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Christmas Countdown: 12 Days for the Brand of You


By Sanja Gardasevic, December 23, 2016

How often do you Google someone before a meeting or search a name when it comes up in conversation?

If you are similar to me, it’s quite often. Research showed that people Google someone a friend has mentioned in conversation 23 percent of the time and or a person they are going on a date with 14 percent of the time.

Online content about each of us – social media posts, blog, articles, YouTube videos we watch, even the scores of that high school competition we participated in –  creates a distinctive digital portrait, one that can be accessed by anyone at any time. The problem is when you do not manage that digital image – it’s a digital mess.

You are more likely to make a first impression online that at a Christmas party. Or any other social setting.

Personal branding has become a topic of interest for many. Some believe it’s a passing fad, while others underline the fact that we lead parallel online lives to our ofline ones and that they need to be carefully aligned. Whichever the camp, the articles on personal branding often leave poeple feeling overwhelmed and no knowing where to start.

As our small Christmas gift to you, we want make managing your personal brand a lot more manageable and easy to achive with just a few minutes of your day! Easier than setting up a Christmas tree! So let’s get started, and help you enter 2017 with an online brand that will help you with all your New Year resolutions!

1. Put it on your wishlist

With the myriad of information available about you online, posted by you or by others, making sure the information you want to display comes first will require consistency and persistency. That is why the first step to building your brand is committing yourself to it. You will need a strategy on how you wish to portray yourself online and will have to decide on the tools you will use to get the recognition you want.

Managing your brand means taking control over your public image – online and offline. You have to actively manage the idea that forms in someone’s head once they hear your name. Just like people think of the color red, happiness and even polar bears when they think of Coca-Cola, there are images, values and ideas your name entices. We want to get them under control.

This may sound a bit demanding, but it’s no more than a couple of your minutes every day. Something that becomse second nature as times passes. 🙂

2. Make sure you are not one of the Naughty kids.

Before getting your name down on the Nice list, we have to make sure to cover your charcoal footprints first.

Open an incognito window in your browser (to remove what Google knows about you already from the equation) and Google yourself, see for yourself how other people see you. Most of the people look at the first page results only, so focus on them. Imagine you are searching for a potential employee or a business associate. Would the person you find be fitting for the job?

What would you say are her aspirations in life? What are his skills and strengths? Is that person someone you would enjoy spending time with (today something equally important as skills)?

Be honest with yourself. When you do this for the first time, chances are you won’t be too delighted with what you find, but we all have to start somewhere. The thing with personal brands is that we all have one; we are just not using them to our best advantage.

Once the audit is done, the first thing is to remove the unflattering content that you can remove. Clean up you social media accounts. Remove all the post and images that don’t portray you in the light you want to be seen and update you privacy settings to take control over who sees what. There will probably be some entries you won’t be able to remove, but we can move them down the search results by giving weight to those that we want to appear first, but more on that later.

Read more:

3. Build your Gingerbread house

The only way to have complete control over you content is to feature it in your own house – a website of your own on a domain you own.

Facebook, Instagram or Medium are not platforms you own – you are sharing your personal thoughts and feelings on someone else’s platform. You are just a tenant in someone else’s home, and that someone can change the rules of housekeeping and even kick you out if he wants to.

Even though you are the author, you don’t own the content you create. Even though your content is highly engaging, you have no control or insight into the traffic you create. The traffic you attract doesn’t go to your website or blog – it stays on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and the like. And what happens if they shut down? MySpace did.

Take control over your personal brand by deliberately choosing your domain name, instead of settling for a username you had to choose because everything good was already taken. Ideally, go for the FistNameLastName.Me combination or variations of it. However, if they are taken, try with a nickname people recognize you by. What is important is that you use this unique opportunity to make sure your domain name says “This is Me!”.

Next up is choosing the platform to build your website on. These days, if anything, you have options. There are many free services that allow you to create a beautiful personal website in minutes and some of them can be found here.

Read more: 

4. Rudolf has his red nose, what about you?

Before you go about filling out your personal website, you have to know what is the message you want to send . You have to find a way to differentiate yourself from the crowd while still being true to yourself. The good thing is: Just like a certain red-nosed deer, you already have everything you need! 🙂

You are already one of a kind. Unique, with your own set of experiences, values, thoughts and feelings. You only have to make the real you shine through and resonate with people the right way.

