Smart Money magazine’s September issue shared a fantastic fact published by Careerbuilder.com. It stated that 63% of hiring managers did not hire a candidate because of what appeared on a social website. They were not referring to a blog the candidate wrote, not even a You Tube video or a publicized chat gone badly. They were referring to pictures and comments posted about the candidate from someone they knew – like a son or daughter, friend, cousin, mom, sister or brother.
Comments like: “she always lies”; “I can’t believe he got the whole meal paid by his company”; “she drinks too much”; “he cheats at everything”; “my mom was wasted last night and drove home”; and “he just brings supplies home” have deterred hiring professionals from ever contacting the candidate. The study also included negative feedback from fraternity or sorority parties found on the web, to fishing trip photos and personal videos online.
Believe it or not people are “searching” you on-line when they first meet you. They’re seeing what comes up whether it’s you or not and whether you posted it or not. It’s online “identity theft” of a different sort and the time to start managing it is now.
Personal Brand Association
It was almost ten years ago when Tom Peters wrote the article, A Brand Called You.
Before then and still, even in some circles, branding is seen as something only for large corporations, companies and products. And, that’s a myth. Organizations and professionals understand the importance of reputation management and the ability to differentiate themselves from others. I’m sure you’re familiar with the saying, “it’s not what you know, it is who you know”. Let me take that one further, “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know and who knows you WELL.” Whether it’s companies, organizations or for profits, people become involved because of other people.
Being built by association happens online and offline. Managing your own brand means managing, how people describe you when they introduce you face to face and monitoring what’s being said about you in cyberspace.
So, first let’s start with your online brand management. Take the time to “Google” yourself right now. Put your name in quotes, (i.e. “John Smith”) in the Google search bar. Check out what comes up. Is it you? Other forms of you? Or, someone totally different? Look not only at website – checkout images, too.
Next, sign up for “Google Alerts”. It’s a free on-line service that will email you every time your name is used on the web. You want to know when your name appears anywhere on the web immediately. You can then actively deal with it and lower its ranking on the Google search.
Most of the time, the first three pages of a Google search are the ones most often read. After the first three pages, interest wanes in searching the person further. Your job is to make sure that the first three pages are the real you and that you “push further down the list” anyone or anything else listed about you.
There are several ways to do that. You can hire a service to clean up or restore your on-line reputation such as reputationdefender.com or defendmyname.com yet if you set up a time, for example once a week, you can do it yourself.
Here’s how to do that. First, create a blog. There are many blog sites that are free to nominal cost to use. The one I highly recommend is wordpress. It’s easy to navigate and there’s no software to download. Each blog post is seen as a page on the web. The more pages that appear with your name on it the more the search engines pick up your name and the higher you list on Google.
What would you blog about? What is of most interest to you that you value and are passionate about? If your seeking place in the world of work, then write about what you’re good at, ask questions online and post information and answers shared from others, even posting conversations and interviews that you have with mentors or potential employers will get you far in both the digital and analog world.
Post comments on other blogs, too. Find some that are of interest to you and your area of expertise and subscribe to the RSS feed so that you’ll stay in the know of what are the most up to date conversations. Cocomment.com is a useful tool that automatically tracks your on-line footsteps and provided reciprocal links between your blog, those you like to comment on and those who like to comment on your blog. Make sure you respond with your real name so that when you name is searched these are the type of comments that will appear. If you’ll set aside a certain time to do this, you’ll see that you’ll start doing this consistently and make a significant impact to your online identity. For example, I post on one blog every night. I know that I will read something online every night so it’s a part of my routine to post a comment on one when I’m reading.
Review books on amazon.com. Again, utilize your real name. Review only books that are of interest to you such as self improvement, cooking, design or comedy. Those associations with books that are consider providing expertise in a field that your interested will associate you with the good reputation of those publications.
From Online to Offline Connections
Offline is a little bit different because you have to show up and can’t just post to develop your brand face to face.
First, I recommend that you look at who you know already. Most people think that in order to develop and get their brand known by others that they need to immediately begin “gripping, grinning and grazing”. When I’m coaching a client, my first response is to not go meet new people until we take care of who we already know.
I call this the database cull. It’s looking through and making sure all the information that you possess on someone is accurate and up to date. From email to phone number and addresses, spend the time gathering information on who you are already “in the know” with.
Secondly, look at what you know about each of them. Do you know where they spend their free time? Do you know where they work? Who they know? Where they spend their free time? Wayne Baker, in his pivotal book, Achieving Success Through Social Capital, found that each person knows about 250 other people. Knowing this, when you know more information about someone you know who they know and who they influence. When you’re out there looking for assistance on a project or seeking employment, doesn’t it make sense to be introduced by someone that person you want to meet already knows, someone they trust?
Borrowing From Another’s Credibility
I like to start my connection with people much higher up by borrowing from the credibility and the reputation of the other person. It saves time and yields better return.
The only caveat is that people will not introduce you to people who know, like and trust them unless they have “know, like and trust with you”. In order for them to have that with you, they must sample your character and competence. And, in order for them to do that you must know what makes you so unique. You must know what your vision is? What you value? What your purpose is? And, what you’re passionate about.
In order, to move a relationship from merely visibility to credibility and then eventually to profitability you must know what makes you stand out and is your unique talent. That is where the branding process is extremely key because extracting what is authentically you will help you know what makes you unique.
Have you ever seen those long and lavish mission statements on a plaque of the corporate wall? Or, inscribed on a company’s stationery? Other popular places are on the back of business cards, on websites, brochures, and annual reports. Yet, it’s the person who is “belly to belly” with the customer that is that company. It’s not the corporate crafted mission statement that defines that company’s image. It is the stock clerk, the teller, the barista, the ticket taker and the sales representative who has direct contact with their clients. Even in the non-profit world, many will become involved for the cause, yet the majority become involved because of a person – either someone they know, someone affected or a special someone who asked for their help.
And, as organizations are built by association, so are you. I believe that having great command of the “rules of engagement” and a good understanding your core value will help you put together a brand communication plan that engages others.