URL on LinkedIn.
4. Create a custom URL on Facebook.
… Again, your custom URL will look much better on your resume than “Facebook.com/php?id/10988845771”.
5. Grab your About.me page.
Be sure to stay consistent with your branding URL!
6. Get a professional headshot.
Go spend a few dollars at the mall, even JC Penney’s, to get a professional headshot. This is hugely important to show a positive, professional image.
7. Develop your one-sentence pitch.
Who you are, what you do, how you do it–and, most important, what makes you…YOU
8. Promote your personal statement and your personal brand.
In each one of your profiles–every single online platform–make sure that one-sentence pitch is consistently front and center.
9. Promote your image.
Do the same with your brand-new, professional headshot… upload your smiling face and 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 URL).
11. Join at least 10 LinkedIn Groups.
Perhaps in your chosen occupation, a regional job hunting group, or maybe your alma mater (this is the single best way to jump in to the digital networking process).
12. Resolve to participate in two Twitter chats per week.
13. Visit the blogs and interact.
Each day, comment on at least five blogs and/or Answer sites (Quora, LinkedIn Answers, LinkedIn Groups, etc.).
14. Network–in person!
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. Pass it forward.
While networking–offline and on–make sure you are focused on helping others. This is the single best way to engage with influencers (and with this approach, you will soon be asked about you… perfect!).
16. Follow up.
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!).
People like to work with, talk with, and recommend people they like! (Even introverts can excel in this area–first online, where you can hide behind your keyboard until you get a little more comfortable).
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.” Then do it! (This is networking karma gold.)
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 mentor–relationship? Most important: leave the drama queens behind. They can’t help you, and you can’t help them!
Don’t work so hard on developing new contacts that you forget about the influential you’ve already met; at least once a 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.
What would you add? What has worked well for you, and your online and offline brand?
Mark Babbitt, the CEO and Founder of YouTern, is a serial entrepreneur and mentor and a passionate supporter of Gen Y talent. Mark contributes to 12Most.com, Glassdoor and Business Insider. He has been quoted in the Wall Street Journal, Mashable, Forbes and Under30CEO regarding internships, higher education’s role in preparing emerging talent for the workforce and career development. Recently, Mark was honored to be named to GenJuice’s list of “Top 100 Most Desirable Mentors”. You can contact Mark via email or on Twitter:@YouTernMark.