Whether we like it or not (and whether we know it or not), we all have a brand on the Internet. It has become common for employers, potential business partners, and even potential relationship partners to “Google” us, and find out what the Internet says about us, before engaging in any form of relationship.
When it comes to our “online brand”, Chris Anderson, best selling author of the Long Tail and former editor of Wired Magazine, has famously noted:
Your brand isn’t what you say it is, it’s what Google says it is
The strength of our brand can be one of the key determining factors when it comes to our business success, and it can also impact the job and career opportunities that come our way.
There are 5 specific ways (the 5 “Cs”) that we can strengthen our personal brand on the Internet, starting today.
1. Create Unique Content
First, we have to commit to becoming a “content creator.” What does this mean? It means that on a regular basis, whether it be through blogging, writing guest articles on other blogs, creating videos, sharing pictures, or some other form of unique content, we are sharing things that we have created that, in some way, add value to others. Value is subjective, but the nature of what we create will reflect what we are “known for.” If we consistently create informative and inspiring content that helps people in their lives, we will be known for that. So start with asking this question: “what do I want to be known for?” Then go out and start creating content in that area.
2. Join Relevant Communities
We can strengthen our personal brand by establishing ourselves in online communities that are relevant to our interests. There are lots of ways to get “engaged” in communities. We can join Facebook and LinkedIn groups. We can also participate in popular forums relating to our interests. In addition, we can participate in relevant blogs. It is important that when we join these communities we have a link back to our website, LinkedIn profile or other social media profile, so that people can get to know us, and also see the unique content that we are creating (see Point 1).
3. Contribute to Interesting Discussions
This is a really important one. Our contribution is what will help us to become part of a community, and also to establish real connections with others in that community (more to come on that point). When we contribute to interesting discussions on relevant group pages, blogs or forums, we need to make sure that the contribution is meaningful. One of the annoying things that I find in the world of online marketing is what I call “selfish contribution.” Where someone will post a comment, but it is clear that they haven’t really read the article that they are posting about. They are just trying to establish a backlink and direct attention away from the discussion, and back to them and their blog / product / etc. If you’re going to contribute, then really contribute. Be present. Make it meaningful. That is how you will attract others to you.
4. Make Real Connections
When you join relevant communities and make positive contributions, you will soon establish new connections. Be open to them. If people comment on your blog, then thank them for their contribution and provide a comment back. But don’t make connections just to “pad your numbers.” This isn’t meaningful, and the search engines are smart enough to know the difference between a “fake” like, follower or friend and a real one. Also, don’t be afraid to reach out, whether it be in the form of tweeting, email, LinkedIn requests, etc. to people who you admire and you’d like to connect with. I have made numerous positive connections over the years by tweeting authors who I admire and respect, and thanking for them for their latest book (note: only after I have actually read the book). When you give a sincere compliment, and it is clear that you don’t have selfish intentions, your positivity is often reciprocated. However, and this is very important: DON’T SPAM PEOPLE. It is annoying. It doesn’t work, and it won’t help your personal brand.
5. Cooperate By Sharing Interesting Links, Videos, and Articles
It isn’t all about you and what you’ve created. Share the unique content of others. If you read an article that is really good, and related to what you are interested in, then share it. Use multiple social networks to do so. If you come across a video (whether it’s humorous or inspiring) related to your area of interest, share it! Over time you will also gain a reputation as not only someone who creates positive content (Point 1) but also as a “facilitator” of unique and positive content. You will be known as someone “worth knowing” because of what you consistently share.