Has the digital world dented your personal brand?

Have you done anything that you later came to regret? We all have, right? We squirm a bit when we think back, but after enough sweeping under the carpet, eventually we forget and hope that everyone else has too. But what about doing something online? Have you shared or posted anything that you later thought “ooops! not sure I should have done that”. Like this….

When you lose control for a tiny moment in the real world, the only people who witness it are those in your immediate vicinity. But when it happens online, not only do you have a potential audience of thousands (unless you’re a celeb), but your faux pas stays there forever. Spare a thought for this poor guy…

“…He used to be a solicitor; back in 1994 he was suspended for six months at a tribunal following accounting irregularities.

Following his return to work he became fully rehabilitated by the Law Society, and the escapade became but an embarrassing memory, an unfortunate slip in an otherwise distinguished career. But recently, a legal periodical digitised all its back issues and placed them on its website; useful for the legal profession, but for the solicitor in question it was, understandably, a shock.

The report of his tribunal was now on the first page of results when you searched Google for his name. An indiscretion, 15 years ago, for which he’d paid the penalty, but which was now distressingly visible because of the online popularity of the periodical in question….”

Yikes! Not good. In situations like this, the best advice is to start creating new positive content. Things you might consider include buying your name web domain, setting up your own website or blog and posting comments on blogs and forums. But what if you can’t be bothered with all that. I have great news! You don’t need to. Yes really! My solution? Buy a new service called “Delete me”. Delete me is a new service launched by Abine where you pay between $10 to $100 to remove photos, blog posts, videos, and search results, delete old accounts, and stop companies from selling private data to advertisers.

Thank you thank you!!! I know, I’ve just saved you a heap of time in bothering with all this personal branding – digital presence malarkey!!

I think these guys are going to make a tonne of money!

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What’s the cost of not being digi-savvy?

An article I read in The Independent also asked the same question. It seems as though the idea of creating and owning a digital presence is seeping more and more into mainstream. Some of you reading this will think I’m stating the obvious. And you’re probably someone who spends a lot of your time in the digital space. But, it’s easy for us lot to forget that there are masses out there who’s only foray into the digital space is checking their Facebook page once a month. And even then they don’t post anything, they just have a peek about. They don’t engage.

These people are in their thousands. And, I’m going to push the boat out here: I’d be prepared to bet that most of them are either over 50 or employees. Employees, it seems, are the least likely to be digital savvy. Why? Because they have a cushy job. And because they have a cushy job, they don’t feel the need to connect with others in the digital space, because they get to do it at work. But also, their cushy job gives them very little time to explore, play and discover all this new stuff that’s happening online. And, their employers have probably banned access to most of the social sites.

When you run your own business or are a freelancer, connecting online is an essential part of business. So being digi-savvy is crucial. Big brands are a bit late to the party here, but they’ve been able to trade on their brands’ awareness for a bit to buy them some time to watch and learn. Now they’ve realised that if they’re not online, then they can’t assume that it’s business as usual. But how long will it take individuals to get digi-savvy.

A fact I’ve already mentioned is relevant again: in 2017 all 400,00 of IBM’s staff will become contractors. The implications of this for employees is staggering. The time will soon come when most workers will be freelance and be hired on a contract basis. So how are they going to get hired? Well, it’s not from having a polished CV and really nice chap at the recruitment agency to talk to. NO. It will be from being well connected in the digital space and being visible. But more importantly, for being known for something.

So, individuals had better smarten up at working out what their uniqueness is, and getting themselves noticed for it. And in the words of @thomaspower, because, if they don’t, they’ll starve

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The rise of the digital coach?

Yesterday I attended a session run by Ecademy’s Thomas Power. They’re in the middle of recruiting what they’re calling Digital Coaches for their Ecademy Digital School.

Digital Coach is a term that was coined by Seth Godin in few years back. I’ve only recently come across it. If it sounds new to you, then let me take a few moments to share with you how they define such a person;

• A digital coach teaches you how to do things digital and how to get those things done.

• They help you to use value and optimise Twitter, Facebook, Ecademy, YouTube, LinkedIn etc

• A digital coach understands the difference between personal branding and company branding

• A digital coach is a friend, ally, support service, professional lifesaver, protector and brand guardian.

