Like it or not, building your personal brand online and getting involved with social media have become essential components of today’s executive job search.
If you’re NOT out there – building your personal brand online, and positioning your unique ROI (Return on Investment) and good-fit qualities in front of recruiters and your target employers – consider yourself invisible to the very people who can help you achieve your career goals.
Your goal should be to continuously build diverse online content about yourself (and therefore more search results for “your name”), to provide those assessing you with plenty of information supporting your brand.
But always remember – If you’re in a confidential job search, be very careful of your activity on social media, and any content you post anywhere online. Don’t write or do anything that will “out” your search.
Step One: Work on defining your personal brand and writing content (resume, LinkedIn profile, bio, etc.) built around your brand that will resonate with your target employers.
As you’re doing the 10 things detailed below, always be mindful of the 5 online reputation management keys:
- Relevance – Stay on-brand and relevant while being visible to your target employers.
- Quality – Self-Google regularly to monitor and fix (when possible) what people will see when they Google “your name”.
- Diversity – Build a good mix of static profiles or web pages and vibrant real-time content. Establish yourself with at least, say, 5-6 static web pages about you and regularly post to your social media platforms. Experiment with your mix, adding more static pages when you can, and see what gets more attention and engagement.
- Volume – Work on continuously building more and more search results for your name, and increase your number of diverse and accurate results on the first few pages.
- Consistency – Express the same personal brand message, designed to resonate with your target audience, across all communications channels you decide to use.
Monitor and Prepare To Build Your Personal Brand Online
Here are 10 of the best ways to build your personal brand online.
1. Make Self-Googling a Routine Practice
Imagine you are someone assessing you by what they find online associated with your name. Then Google “your name” and see how that person assessing you will see who you are.
Track how many results come up and what they say about you.
- Is someone else with the same name in the top results?
- Are the results about you accurate and consistent with what you want people to know about you?
- Is there anything unsavory about you that is likely to discredit you and jeopardize the impression you will make on decision-makers?
- If you find “dirt”, start working to bring positive, on-brand results to the forefront, pushing negative results further down, where they’ll be less visible.
Your search results can literally change overnight, so it’s wise to get into the routine of monitoring results at least once a week. Make adjustments to whatever search results you can, so that what people see, is what you want them to see.
As you incorporate the suggestions below, check to see how quickly your actions yield search results and where they land in your list of results. This will help you determine whether your efforts are on target.
2. Set Up Google Alerts for “Your Name”
This free service lets you know when people say something about you online. Once you set up an account, Google Alerts will send you an email when a search term you’ve provided (“your name” or whatever other words you want) is published online.
3. Claim Your Name Online
Purchase the domain name “yourname.com” (example, “johnsmith.com”), or a variation. If a dot-com is not available, try dot-net or other extensions.
Your personal URL is the perfect address for your website and/or blog. But even if you don’t plan to launch a website or blog (see #8 below) or don’t know what to do with your personal URL, secure it before someone else does. Many registrars offer domain names for as little as $10-15 a year.
Set up an email address using your domain name, which will become your designated job search email address.
A single online destination for all your career and job search marketing materials is becoming a widely-used tactic.
At some point, consider going live with the domain name you’ve purchased and set up a website or, even better, a blogsite. Establish a home base for all your career and job search marketing materials, and social media activity. Recruiters and hiring decision makers can easily gain access to everything they need to know about you in one place, with one click.
Embrace Social Media and Build a Consistently Branded Online Presence
4. Create a Brand-Charged Email Signature
Along with your contact information, include an abbreviated version of your brand tagline. Add links to your personal blog, website/career portfolio, and/or your profiles on the social networking sites (LinkedIn, Twitter, etc.) you use professionally – only if you’re active on those sites. Make it easy for people to get to accurate information about you online.
With hundreds of millions of users and potential viewers of your profile – most likely including hiring decision makers at your target companies – LinkedIn is undeniably the most important social network for your personal brand online, for job search and career.
In fact, not being there can negatively impact your brand and search efforts. If recruiters and hiring decision makers don’t find you there, they may never find you. And lack of a LinkedIn presence brands you as inept or out-of-touch with the new world of work.
Use LinkedIn both passively and proactively to build your personal brand:
Passively: Create a robust LinkedIn profile that includes plenty of brand-reinforcing information about you and relevant keywords to help your profile rank high in LinkedIn’s search engine. Your profile will then draw people to you, without you having to do anything else. But don’t stop there!
