Wednesday, April 21, 2010

How to Boost Your Personal Brand With Social Media

By Chris Garrett
Published April 21, 2010

Want to build your personal brand? There are few tools as powerful as social media for quickly building a positive personal brand. Whether you’re focusing on a global audience or a local one, social media can help you get visibility and help you forge connections.

In this article, I’ll share some tips to help you leverage social media to gain more exposure.

#1: Reap What You Sow

What are you aiming for? What is your goal?

If you want to get yourself known, social media is a great way to build visibility and a platform. Getting known might be your goal or it might be a means to an end. Again, social media can help you build connections that pay off in terms of opportunities and offers.

At the very least, when you do the right things in social media, you’re building a profile that represents you in the best possible light when anyone wants to look you up. It is a rare potential employer who will not do a quick Google search, and apparently even potential dates now do this routinely!

#2: Model Real Life

Social media grew out of real-world social rules and therefore what works in real life works well in social media, but with wider distribution and accelerated cause and effect.

Often people say to me that social media does not work, but what they really mean is they tried to extract value before they put any in. In fact, at the time of this writing I almost got into a protracted debate on Twitter about this very thing. Because this one person didn’t see any results, he believed social media “didn’t work.” The problem is, social media does not work for people who just want to take and be selfish, so he is setting himself up for a self-fulfilling prophecy.

You can’t withdraw very long from an empty social capital account. Essentially, if you want to get out value, then you need to start putting value in.

#3: Be Likeable

Another aspect of social media engagement is that your basic interactions are communicating more than the 140-character status updates. People also read between the lines. Again, this can work for or against you.

Brands are built through experience just as much as what you say and any image you create. The brands you love and hate are much more about how they have treated you than their logos and corporate mission statements!

The same is true on a personal brand level. It’s about treating people well and giving them a positive experience with you. It really helps if you like people because you are going to need to be consistently a good person to know.

Using light humor, being kind, sharing about more than just your work—including your interests—allow people to connect with you on a human level as well as a business and technical level.

Beyond this we have to be aware of boundaries and limitations to sharing. We have all seen the damage that can be done through “overshare” or Too Much Information, and also what we find humorous might well put people off, or even cause emotional or professional damage.

Consider a popular blogger who is constantly on the attack, belittling people, making fun of people, “digging up dirt” and so on. Yes, he will gather a following—bullies often do—but how do these kinds of tactics affect long-term relationships and loyalty?

At SXSW I had a discussion about this very topic and we realized many of the highly visible people who used this approach 4 or 5 years ago are now seldom heard from and nobody will take their calls.

Social karma works in the negative as well as the positive, and the Internet has a LONG memory!

Does This Really Work?

At this point you might still be skeptical. So to reassure you that there is some real cause and effect going on here, just look at your own social media activity.

* Who do you follow? Think about your top three social media users and what they have in common.
* Which blogs do you read? Again, which are your “must-read” blogs?
* When have you had the best results? Think back to when you had your best win. What did you do?
* How do you attract new contacts? When you want a social media or list boost, what works best for you?
* What can you test today? Still skeptical? Good! Test, verify—what can you try today to move your metrics needle?

I am 100% sure that when you put out good, valuable, positive stuff—when you share only the best—that’s when you will get the best results. It also follows that the people you are most attracted to or listen to most are the people you get the most value from, be that entertainment or education, and with whom you feel the best connection.

#4: Share, Share, Share

Tactically this is about sharing good stuff. If you want to position yourself as an expert, then share what you know.

The more you share good stuff, the more people will want to listen to you. Even better, if you share your expertise with good stuff from other people mixed in, it shows you’re generous and have your followers’ best interests at heart rather than pure self-promotion.

* Answer questions in LinkedIn.
* Share links, videos and anything useful that you find in Facebook and Twitter.
* Post your slide decks to Slideshare.
* Upload advice videos and demonstrations to YouTube.
* Write valuable content in your blog and answer comments.
* Invite people to ask you questions on your Facebook fan page, Twitter and your blog.

#5: Conduct a Whuffie Audit

Cory Doctorow of BoingBoing fame invented the futuristic reputation, or social capital–based currency, of Whuffie. Some days I wish Whuffie really existed and that just by looking someone up we could see what kind of person they were and how much they added to society. Unfortunately we do not have Whuffie yet, but you can “audit” yourself to see how much social capital you are generating.

Keep an eye on your key metrics to see if they are growing and what behavior is influencing them:

* Followers, friends and subscriber counts—How many people you have following you is not the best metric, but it does tell you if you’re attracting versus annoying people!
* Retweets, clicks and shares—If people want to share your stuff, it’s a hint that what you are putting out is valuable.
* Comments, favorites, discussions—Can you spark discussion and debate? That’s value right there.
* Key contacts, referrals, recommendations and testimonials—Are you reaching people and are they telling others about you? What do people say about you behind your back? Will people publicly connect their name, and reputation, to yours?

Closing Thoughts…

I know how frustrating it is when we say things in interviews like “provide value, join the conversation.” Hopefully I’ve explained a bit more about what this means and some of the steps you can use. It comes down to having the intention to really help, inform and be an excellent person to know.

A reputation is difficult and time-consuming to build, but with social media we can damage it in an instant. When you have what’s best for your community in mind, you will not go far wrong.

How does this work for you? Got any tips to share? What has worked best in your experience? Please SHARE your thoughts in the comments! :)

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