By dr. Hélanie Jonker
If a potential employer or client were to enter your name into the Google search engine, what impression would they get from the search results?
Your LinkedIn and social media profiles will likely be found, followed by any news articles with your name or any other websites that mention you. These search results are therefore actually the sum total of your online reputation and they affect your personal brand.
What is it?
A personal brand is the conscious efforts that an individual uses to display personal characteristics in such a way that credibility is increased and public perception will be positively influenced. It is a myth to think that a personal brand only applies to famous tastemakers, ie influencerssuch as Kim Kardashian, celebrities or politicians such as former President Barack Obama.
Whether you are a student, lecturer, office worker, entrepreneur, designer or lawyer, your personal brand can help you stand out from the rest and give you exposure to amazing and new opportunities. Additionally, smartphones and user-friendly social media platforms these days make it easy to increase online visibility and manage your personal brand effortlessly.
However, before you set out to create a personal brand for yourself, it is important to think strategically about a few aspects.
First, you should reflect on your own uniqueness: your skills, talents, knowledge levels and character. Reflect on your personal values and what is important to you. Write a short and concise brand statement in which you tell a compelling story about yourself: who you are, what you do, your passions and talents. Your personal brand statement cannot be based on a fictional image, but must reflect your unique human nature.
Use interesting text, quality photos and videos to introduce yourself. Remember: your dress and appearance are part of your personal brand, so make sure you appear neat and professional in digital photos.
Second, you need to determine who your interest groups are with whom you would like to come into contact. If your focus is to attract the attention of potential employers or corporate partners, it is important that you show your skills and abilities strategically. Also remember that the image of yourself that is communicated online should match who you really are.
Nowadays, a high premium is placed on authenticity to counteract the fakeness that is often created on social media platforms. Research shows that employers often overlook potential job candidates based on their social media posts. Reasons cited include posting inappropriate information, sensational photos or videos, discriminatory comments and dishonesty about qualifications. So make sure those candid party photos don’t accidentally end up on social media!
Another important aspect that must be kept in mind is that digital content must be presented in such a way that it “provokes” users to want to know more about you, remember you and want to connect with you. We are all familiar with the expression that first impressions last. Before the advent of digital platforms, first meetings were characterized by a friendly greeting, a warm handshake and a broad smile.
Communication experts agree that personal contact is still the best form of communication, because not only can verbal communication (speech) be heard, but non-verbal communication such as facial expressions and hand gestures can be observed. The chance for misunderstandings is therefore less and the opportunities to form true connections are better.
Unfortunately, few first acquaintances these days take place in person. The living room or office has given way to cyberspace. It is therefore not unusual to work with people you have never met in person and only contact each other on Teams or Zoom on a daily basis. Precisely for this reason, it is so important that your virtual personal brand is continuously communicated in such a way that it is a positive experience that encourages openness.
One of the great advantages of social media is that it lends itself precisely to two-way communication. For example, start an online conversation with peers in your field of study and discuss relevant issues. Share your experience and answer questions in an online discussion forum. Respond to online messages by liking them (like) or share it (retweet or share).
Furthermore, it is also important to strategically utilize the various social media platforms available to create and build your personal brand. Each platform has unique characteristics that can be usefully used to increase your visibility. For example, LinkedIn is an ideal platform for professionals. Facebook’s algorithms are set to focus on people you already know. Therefore, make sure that your Facebook posts are aimed at friends and family and that something interesting is posted regularly. Alternate text messages with pretty photos and cute videos that will grab attention.
Twitter refocuses on those you don’t know yet. Using hashtags increases visibility and can be used strategically to focus attention on your unique personal brand. On Instagram you will be able to reach a large and diverse audience and the analytical tools make it possible to help you measure and improve your brand performance.
However, experts warn that messages on the different social media platforms must be consistent and in the same vein in order to establish a successful personal brand. Stakeholders must be continuously informed of new developments regarding your personal brand, such as a new short course you have passed, or a new corporate partner with whom you will be working from now on.
It is also important that the content shared should be of good quality. Think carefully and choose a theme you want to focus on. It could be something like posting a cute weekly slogan or sharing a video link of a motivational speaker you follow.
One of the most successful, visible and consistent personal brands, both commercially and personally, is Oprah Winfrey. With her weekly television show, book club, magazine, numerous media appearances and casual appearances in grocery stores and restaurants, Winfrey is consistently visible and has an incredibly strong brand that she maintains over a very long career.
Finally, it’s important to remember that the personal brand you create is not static, but malleable. As your career develops and you learn new skills, your personal brand can change accordingly.
Schedule a specific time each year when you take stock of your values and rethink your goals. Then review your resume and social media profiles. Find yourself a key figure whose example you want to emulate and deliberately improve your personal brand.
Make an effort with your personal development and continuously seek to acquire new knowledge and develop skills.
- Hélanie Jonker is a lecturer in communication management at Akademia.