• They are someone who is a companion and change agent who helps businesses transition and benefit from the Digital World.

During the session Thomas spent a lot of time delivering a very clear message:

if you do not define yourself you will starve

If you can’t define yourself, then other people won’t be able to either. And, if they can’t, then they can’t recommend or refer you. Bummer eh? But you know what? Working that out isn’t a quick process. I have the T-shirt!

Thomas shared a great quote from Penny during the session

“Network value happens when others talk about you when you’re not there”

This quote is very similar to another great quote by Amazon’s Jeff Bezos

“Your personal brand is what people say about you when you’re not there”

So, what we’re talking about here is the same thing, we just can’t agree on a good name for it.

The old adage, it’s not what you know it’s who you know has never been more relevant than today. Thomas rammed this point home several times. Generation Zero have grown up having hundreds of friends, connections and followers. For them, having a network of people who know them for being them is natural. It’s everyone else who needs to worry. Everyone else needs to start thinking about growing their network. Not only that, they need to ensure that their network know who they are. And by this I mean, know what they stand for and what they can be relied on. Oh look! Now we’re back to branding!

So, both Penny and Jeff are talking about the same coin, just different sides. Yes, you need to know what you stand for and can be relied upon for, but then you need to leverage the power of the network. And today, that network is online. If you’re not engaging and publishing online, then you’re not visible. If you’re not visible, then you won’t be chosen.

Oh dear!

And that’s where Digital Coaches come in. They can help you to both these things and walk with you on the path to discovering and defining who you are.

If you’re reading this and thinking “I’m an employee not a freelancer or a business owner, I don’t need to worry about this sort of thing”

WRONG!

Just ponder this; in 2017 all of IBM’s 400,00 employees will become suppliers. How do you think that is going to affect other employees?

In the current climate of austerity and cutbacks, many businesses are moving to using contractors and virtual teams, so now more than ever, defining yourself clearly is a matter of survival.

Have you defined yourself?

If you want to have a chat about discovering and defining YOUR brand, give me a call!

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How social media can help your personal brand

Here is an article I wrote as guest blogger for Smarta.com that you can find here.

Let me ask you this: when people ask you what you do, do you have a response that is clear, compelling and engaging? How you answer this question is a key part of your personal brand. It’s your story and should help you to be memorable and stand out, so that people know who you are and what you stand for. After all, we all know that the best form of marketing is word-of-mouth, and what better way than to inspire others to share your story. When you do this right, it won’t be too long before you hear the words “Oh yes! I’ve heard of you”.

Your personal brand is a combination of many things: how you present yourself and engage with others, your past results and achievements, your values and strengths, your goals and ambitions and what you’re known for. Developing and refining your brand takes time and effort, as it is crucial for your brand to be authentic and YOU. Anything else will be sniffed out. But overarching all this is the need for consistency. All strong brands can be relied to deliver upon their promises, consistently. And this is something that you need to think about.

Having a clear personal brand will not only improve your confidence in yourself. You will be able to attract investment more easily. As your profile improves, potential investors will hear about you and know whether or not you’re the sort of person they want to invest in. You are also more likely to attract the right staff for your business. Your personal brand and your business brand will be very closely linked, and your actions should be driven by your core values. As such, when you communicate your values through what you do, those people with similar values will be attracted to you. Of course, the same goes for attracting customers!

Social media is a great way of enhancing your personal brand. In this digital age, it is most likely that people will first come across you online. If not, they will certainly Google you after meeting you. So how your present yourself in the digital space needs to be consistent with your brand. Personal websites, blogging and active social network participation can all contribute to a strong online presence. But, don’t forget to show people the real you. After all, people do business with people. Twitter is a great way for showing your human side as well as engaging and forming new connections. It can be too easy to be “professional” and this can sometimes come across as cold and distant, not to mention boring.

So, what are you going to do today to enhance your personal brand?

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3 reasons why you should NEVER use video on your site

1. Your livelihood does not depend on selling you as an individual.

So you might be an employee with a guaranteed job for life who sits behind a screen all day with no need to interact with anyone, ever.

Or, you’ve made your millions and spend your days either re-arranging your vast collection of fast cars around the estate, deciding where to berth your yacht next or pestering your butler for another Cristal.

