A lot has been written about what not to do or say on social media, but less is said about how to go about using the digital environment to grow your professional reputation and visibility.
Social media can actually be a useful platform to strengthen your personal brand and build credibility online.
Use these four strategies to help you protect your personal brand:
1. Prove you are human
People trust people, not Twitter egg avatars or blank LinkedIn profiles with vague job titles. Each social media platform gives you some sort of space to include a bit of information about yourself, as well as a photo.
It’s wise to take full advantage of this to showcase what you want people to know about you. Don’t leave avatars or bios empty – it makes it hard for people to be sure it’s really you, and it is a wasted personal branding opportunity. Instead, include relevant keywords and a good, professional-looking photo.
On platforms like LinkedIn, make sure you show substance. Instead of just listing job positions you’ve held and areas of responsibility, highlight the value you add through your work and give a sense of who you are.
Include any volunteer activities and links to examples of your work where relevant so that people get the same impression of you as they would in real life.
2. Be truthful (and balanced)
What you put on social media should be a genuine reflection of who you are and what you stand for.
Don’t put things out that are there just for show to make you look good, or mislead people with exaggerations or unclear information.
People can spot a fake, but they are attracted to what’s genuine. Being a little bit vulnerable is actually appealing, instead of pretending you’ve got it all together all the time.
Of course, steer clear from the opposite extreme of over-sharing too, which can be even more damaging. My online motto is “be authentic, but be professional”.
3. Create a personal website
While you can build a great online profile using free social media tools, having your own website will set you apart from your competitors. It gives you a space to showcase your skills, experience and thought leadership in one place, in a way that represents who you are, and it functions as an online portfolio.
It also means you can integrate it with your social media activity. For example, you can write blog posts on trending issues and link to them from your Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and other social media accounts.
4. Develop your reputation as a specialist
Social media allows you to play to your strengths, choosing platforms that best allow you to showcase what you do well. For example, if you’re a professional photographer, Instagram is perfect for you, and there are numerous photography forums where you can offer advice, network and become recognised as an expert.
LinkedIn will work well for you if you are a financial planner and offers you a place where you can share your thoughts, join industry forums and engage with other specialists in your field.
There is something for everyone, so find what best represents “Brand YOU” and invest your energy in those platforms. You never know who’s Googling you, but you can ensure that there’s good information to be found when they do!