How personal branding went digital and what it means for your career

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When I started my personal branding business 20 years ago, personal branding lived in the real world. From handshakes to in-person presentations, brands have been built through people-to-people connections in huge office towers and suburban office parks everywhere. Over time, however, your brand has moved online.

One of the first drivers of this change was the launch of LinkedIn in 2003. It created a space for your professional activities and accomplishments to live online. Since then, there has been a constant evolution from the real to the virtual with the introduction of more social media platforms, as well as technology for video meetings and online forums, groups and associations. Then came Covid, and the gradual drift to digital personal branding became immediate and complete, like the flipping of a switch.

When the switch flipped, the in-person 3D elements of the personal brand were replaced with in-line 2D replicas. Meetings that would normally take place in conference room A have been moved to conference room Z (for Zoom). Customer pitches took place online. And the first impressions, including the new recruit who has never physically visited the office, yes, all online. Mastering digital personal branding is therefore essential if you want to increase your success and happiness at work.

The good news is that the three most important personal branding principles are just as relevant and important online as they are in the real world:

  • Personal branding is based on authenticity – what is real, genuine and real
  • Personal branding is all about differentiation – standing out from others who do what you do
  • Personal branding means delivering exceptional value, which makes you relevant and compelling to the people who make decisions about you.

Here’s what you need to know and what you need to do to get the bit-and-byte version of yourself to line up with the flesh and bones of you, showcasing your best brand online:

Master your first digital print

First impressions have moved online, so you need to create one that matches who you are. This means it’s time to update your LinkedIn profile. This is often the place people visit when they want to see you in a professional capacity. And even if they start with a Google search, your profile will rank very high in the results, sending decision makers straight to your profile. Focus on your Headshot, Headline and About.

Your LinkedIn About will be the most read version of your bio, so make sure it shows that you are both believable and likable. To connect more deeply, use the Featured section to video introduce yourself. It gives people a chance to learn more about you on a more personal and emotional level.

Grow your network online

Boost your real-world relationships with an online component so you can stay visible and valuable to the people who matter most in your career. Sort your emails backwards and make sure to add any contacts you’ve lost touch with to your online social media connections. Once you’ve updated your digital Rolodex, make a habit of adding new people to your online network as soon as you meet them. It will help you keep all of your digital human connections.

Demonstrate your brand online

It’s time to master online meetings and presentations. Even in a post-Covid world, they’re here to stay. The good news is that they give you the best opportunity to showcase your brand value. When you use conferencing technology to improve what you do and show that you have mastered the world of virtual interactions, you are making a big deposit in your personal brand bank. Don’t be flippant about online meetings. Treat them with the same importance as those signature events that previously took place in person.

Stay on top

Because your brand online will impact your real-world success, you must always remain visible, available, and valuable to your target audience. Determine a rate for posting content that will be useful to the people you are looking to influence. Make a plan to stay ahead with your stakeholders. Plus, to stay on top of what’s being said about you online, set up a Google Alert for your name. Then, when your name is mentioned in digital content, you will be among the first to know.

Maximize Video

Video is the second best thing to be there. And since you probably won’t be “there” often, use an enhanced two-dimensional version of yourself. Consider using the video like Doritos in this SuperBowl commercial starring Matthew McConaughey. To use video effectively:

  • Create your LinkedIn Cover Story (if this feature is not yet available, it will be). Your Cover Story is a quick 30-second video bio that sits behind your photo. It allows you to introduce yourself to others using rich media (aka video).
  • Post YouTube videos that help you show off your thought leadership.
  • Include a video “proof” in your LinkedIn Featured section, along with clips from your presentations.
  • To create a more human and connected experience, use video in important meetings, in messages to your team, and in presentations to your boss.

Most importantly, don’t forget to reinforce your brand’s traits every step of the way.

William Arruda is a keynote speaker, author, co-founder of CareerBlast.TV and creator of the LinkedIn Profile Type Indicator (LPTI) which measures the liking and credibility of your LinkedIn profile.


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