If on the other hand, you’re in the business of selling you, (and who isn’t?) then video is an absolute MUST for your site.

There’s an even narrower list of people who ABSOLUTELY DEFINITELY need to have video on their site. And these are those folk that are in the people business where your business is essentially you and your clients or customers interact with you directly. I’m talking to you entrepreneurs, business owners, consultants, coaches, trainers, speakers, mentors, PA/VA’s, therapists, counsellors, actors, porn stars, etc… you see where this is going?

2. You don’t want to progress in your work, earn more money or grow your business.

This is perfectly reasonable. With the planet running out of resources and space, buying & selling more things and using up more stuff is clearly going to end in trouble. So good for you by not wanting to contribute to the inevitable disaster that’s heading our way.

3. You’ve got 2 heads and think that people may be put off working with you.

This is wholly understandable, and to be quite frank, you should probably seek professional help.

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Why using the same status update is a bad idea

With use of social networking becoming even more popular, apps are springing up everywhere enabling you to update all your social networks in one go. This feature is even being incorporated into certain social networks. For example Twitter enables you to update Facebook and LinkedIn simply by adding #in or #fb to your tweet. Great news, right? Wrong!

But before I go on to explain myself, let me first ask you this. I want you to think about the following question: 

whatpersonareu1“What sort of person are you?”

Now, you might find it tricky to answer this question. Well, for a start, who’s asking? Do they know you already? How well do they know you? What sort of person are they? How long have they got? Your answer will very much depend on the conclusions you reach in answering these questions. Not only that, what is the reason that you’re answering this question. Is it conversational, or are you trying to sell yourself or are you trying to get rid of someone? Again, depending on your objective, you will have different answers.

Put simply, your answer will depend on your audience and your objective. So, now, think about who your audiences are on each of your social networks and what your objectives are for each network.

Facebook is likely to be your friends. If they’re not friends, then they’re at least people that you’ve met. LinkedIn on the other hand is going to be people in your professional network. You may have worked with them, met them at networking events or linked up with them through a group. Twitter, well, who knows who follows you on Twitter. They could be anyone, but essentially they’re interested in what you’ve got to say.

It might be easier to think about how what we say differs based on where we are. So, if we were to try and draw an analogy with real places, you know in the real touchy-feely non-digital world, what would that look like?

nottinghamyeoldesalutation

Well, Facebook is like being at the pub with your mates. LinkedIn is like being at a networking event, and Twitter is like being at a social event where you don’t really know many people, you might even be on a long train journey!

So, you’re in the pub. Your mate next to you is wittering on about stuff he always witters on about. He’s pretty dull when he gets going. But, you’ve known him for ages, and, he’s a really nice guy, so you put up with it. If you were at a networking event and you didn’t know him, you’d be making a beeline for the drinks table. The same goes for the social event. So, back in the online world; on Facebook, this means your status feeds are full of boring dross (sounds familiar?) But you can’t un-friend them, because they’re your friends. On LinkedIn, maybe you don’t care, because you only visit it once or twice a week and you probably miss most of it. On Twitter, you un-follow. Period.

Now the same applies to you. Speaking in a networking stylie at the pub will make everyone roll their eyes. They probably don’t even know what you do let alone care that you pitched to such-and-such and presented to whoever. On Facebook, you’ll share certain stories because people know you already. You feel safe saying certain things, offloading your crap day, because they’re your mates. And you’re not trying to impress in the way that you might be on LinkedIn. But, you whinge too much on Twitter and you come across as a whinge-bag. Your followers haven’t met you and don’t know that you’re usually the life and the soul of the party.

Now let’s go back to the real world. Imagine you’re at a wedding. Maybe you have some friends there. But if not, you think it might be a great time to meet some new people, you might even pick up some new work contacts. To avoid being sat on your own all night, you might be keeping your ears peeled for some interesting conversations that audienceyou could join in, or you might just strike up some random conversations. Either way, your goal here is to come across as interesting, so that you get to meet people. After all you never know who you might meet. The things you decide to say in this environment will be very different to those that you talk about at the pub, or indeed at the networking event.

