Building your Online Personal Brand – a few tips but mainly common sense

I recently introduced a policy in the office called “time swapping”. You can no longer ask anyone to do anything extra on top of their current workload. You have to take something out if you want to add anything new into their agenda. The principle behind it is a really simple one. We’ve all reached capacity at work. The elastic band is stretched to breaking point so unless you remove something from someone’s work load to free up some space it is just not going to get done.

So on top of our already busy lives suddenly the buzz seems to be all about “building your personal brand”. So my biggest question is how exactly are you supposed to fit this in, as according to all the research I’ve done for this blog, this is a big project. Apparently it is going to take loads of time, need constantly updating and most frighteningly in the social media world we all live in you’ve got to do it in public! Imagine the celebrities dressing for the Oscars and then the interpretation when reading the papers the next day and to see if they have been marked a ‘hit’ or a ‘miss’.

OK, so maybe it is not going to be that bad but the thought of harnessing the mighty internet still makes me shudder. Maybe it is just me but I’ve got a sneaky feeling you’re probably in the same boat.  If you’re an expert then your thoughts and comments are appreciated.

I’m not, however, trying to advise the younger up and coming generation, known lovingly here as the ‘F generation’ (‘F’ is for Facebook, not fickle).  For them this is second nature as they have lived their teenage lives on the all seeing Facebook. They are used to knowing that one embarrassing mistake at a party, for example, after too much White Lightening or Lambrusco, can spread like wild fire. They know there is no recall button or trying to bribe the guy behind the photo booth at Boots to lose the all damaging photo!

However, for people  like me, who I like to think make up the ‘mighty middle’ of society, we’ve got to learn to change, adapt and indeed embrace this revolution where all the traditional communication lines are begin eroded. So hopefully these few tips will help you embark on this merry exercise with a smile on your face and some sort of perspective.

First impressions count:

Colm Hannon who runs eSocialMedia, a social media consultancy, told me a great example of how to engage online that I think sums up taking your first few steps in this new social world.

If a guy walks into a bar and straight away goes up to two people chatting and says ‘Hi I’m a HR consultant and I can help make your company amazing” the chances are he will be told to get lost… but that is what so many people do online. They see an online conversation and just wade straight onto it.

If that same guy came into a bar and whilst he is waiting for a drink hears a couple of guys chatting about the rugby and makes an intelligent comment about the match the chances of them responding positively are a lot higher. Also nine times out of ten within five minutes of conversation they will ask him what he does.

Prior planning prevents pathetically poor performance (or something along those lines):

Have a simple and easy plan to follow. If you’re short of time don’t plan activities that take hours and hours. You can however be clever about this. If you spend half an hour a day on the train use that time to tweet or repost some content. Put together a simple communication plan with a note in the diary to tell you when you need to post one or two pieces of great content a month and onto which site. Stick to it and you’d be surprised how this can begin to get momentum going.

It is all about the content:

If you’re like me and happen to work in HR Recruitment don’t try and be something you’re not. I’m not an expert in for example Reward, so the last thing I’d try and do is get involved in a technical online conversation about reward policies in Asia. I would however feel confident enough to ask an intelligent question or for a bit of advice. Be honest, if you’re trying to be something you’re not people will soon realise.

It is a race not a sprint (I’d rather have a donkey than a race horse):

Don’t make the beginners mistake of creating and regurgitating loads and loads of content on day one and talk about what you are interested in. If you’re going to run out of things to say you’re saying the wrong thing.  You do however only need 20 to 30 per cent of original content, for the rest just recycle some of the great stuff that is out there.  But just remember one of the golden rules… credit the content to original authors. People love it when you recycle their content as it helps them increase their presence.

You’ve got to be in it to win it:

With the growth of the internet you’ve got to get involved. It took the radio 38 years, the television 13 years, and the World Wide Web four years to reach 50 million users and with 210 billion emails sent a day that is a lot of information flying around (Statistic Brain).

Use Common sense:

As my gran always said “good manners cost you nothing and can make you millions”. All joking aside the good old fashioned values are as important now as they have always been. If you are asked a question online answer it, don’t just ignore people. Don’t type anything you would not say to someone’s face and most importantly always remember you cannot control how someone will read it…

Once it is out there, it is out there:

Set out some ground rules. My golden rule is don’t mix alcohol and social networking. After ‘wine o’clock’ it is time to lock away all social access. It might seem hilarious in the cab on the way back home from a great night out but would it read the same way the next day in the office? With 60% of internet searches being about people it is amazing what they might stumble on.

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