Proactively: Get busy with all the active social networking features LinkedIn provides, including:
Posting relevant updates to your LinkedIn activity feed is a relatively quick and easy way to keep your personal brand top-of-mind with your network.
To clarify, “posting a LinkedIn update” is not the same as “updating your LinkedIn profile“, which involves rewriting and adding to the content in your profile.
Get into a routine of posting updates once a week, or at least a few times a month.
Here are some things to post for LinkedIn updates:
- Videos, photos, infographics and other visuals
- An online article, blog post, or white paper that you’ve written, that mentions or quotes you, or that is some way relevant to your industry or niche
- An event or seminar you’re presenting or attending
- A new project you’re working on
- A promotion, transfer, or new assignment
- Ask questions
- Company or industry news
- Tools or resources you find useful
- Motivational quotes
- A comment you’ve made on a relevant blog that demonstrates your subject matter expertise
- Professional development, training, or new certification
- A significant accomplishment or contribution to your company
- A shoutout to a colleague for an accomplishment of theirs
- Activities with your networks or LinkedIn Groups
- An important seminar or event you’ll be attending or have attended
- A community project you’re working on
Join relevant Groups and those where hiring decision makers at your target companies are active. Look at their profiles to see which Groups they belong to. Demonstrate your subject matter expertise and thought leadership by starting discussions and contributing to existing ones.
You can also build a solid LinkedIn branding strategy by commenting alone.
Identify influencers in your niche (including decision makers at your target companies), follow them on LinkedIn (and other social networks) where they’re active, and comment on their posts and updates.
Write comments with substance – not just “Great article!”:
- Choose a piece of their update to address that will allow you to contribute your own take on the poster’s viewpoint or subject matter.
- Bring up a point relative to the topic that the poster didn’t mention.
- If they’ve shared an article, copy a short piece of it and plop it into your comment, noting “This part really resonated with me”.
- Add to the conversation while positioning yourself as a subject matter expert.
6. Create videos and upload them to YouTube
Create personal branding videos that showcase your personality, subject matter expertise and testimonials from people who know your work.
YouTube is a super high-ranking site. Videos posted there can get you page 1 search results on Google, sometimes within minutes.
And YouTube can be your video home base from which you’ll post your videos to your other social media channels.
Think twice about using video resumes. Here are 3 reasons why:
- A poorly done video resume – not scripted well, the subject looks uncomfortable and unprofessional, the overall look is homemade and clumsy – can keep you from getting interviews and embarrass you.
- Video resumes are VERY “job-searchy”. Put a video resume out there and everyone (including your current employer) will guess you’re job hunting. That’s a BIG problem for most job seekers.
- There are EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) concerns for employers viewing your video resume. This can open up avenues of discrimination in the hiring process based on race, gender, gender identity, and age, as well as health and disability.
7. Get Busy on Other Social Networks
Show that you’re social media savvy by participating in a professional manner on a few social networks (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, etc.). Build an online personal brand communications plan that is realistic for your schedule, and extends across several social networks.
Just like with LinkedIn, you can build a solid branding strategy elsewhere on social media with comments alone.
For instance on Twitter, even if all you do is retweet hiring decision makers at your target companies and thought leaders in your industry, you’ll get benefits.
8. Get Involved in Blogging, in Some Way
Comment and guest blog on relevant blogs and/or consider starting your own blogsite, as noted above.
Another place you can blog is on LinkedIn’s long-form publishing (or Pulse) platform.
Blogging is a great way to share your expertise, build community, and position yourself as a niche expert. It is probably the best way to build credibility and will exponentially increase your search results and visibility.
In any blogging activities, offer useful information. Avoid negativity and rants. Remember that anything you post will become part of your personal brand online. Don’t write anything you may regret later. As a guest blogger, be sure to post an on-brand profile or bio of yourself.
And, of course, when you blog don’t forget to also post them on your various social media channels.
9. Write Book Reviews on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, etc.
Writing book reviews on Amazon or other online book sellers packs many benefits:
- The branded personal profile you create on the booksellers’ sites represents one valuable search result.
- Any book review you write becomes another powerful search result.
- If you carefully craft your reviews, your subject matter expertise and thought leadership will be abundantly evident.
- Reading the right books can only improve your breadth of knowledge, and possibly strengthen your skill set.
10. Join and Participate in Professional Associations
Find relevant groups and associations with strong online presence. Choose websites that are being read by your target audience.
Get involved in the associations’ networking opportunities. Contribute to online discussion forums, write blog posts and articles, present teleseminars and/or webinars. Basically, get involved with projects that will receive online press.