Thinking about your environment, your audience and your objective is crucial in forming your response to a question.  So, the next time you answer the questions “What’s on your mind?” or “What’s happening?” are you going to give the same answer?

You might want to read these other posts on personal branding…

Personal Branding and your digital identity

Why Personal Branding isn’t all about the digital space

Why Personal Branding is relevant to business

3 reasons why you should NEVER use video on your site

Don’t hire a Personal Branding Pro until you’ve answered these 5 questions

The 5 perils of personal branding

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7 ways that social media can damage your personal brand

A report out today has highlighted just how careful employees and job-seekers need to be in their use of social media.

With more than half of recruiters saying that they check social networking sites as part of their research.

Interestingly, 43% stated that they had information that had caused them NOT to hire the candidate. Top reasons include:

  • no_jobLying about qualifications - 38%
  • Demonstration of poor communication skills - 31%
  • Making discriminatory comments - 13%
  • Posting content about them drinking or using drugs - 10%
  • Candidate posted provocative or inappropriate photographs or information - 9%
  • Bad-mouthed their previous employer, co-workers or clients - 9%
  • Sharing confidential information from previous employer - 8%

Glancing through this list, it’s easy to see why employers would react in this way. The transparency of social media means that you need to be very clear as what you stand for and what you want to be known for. If you choose to undertake questionable and unethical behaviour (lying, bad-mouthing, leaking confidential information) and live your life in the open, then you need to accept the consequences.

bothways

Social media can be incredibly powerful in helping you to build a strong personal brand, but it works both ways.

So, if you’re an employee or a job-seeker, here are some top tips for avoiding personal brand meltdown online:

  • Be honest about your achievements and your experience. The truth is easier to remember.
  • Decide who your audiences are for your personal brand and ensure that what you project to those audiences is consistent.
  • Don’t be negative, deliberately provocative or discriminatory in public. This is just bad form wherever you are, online or offline.
  • Seek out testimonials for work that you’ve done and show them off. LinkedIn is great for this.
  • Check your public photos! Make sure that all the embarrassing ones are removed, hidden or private.

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Why personal branding isn’t all about the digital space

throwingsheepI met up with Matthew Fraser last week, author of Throwing Sheep from the Boardroom, during his recent visit to London. We managed to find a quiet spot in the Mayfair out of the glare of the paparazzi (who were there for George Clooney and Elton John, not us!)

Matthew is a fascinating guy who has been fortunate to hold many interesting roles, one of which was as a talk show host on CBC Newsworld. He was keen to point that last one out as he felt it explained why he was asking me so many questions!

mfraserAs a thought leader in the world of web 2.0, Matthew knows a thing or two about engagement and connection. And, with another book on the way that expands on the engagement theme, we could have quite easily just talked all things web 2.0 and engagement. But, intrigued by the fact that I specialise in Personal Branding, he was keen to share his advice, advice that I’m happy to share here.

Matthew was very open about what his advice would be for anyone: if you want to be known for anything, write about it! And he doesn’t mean a blog, but a book. Yes, write and launch a book. As the proud author of five books, this guy knows what he’s talking about.

I know that some of us have probably heard this before but, for Matthew, the book launch is only the beginning. A published book is a great way to position yourself as a thought leader on a topic that you want to own. Not only that, but it is a solid platform on which to launch yourself as a speaker on the international circuit. Within 6 months of his latest book coming out, Matthew, now firmly positioned as a web 2.0 guru, was touring the world doing talks on the social web. And, from our quick chat, it sounds like it’s a nice little earner.

Other titbits of advice that Matthew kindly shared include;

2588186224_b97d6feaa3Differentiate
Obvious, but easy to forget. Review the others books that exist on your chosen topic and make sure that the angle you’re proposing is unique. It can be too easy to just verbalise your content without thinking about how it fits into the competitive landscape.

chinese-takeaway-food-001Make it a take-away!
Publishers love it when you offer the reader some exercises and actions for them to take away. Of course, you might prefer to intellectualise and stick to theory, but exercises and actions are more likely to get you the deal.

Don’t expect to get paid!
Really? Yes! The book is a tool. It’s a marketing brochure, a sample of you. The payment comes afterward in the form of speaking gigs, consultancy and the occasional opening of a supermarket!  You might be offered money, but if you’re not, don’t worry.  Do it anyway!

