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5 Ways to Build Your Personal Brand Online

As we enter a new year, most of us take some time to reflect on where we’ve been and where we’re going.

This year, why not consider a new tradition: building your personal brand by managing your online reputation. After all, a strong online reputation is truly the gift that keeps on giving.

If you want to develop a strong personal brand you need to build pay attention to your online reputation.

Your Digital Footprint

Your online digital footprint is now your digital life resume. What people read on the first page of Google is who you are.

If you don’t show up online, you don’t exist. Worse, if you have bad search results, people have a negative perception of you. As you know, in a digital world perception is truly reality.

I have a business associate here in Ohio with an unusual last name. If you Google him the top results will talk about his multiple drunk driving arrests in nearby Michigan.

It hurts his reputation to have people see that. The worst thing is, he wasn't the one who was arrested. Given that, he has used the advice below to help clean up his undeserved reputation online.

It's an extreme example, but we all should be proactive in our personal online reputation management. 

Think about it. When you meet someone and you’re interested in being involved for business, or, um, personal reasons, what’s the first thing you do?

That’s right, you Google them. What makes the first page of Google results critically important is that only about six percent of people will go to the second page of results.

Manage Your Personal Brand Online

This can mean life or death for people who depend on referrals for their success, such as small business owners, professionals, and job seekers. The most powerful source of new business and employment comes from referrals. But today these referrals must be certified by positive search results.

Evidence for proactively managing your online presence is easy. In one recent survey 90 percent of employers admitted checking the online the social profiles of job candidates. While 69 percent said they’d rejected a candidate because of what they found, 68 percent conversely said they’d hired employees after a positive view of their social media sites.

Take Action

With this in mind, here are five actions you can take to get started on managing your personal brand online for 2016. (I know this is to much for most people, but even you don't act, it's worth knowing how online reputations are shaped.)

1.  Google yourself: 
When these results appear you are looking at a digital mirror. What shows up? Do you show up on the front page? Are the results positive, or at least what you want to show up? These results are your ultimate metric–your goal should be to create positive content that will grow to dominate your front-page results.

2.  Outline your online reputation map:
With yourself as the hub, draw spokes to your online properties, such as your name as a domain, your blog, your social profiles such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and others. This visual will give you a clear picture of your gaps and potential opportunities.

3. Evaluate your personal brand online:
It’s best to tap trusted friends or hire a professional to help you with this assessment. It’s hard to be objective. You’re looking for quality and quantity. Do you have a basic online network built around your name and identity? Is the content on your sites consistent with how you want to be seen? 

Realize there are no secrets or boundaries in a digital world–everything is transparent. So, yes, you should use privacy settings on Facebook, but whatever you post online is subject to being seen by the world. Are you producing content that aligns with how you want to project yourself?

4.  Develop an action plan: 
Review the gaps in your reputation map and outline steps you can take during the next year to move to improve your personal brand online. Set some reasonable goals such as capturing your name domains, creating and feeding a blog regularly, and assessing your personal brand.

5.  Work on improving your LinkedIn profile:
If you only have time to do one substantive thing during the holidays, take the time to update your LinkedIn profile. With more than 175 million users, LinkedIn is your most valuable tool.

Plus, properly produced, your profile is likely to rise to the number one result on Google. This is a quick way of temporarily bridging your online reputation gap as you work on the rest of your digital footprint.  

The philosopher Descartes’ view was summed up in a famous quote: Cognito, ergo sum (I think, therefore I am).

In my keynote talks to leaders, I remind people that in the digital age, the equivalent today is: I’m online, therefore I am.

I’m not urging you to make a resolution. You should take some small action to assess your personal brand online and commit to steady improvement over the New Year.

You’ll be giving yourself the gift that keeps on giving, as you reap the personal and career rewards of your stronger personal brand online.

You might also want to build your reputation by being a great storyteller in 2016. If so, consider joining us at our next Storytelling for Analytical Leaders session in February. 

I wish you a productive and successful 2016.

Here's an exercise to build personal brand:

Personal Branding: What 3 Adjectives Describe You?

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