Even for people who don’t think they need to build a brand on the internet, watch out: if you’re not there to steer it, it’s being steered for you. To understand how to take control of your own personal brand online for your own benefit, we spoke with France Reimers, personal brand expert and principal at Firestarter Communications.
ABERMAN: Well, let’s remind our listeners quickly: why is a personal brand so important?
REIMERS: Well, as we live more and more of our lives online, it’s becoming more common that somebody will Google you before they interview you, go on a date with you, do business with you. And so, if that’s the case, then we are in the driver’s seat of how it is that we are perceived. So, why not understand what your personal brand is, and how you can go about creating it effectively to work for you, rather than against you?
ABERMAN: I find that a lot of people really resent that the social media giants now put us in a posture where we have to manage this stuff, but it’s too late to have that conversation, isn’t it?
REIMERS: Yeah. The horse has left the barn on this. If those who are dragging their feet and saying that social media, or any sort of social engagement, is not for them, they’re way behind. Because the reality is, your brand is already out there, even if you are resisting social media. If you work for a company, even if you work for the government, your name, your picture, your bio, is probably on a company Web site or something somewhere. So once again, if you know it, it’s there. So, why not get in the driver’s seat and manage it?
ABERMAN: So, I tend to think of summer as a time where I really wish I was at the beach, or maybe the mountains someplace. Why do you think summer is such an important and good time to work on your personal brand?
REIMERS: Well summer’s perfect because the phone is ringing less, emails are less frequent. We’re not bouncing around from staff meeting to staff meeting to staff meeting. So, you really can kind of isolate yourself for an hour or two, and sit down, and really think about: what is happening in the next six months of your life, the next year of your life? And think about what is going on, and what you need to do to put yourself in the best position for success.
ABERMAN: What are a good series of tasks, or a roadmap, of two or three things that, as a practical matter, people should be doing over the summer to build their personal brand?
REIMERS: Well, the first thing you’ve got to do is, think to yourself: how is it that I want to be perceived? What do you want people to think when they look at your assets, when they look at your social media platforms, your company website, a picture of you online that somebody has tagged you in? When they see those images, what is it that you want them to see? What adjectives, or active words, do you want to immediately come to mind when somebody looks at you?
Like when crafting my own personal brand, I wanted people, when they saw my assets, to think: sharp, personable, active, innovative. And so, I work very hard to make sure that all of those adjectives are very apparent when out there. So first, how do you want to be perceived? That’s the first thing, because that pretty much shapes every other activity from then on. The second thing is: take an audit of what is out there about you.
ABERMAN: Google yourself.
REIMERS: Just Google yourself! Yes. It’s so easy. People seem to somehow think that Googling yourself is a vanity thing. No. It’s actually a business practicality thing. Going out there and finding out where you are on the Internet is extremely important, because, you might find something that’s incorrect, or something that you had no idea was out there. So, take an audit of yourself. Where are all the platforms and websites where you’re listed, and are all of these places giving the same story? Are they sharing the same message? When you look at your assets, like LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, what are you saying about yourself? And more importantly, how do you look? This is extremely important.
When people look at a photograph of you, they’re making a split second judgment if they want to engage or disengage. So, take a look at that picture. Is it outdated? Is it really putting you in the best light? A lot of people post pictures with sunglasses on, which I’ve never understood. We can’t see your eyes. If we can’t see your eyes, guess what? You’re putting a barrier of trust between you and the person that’s on the other end. So, make sure that, when you’re looking across these assets, that they’re telling a consistent story, that you’re showing a consistent story, and that all of the information is up to date. Especially for those who are going out on the job hunt in the fall. They’re looking for a new job, wanting a promotion come fall. Recruiters are actually required now to look at your social media accounts, and 95 percent of them go to LinkedIn first.
ABERMAN: And you can go through your Facebook history, or Twitter history. You can edit it and delete things.
REIMERS: That’s right, absolutely. You can absolutely go into these platforms and edit if you want to go in and make sure that posts with particular words or phrases are automatically removed. There are apps out there that will help you do that. You don’t have to go line by line by line. TweetDelete, for example, is a great app. You just put in a keyword, it’ll go through your feed. It’ll show you the posts that have that image or phrase or word, and will immediately remove it. I mean, it takes the heavy lifting out of it.
ABERMAN: The message here is: if you think that social media is a multiplayer game for fun, you’re completely missing the point. People need a Sherpa to be able to do that. So, you can fight the social media giants, or you can use them, and actually get stuff done here in D.C. Frances Reimers, as always, thanks for joining us.