Imagine you were on the phone with a potential client, and during that time she Googled your name – what would you want her to read about you and your company?
While it might feel like a daunting task to build and manage your personal brand, experts say that everyone – from an indie professional to the C-Suite executive – needs to spend part of their day managing their online reputation in order to build their business.
It’s About Trust
People want to buy from people and businesses they trust, period. With the world moving towards more transparency, clients will try to get a sense of your personality, reputation and integrity through online search, your website or social media.
The critical element is to determine if the story being told about you online is the correct one.
“It’s human nature to quantify people and you can’t let others tell your story. This is communication in the modern age and you want to present yourself in a specific truthful way,” said Mark de la Viña, partner at Consort Partners.
Everyone Owns a Billboard
“It’s impossible to hide your online reputation anymore – it’s 24/7/365 and your brand is now your resume,” said Brenda Christensen, president of Stellar Public Relations.
By spending time searching your name, you can quickly figure out what people are saying about you, good or bad, and have the opportunity to respond.
“The way to look at yourself is that everyone is on a freeway and everyone has a billboard. It’s really important to be aware of your brand and take action on it,” Christensen said.
You’re Now the Target
Protecting your reputation and brand becomes increasingly important as your business grows. According to a 2015 Domain.ME survey conducted by Wakefield Research, 54 percent of Americans are concerned that the information about them found online could negatively affect their reputation. Despite this, the majority (79 percent) have never tried to manage all that information about themselves online.
“As you start to become more recognizable and establish a presence, seen more, talked about more, it opens you up for more scrutiny and people start to target you,” Andrew Bart, startup advisor and growth consultant, said.
By building a strong and authentic personal brand, customers will begin to associate you with quality work and thought leadership, and help you combat against trolls.
If You’re Not Visible, You’re Missing Opportunities
Bart said that he spends ample time recruiting people for startups and projects and if a person doesn’t have an online presence, that’s a red flag.
“[To start,] if you don’t have a LinkedIn presence, that’s an indicator that you’re separated from society and something is missing there. If you don’t build out a social profile that is optimized or seen on different websites, then you are missing out on opportunities to be mentioned or have content results around your name,” Bart said.
Your Competitors Are Doing It
By putting your brand out there, you have the opportunity to distinguish yourself from the crowd in your industry.
“When dealing with competitors in your field, it can be so confusing for everyone. [Your] brand has to be a succinct summation of what you do, how you do it better than others and what is it about yourself that makes you special,” de la Viña said.
It’s an Online Handshake
Per the same Domain.ME survey, more than a quarter of Americans claim that they’re more likely to make a first impression online than at a real-life party or social event; if you think of building your personal brand as your online handshake at a networking party, it can be an opportunity for customers to get to know you and your work.
“It’s another channel for an owner to be able to market themselves and use their personal brand to build the business,” Bart said.
Start the Conversation
Experts say the first “must do” when building a personal brand is developing a consistent message around what you want people to know about you and your business.
“You want to clearly articulate what you bring to the table and put your stamp on something that distinguishes you from everyone else. If you are committed to your brand, then it requires a consistent message so it’s really clear, impactful and enduring,” de la Viña said.
Other ways to build your brand are to engage with people through blogs, forums and social media and contribute in meaningful ways that leverage your talent, Christensen said.
Most importantly, when building your brand, be authentic, truthful and share a glimpse into who you are as a person.
“Branding has to have an authenticity in order for it be successful. It gives you the ability to share your experiences in a personal way,” de la Viña said.
This article was brought to you in partnership with .ME, the premium top-level domain for professionals focused on building their online reputation. Check out the rest of the series here.