How do we do that? First, access the elements you are working with:

1. Identify your values: Values are at the core of our being – they represent what we consider most important. Some people may value integrity and honesty above all; others may put more value into intelligence and independence. Values are individualistic and very personal.

Whatever our personal values are, it’s important to be aware of them. It is not easy to identify the drivers behind our actions or to make the right decision.  But when we know what we value the most and what would bring us happiness and fulfillment, we can use that knowledge as an internal compass.

2. Identify your passions: The power of our passions is that they make us explore, learn and get better for purely personal reasons. Passions bring us satisfaction and make us happy. That is why it is very important to identify them and find a way to incorporate them into our professional and personal lives.

3. Inventory your strengths: Look back on your past experiences and examine what we can offer as a professional. What makes you unique and valuable team member? What will distinguish you from all other candidates competing for the position you want?

Think about the things you are good at: Are you detail oriented? Do you have that gift to become friends with people you have just met in under five minutes? Are you a great influencer? Perhaps you are the one to go to for innovative problem solving? Are you a great writer?

Skills and competencies you identify and that correspond with your desired profession should be highlighted by your personal brand.

4. Consult people that know you best: Ask your friends and family about traits and attributes, good and bad, you are known for, as well as working environment and profession they can see you excel at.

Do they see you as an artistic person that has the gift of painting beautiful pictures using only words? Do they consider you the person to call if there is a community event to be organized?

Think about the way their perceived images of your strengths and affinities resonate with the image you have formed about yourself in previous steps, as well as with your desired future.

The last step is turning inward and thinking about the gap between how you are perceived by people now – offline and online – and how you want to be perceived in the future, in order to make your dreams and aspirations come true. You should be able to identify which aspects of you existing brand align with how you want to be perceived in the future and which do not, so you can start managing them.

Read more: 

5. Avoid ghosts of Christmas past

When shaping your brand, remember: The greatest sin you can commit as a person living online is to be fake, and trust me, the Internet can sniff out a fake person better than a german shepherd searching for treats. Be authentic.

Don’t pretend to be something you aren’t; if you’re love knitting goofy Christmas sweaters, by all means share your talent – people will love you for having the courage to be yourself.

Even if you have made some less flattering decisions in your past, own up to them. Advantages or disadvantages, career shifts, humbling jobs or negative search results. As Tony Conrad says, “whatever happens to you in life, good or bad, the most important thing is what have you done with it, what have you made of yourself.” Those experiences are what shaped who you are today and have significantly impacted your narrative. The power is not in covering up your past, but acknowledging it and learning from it.

Your ghosts lose their shock value when they are out in the open.

6. Spread your branding cheer!

Next up is letting your creative juices flow and deciding on the content that will go on your site. The most important thing, and the most challenging one, is writing the about me description. For me that may be the hardest step of all – talking about myself. But, there are hacks to help us through it, and they are all nicely presented here. You actually did the hardest part by interviewing your friends and family in the step 4. 🙂

Another thing to keep in mind is that your brand should be unified and consistent on all channels. This means that your social media bios should all be somehow connected to your about me description on your personal website. What I suggest is working on a tagline – one sentence that describes you perfectly. It doesn’t even have to be a sentence, it can be words put together like “Lifestyle Blogger. Social Media Strategist. Chocoholic.”. The only important thing is that it describes YOU in short.

Put that tagline at the homepage of your website and use the bigger about me description for a designated about me page people will click on to learn something more about you.

Read more:


7. Utilize your social elves

A great way to fill out your personal website is to use the information about you that is already online. Why look for new tree decorations if the old ones already fit? You can display your latest tweets and Instagram posts or just invite people to follow you on social media.

By connecting your social media accounts and all relevant online profiles to your personal website you achieve two things:

  • You will increase the relevancy of your website since it will contain all the most important information about you. Depending on the concept of your website and the message you want to send, you will be able to choose which profiles you wish to link and which not. You want to direct people to those profiles you wish them to see and present them as part of a broader context. This gives you that power.
  • In turn, by adding your website URL to your social media accounts (in the bio or about me description), you increase your website’s ranking on search engines. By linking to your site from different profiles and even putting it in your email signature, you are sending search engines a message that your website is a reliable source of information about you. This way, we achieve our goal of putting your website on a number one spot on Google search results.

