Whether you intend to or not, you have a brand. It’s not just a logo. It includes everything associated with you, from your social media posts to your site design and beyond. Your brand is what comes to mind when someone hears or sees anything associated with you. I’ve had an online presence for 20+ years in the form of various social media profiles and blogs. These are my top tips for maintaining a strong brand across the internet.
1. Give some thought to how you want others to see you
The internet is about individuals (not just big companies or products) and has blurred the line between our personal and professional lives. We should be thoughtful about what our name conjures up.
What words, images or feelings do you want to pop into someone’s head when they think of you or when your name comes up in conversation? Thoughtful? Professional? Intelligent? Authentic? Sophisticated? Cutting-edge? Helpful? Fun? Friendly?
Consider writing these qualities down. Whenever you write, post, comment, update, pin, tweet, network or otherwise interact online, make sure it’s congruent with the qualities you’d like to portray. Be consistent.
2. Be consistent with who you are online and in real life
I suppose this goes without saying, but I’ll say it because we all understand the temptation to highlight only our good stuff online. Don’t try to portray yourself one way online when in real life you are quite different. Also, if you’ve chosen to exemplify a particular quality online, find ways to work that quality into your real life.
The thing is, it’s very likely your online and offline worlds will collide at some point so making them congruent is essential.
3. Understand that projects come and go, but your personal brand sticks with you
The site you’ve started or are about to start might very possibly morph into something totally different, die completely or launch you into something unexpected, but your personal brand will live beyond these projects. Be thoughtful about how you maintain your personal brand over the long-haul since you never know how it may impact your personal or professional life.
4. Assume if you put something online, it’ll be there forever and it will be found
In other words, be careful about what you post online. Things have an uncanny way of coming back to get you.
It’s shockingly easy to find all kinds of information about you or things you said in the past. For example, do you know about the Wayback Machine? Type in any URL and you’ll see a history. Even the stuff you thought was anonymous or private (like your private contact info) can often be looked up easily.
So, write & share carefully and be aware of the character you exhibit.
5. Get a good headshot to use as your avatar
That small photo of you attached to social media sites, comments, etc. is often referred to as your avatar.
The internet is driven by relationships. Relationships are driven by face-to-face contact. Don’t hide behind a logo, name, or icon. Ask someone with photographic know-how to take some good photos of you.
Your avatar is part of your personal brand. Just like big brands with recognizable logos, your avatar serves the same purpose—something that people associate with you and your online presence. Take some time to make sure your avatar is well done.
Use the same avatar across the internet. Anytime you are asked to upload an avatar or profile pic, use the same one. Consistency is key.
6. Use the same username across the web
Just like your headshot or avatar, ideally, you’ll want your username to be consistent across all social media sites.
Whether you’re creating a new site or a new product, or you want to more firmly establish the one you’ve got, use KnowEm to search availability. They have paid-for plans for serious online types, but you can do a basic search for free. Simply type in the name you want and you’ll see if and where it’s available.
Tip: Whenever you hear of a new social media platform, sign up and grab your username immediately. Even if you don’t use it right away, you’ll be glad to have it if you ever do.
7. Register your name as a domain
If you’re unfamiliar with the term domain, it’s a web address. For example, bloggingonabudget.com is a domain.
I highly recommend you register your own name as a domain, even if you don’t have plans to use it right away. If you’ve got a common name like me, try a simple variation like inserting your middle name.
You can “park” a domain, effectively holding it until you are ready to attach a website to it. Ten bucks a year is a small price to pay in the event you might need it later on. Read my post, How to Craft a Perfect Domain Name, for more tips.
8. Monitor your brand and reputation
Be active on social media so you know what others are saying about you.
Another way to keep tabs on who’s talking about you is to set up Google Alerts. Use them to monitor your name, specific topics or keywords related to your niche. Here’s how to set up Google Alerts.
A little thought and planning go a long way in establishing and building a solid brand. If you are interested in learning more about managing your personal brand than I would suggest enrolling in the free Introduction to Personal Branding course at Coursera creat by the University of Virgina.