The thing that strikes me from this whole conversation, is that a thought leader in web 2.0, is encouraging the use of non-web 2.0 methods to build your personal brand. Of course, social media is still critical, but it’s in addition to what we do in the real world. And, we must remember that for most people, you just can’t beat the things that you hear, see and touch.

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Personal Branding and your Digital Identity

One of the things that’s been keeping me busy recently has been the launch of my Personal Branding Taster Sessions that I’ve been running in London and Nottingham.

The reason I decided to do these was that some people I speak to still don’t seem to understand how Personal Branding might be relevant to them. Sure, if you’re in the spotlight for whatever reason, then it’s crucial. But beyond that, folk seem to think that it’s just not relevant to them. Oh but it is! And yes, you’re thinking that I’m bound to say that.

Thankfully, the feedback from my sessions has reinforced that massively: Personal Branding IS RELEVANT & IMPORTANT.

But, if I were to be official for one second, I would summarise my main finding so far to be this…

Digital Presence
The main aspect of my attendees’ Personal Brands that seems to be in need of attention is their Digital Presence. Their digital identity will include anything from social network participation and profiles, to Google rankings and whether or not they have their own site etc.

Staggeringly, some people are still not convinced that they need to worry too much about what happens online. Comments I’ve heard include “well, in my industry, it’s all face to face and who you know” and “none of the people I know are on social networks”. REALLY? What world are they living in?

For those that are convinced that they need to clean up their digital act, they complain that they’re not tech-savvy, and that they don’t understand how the social networks work.

I find it interesting that for some, the digital landscape is still so confusing and scary, and yet, this is where social interaction and engagement is happening.

It seems that for many, their Personal Branding challenge is to understand the world of web 2.0.

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Social media: what’s your excuse for NOT taking part?

geek_party_3It used to be that the only brands that got involved with social media were tech brands. Brands whose very premise was technology and web. So for them, the very idea of NOT taking part in social media was not an option. If there was a party, they had to be there. Fast-forward a few years, and the party is still alive and kicking, but it’s not only full of geeks. There are some bigger better-known types turning up. After all, everyone is invited; it’s an open door policy. But for some reason, brands are still slow to the party. Lame excuses probably include “…not sure what to say”, “…might look stupid”, “…do I have to?” blah blah blah.

But these excuses are starting to wear thin. There really is NO EXCUSE. A report out last week confirms what many have known for a while; engaging with your audience through the use of social media pays. Oh yes!

Money“… the most valuable brands in the world are experiencing a direct correlation between top financial performance and deep social engagement…”

So now we’ve got that out the way, let’s just get our heads around what engaging really means [clue: it's a lot more than just showing up].

Being seen in the right places

Well as with most things marketing, first you need to find out where your audience is hanging out. Once you know that, you can make a decision as to which channels you want to be seen in. But remember, to take part in a channel doesn’t mean you have to own it. It is OK to just hang out. Let me explain. Blogging might be really important to your audience, whether they read them or write them. But you don’t necessarily need to have your own blog, you can actively take part in their blogs; make comments, give prominent bloggers a preview of new products, submit articles and news. The important thing is to take part, and not just have a presence.

Listening

catjobphase4As I’ve said, just being in your chosen channel isn’t enough, you have to take part and interact (this bit is so important I decided to repeat myself - it’s for you skimmers out there) And most importantly, you have to listen. This is quite new to a lot of marketers, who usually too busy spouting outward. Used to focussing on getting their message out there, now they’ve got to learn to listen and converse. Before I hear too many marketers shout in protest, when I say listen, I mean listen as a daily activity, not an annual one. Listening needs to become part of the fabric of the business and not just an isolated focus group attended by a solitary marketing exec.

Make a commitment

This is really important. For a brand to engage with its audience, it needs to commit to it. Once you’re in, you’re in. So make sure you have a plan and a resource to deliver that plan. Sure, the plan can evolve. But at the very least make sure that someone owns social media in the business and is listening to the conversation. Ideally, social media needs to become part of the culture, right up to the top. But, one step at a time is fine at this stage.

So, what’s your excuse?

state-newspaper-excuses

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