See, our Christmas tree is filling up quickly, and sparkling already! 🙂

8. Time for the mistletoe, eggnog and lights

The content is king, but the presentation can do wonders. Good visuals are a powerful way to present yourself to the world in a fun, unique way.

Your personal brand should have a cohesive look and feel that reflects your core strengths, skills, and vibe. You want the brand to feel like you, while also reflecting the appropriate professional image that will really connect with your desired audience. The look/feel of your personal brand is made up of a few key elements:

1. Colors – You want to choose a few colors that you can use consistently in your personal brand assets (website, business card, logo, etc). While color red fits .ME perfectly, since it’s a bold and exciting brand, I always choose blue for me. Blue is considered a strong and dependable color, and I want to be perceived as such. Check out this infographic to learn more about the science behind colors.

2. Photographs – The photographs you choose for your website and social media profiles should be high quality. This means no quick shot of yourself in dim bar lighting from your mobile phone (unless, of course, that is a core reflection of your personal brand).

Contract a professional photographer to take a set of headshots that you can consistently across all your social media profiles. A great photo brings out your natural personality, while creating a connection between you and your audience.

3. Fonts – If you are not a professional designer, choosing a font can be a nightmare; there are so many options. However, for a start, you don’t need anything fancy. You can just use a template and stick with a recommended option.

The most important thing in choosing the look and feel of your personal brand is to reflect your true personality. If you are artistic, let your website show that part of your personality. Don’t be afraid to experiment with themes and templates, you will recognize the right fit when you see it.

Acquire fans like Santa Has

While having a personal website can do wonders for your personal brand, it alone is not enough. You have to make your personal brand work for you. You have to actively use it as a tool for you to accomplish whatever it is that you want to do.

Whatever you goal is, you have to be active in the community you want to be a part of – online and offline. A great way to attract someone’s attention online is to leave comments on their social media posts. The people you want to reach probably get too many comments per day but one of the ways to be noticed is for that comment to express thoughtfulness and some sort of connection.

Another part is going to conferences and physically engaging with your community. You cannot cut corners when building a community; you have to be present and involved.

In a connected age, developing and maintaining a strong professional network has become one of the key prerequisites for professional success. A decision to put yourself out there is a strategic one; one that will allow you to continuously expand your circle or friends and acquaintances. But remember – it’s all about your approach. Be authentic, consistent and thoughtful. Start with thinking of the value you can provide to them, not with what it is you want.

You are not Home Alone

You don’t have to do everything alone, and most often, you just can’t. Find a mentor, someone you will learn from and who will help you grow.

You can never improve nor advance as fast as when you have someone who is willing to give you a push in the right directing every now and then. That can be bringing your attention to something you missed in a meeting or giving you a valuable book recommendation; everything counts and everything is valuable. There are people you can learn more from in a one-hour conversation than from reading hundreds of books. In the end, nothing beats experience and all the wisdom that goes with it.

So find a mentor, be a sponge and find a way to give back.

1. No one likes a Grinch - give back!

Learning is the key to prosperity but keeping knowledge just for yourself doesn’t do anyone good. If you followed our steps so far, you saw how important it is to connect with and learn from others. However, it’s even more important to make sure you give back.

Just sharing your blog posts on social media and in communities you are part of doesn’t make you a part of the community. You have to read other’s posts, provide feedback and give them a boost on your own channels.

Also, make sure to share what you learned with those that are just starting. By sharing your story, you have the chance to inspire people to do great things. And anyway, doing things with others can bring you joy and valuable friendships.

12. Grow your Brand with Hope and Agenda

We have come full circle – we are back to strategy and staying committed. The decision to build your brand is a strategic, long-term one. The hardest part is over – you have everything set up. What comes next is making sure your effort doesn’t go to waste by regularly updating your website and actually using it so share your awesomeness with others.

Be authentic, deliberate, persistent and a little crazy and watch your brand grow. But before that, grab some eggnog, gather your family and have a very merry Christmas! 🙂


Author:

Sanja Gardasevic


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