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5 Steps to Build Your Personal Brand Online

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Have you Googled yourself lately?

If you use the Internet, then you most likely have a personal brand. Your personal brand is essentially how you choose to present yourself and how you are perceived. Online, your personal brand is made up of your social media presence, personal blog or website, any online comments you’ve made, and how people respond to you.

“Your online personal brand reflects what you do and what you’re good at. It’s what you want someone to instantly know about you,” says Galen Mooney, a 2012 UVM graduate who specializes in branding for entrepreneurs at her company, Success Measured, located in Cambridge, Mass.

Mooney is teaching an online course, Managing Your Online Personal Brand, at UVM during Winter Session. She tells students that if they want to build their personal brand online, it’s never too early – or too late – to start.

Start Building Your Personal Brand Online Now

“You don’t have to wait until you’re out of college or getting ready to start your career. I started building my personal brand in high school,” she says. “There seems to be a fear of starting, but it’s better to start early and change as you grow.”

Mooney explains that people are often reluctant to establish their personal brand because they can’t find one particular niche or area of expertise to focus on. “What you need to realize is that a personal brand can change or develop over time. Pick something you’re interested in and excited about right now. As you grow, and your career develops, you can add to it,” she says.

So, what does your brand say about you? What do you want it to say? Mooney offers 5 tips for improving and maintaining your online personal brand.

It’s All about Engagement

If you want to build your personal brand online, one of the best ways to start is to focus on engagement. Connect with people online by finding a community that shares your area of interest or expertise. For example, if you’re interested in public relations, journalism or marketing, Twitter is a good place to engage. If you’re an artist or graphic designer, connect with other creative people on Dribbble. Industry or location-based LinkedIn groups are also an effective way to engage with like-minded individuals.

Keep it Clean

Did you recently apply for a job? Like it or not, potential employers are searching online to learn more about you. “Employers will try to find you on a different channels. So you need to look at yourself as if you were an employer,” she says. Mooney advises that you go into Google from scratch (sign out of Google, clear your browser history, and clear your browser cache), enter your search terms and see what results come up.

“It’s not to say that employers don’t want to see personality, they do,” she says, adding that it’s important to find the right balance between the personal and professional. You don’t want to be boring, but you also don’t want to be posting inappropriate or sensitive material that could turn off prospective employers.

A helpful tip is to learn from more seasoned professionals. “Think about the people in your industry who have a strong personal brand,” Mooney says. “Who are those people you want to emulate, and how do they represent themselves online?”

Choose Your Channels Wisely

Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Facebook, Google+. Which ones do you choose? First of all, don’t spread yourself too thin. Mooney advises to keep your social media presence to just a couple of channels.

“Don’t overwhelm yourself. You don’t have to be everywhere on social media,” she says. “It’s better to pick one or two channels that work for you and for your audience.”

Improving a Negative Brand

What if there is something negative online about you, or you put something up that you now regret?

Mooney suggests removing or deleting any old posts that don’t represent you in a positive light. If there is something disparaging about you posted by another person on a channel such as YouTube or Facebook, try emailing the third party to have it removed.

To help make any unflattering material less prominent in your Google search results, Mooney advises that you engage on social media sites, comment on blogs, and post new material.

“Be sure to put positive things out there and create opportunities for yourself,” Mooney says. “Create your own website, start a blog, or join Twitter.”

Defining Success

How do you know if you have a successful online brand? “It all goes back to engagement,” Mooney says.

“Engagement is a big metric for me. It’s great to put stuff online, but if you’re not getting people to respond, then you need to reevaluate your approach,” she says. “Traffic is a good metric, but it’s also important to have quality people engaging with you.”

Next steps

Building a personal brand doesn’t happen overnight, but Mooney says the sooner you start, the quicker you’ll see an impact. Taking that first step toward establishing your social presence and creating your personal brand will eventually pay off in spades.