[This is PART THREE of my "Get your life in order" series. In case you missed the first ones, you may want to start from the beginning!]
In my last post we examined some very basic organizational tips/tricks that I’ve learned through my career at RIT and utilized in my various involvements on- and off-campus. Now that you’re on track with your vision, goals, etc. and have an organized (more-or-less) plan, you’re ready to build your network and expand your online presence. As important as face-to-face interaction is, I feel it is extremely difficult to adequately teach/convey soft skills through a blog post; if you’re truly looking develop your confidence and increase the efficacy of your personal brand I highly recommend Dale Carnegie Training (sure, it’s a shameless plug for my co-op, but I really do stand behind their brand and the incredible results they provide).
Your online brand can either be your best friend or your worst enemy, and the investment you make in it can either lead to immense success or amount to little more than shooting yourself in the foot. Use these tips to jump-start your personal brand management on the web and be on the look-out for future tips!
- ONLINE PRESENCE (Sure, I’ve talked a bit about this in the past, but I’m still not done. This is HUGE today!)
- Splash page. What’s that? It’s a simple page with your elevator speech on it, maybe a photo or two, and links to your online accounts (social media, blog, website, wherever you are) for people to connect with you and get a general idea of what you’re about. I use about.me (my URL is about.me/chris_tarantino for example), but have heard of others using different sites such as GoBigg.com with success. This page is useful if you don’t have your own website to showcase who you are and can be used on business cards (get them and give them out like candy!), in “website” sections on social networking sites, and other prominent places; splash pages are perfect for linking your online networks and growing your brand!
- Social Media. (I can easily conjure up enough content to write an entirely new blog on social media – and maybe in the future I will – but I’ll just post some introductory basics here.)
- The big four: Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and foursquare. These are where you should be (Geoff might try to tell you Google+ is where it’s at, but I respectfully disagree)! The key to optimizing your social media presence is to understand that future employers, college reps, colleagues/associates EXPECT you to have these accounts and may make assumptions about your character if your accounts display inconsistency or behavior that isn’t professional. Know your privacy settings, but resist the urge to protect your tweets, lock your Facebook down, or utilize stringent privacy settings as this may also be mistaken for covering up illicit behavior (true or not). Link these accounts frequently and figure out the primary audience, goals, and communication styles your personal brand should have on these diverse networks. Leverage your influence and expand your network! Remember: Twitter isn’t just for telling the world what you’re doing – it’s about knowing your followers and providing content they will find useful or interesting; Facebook isn’t just for your friends anymore, so pay attention to those “public” posts; LinkedIn WILL help you get a job if you do it right; and if you’re the mayor on foursquare you’re either really cool or need to get out more.
- Analytics such as Klout - I know, the first time I heard about this site I thought it was a disease (and a nasty one) – but this website is one of my favorites for measuring social media efficacy. Everyone has a Klout score (yes, even you), so check it out and see how you’re doing! Klout offers an aggregate score and breaks down your influence as measured by their specific algorithm ….blah blah blah developer crap…. it tells you if what you’re doing online is working and allows you room for improvement/experimentation. Even if social media isn’t your thing, I recommend trying it (or a simpler analytic site) out – it’s pretty interesting.
- Don’t go insane. (No, I don’t want to know what your psychiatrist told you…) In terms of social media, this can be summed up in one word: balance. Start small and don’t expect to have a clean and polished brand overnight. This stuff takes work, but is totally worth it! I’ve been offered numerous jobs from Twitter and constantly network with extraordinary professionals via LinkedIn and you can too! Be deliberate about your social media posts, think about your audience and goals before posting, and invest time/energy in people (this is a social world we’re living in, after all).
- Blog. If you think you have enough interesting things to say, go for it! But, a word of caution: A BLOG IS NOT A JOURNAL. Sure, go ahead and keep one of those, but a blog is less about you and more about the reader. Remember that and be sure to pick your unique audience carefully before starting. I won’t pretend I’m an expert blogger (I’m still not entirely convinced anyone is reading this thing), but if you think blogging might be your thing it’s not hard to find articles and guides on how to do it right and how to do it wrong. Seek those out, tweak it how you see fit, and give it your own flavor.
- Email. Wait, didn’t I talk about this in the last post? I did, but organizing/properly managing your email and utilizing it to advance your personal brand is totally different. The key to this is to create a signature that features the above accounts in one easy place for people you email to browse. Why would they do that? Well, chances are, if you’re emailing someone they either (1) know you already or (2) want to know more about you – make it easy on them by providing the links and getting a favicon signature (that’s what those little icons are called) through WiseStamp or creating your own. This, with your splash page, is the glue to your online efforts and will encourage a constant, effortless flow of traffic to your accounts.
- RSS feeds. This is one way to find things to talk about on social media, at your next networking event, or anything really. If you don’t know what an RSS feed is, you should. RSS feeds are basically live-updating content feeds from websites that you can subscribe to via Google Reader or another RSS feed organizer and can help you keep tabs on your favorite websites, blogs, news entities, etc. I, personally, use a special socially-integrated browser called RockMelt that manages my Facebook chat, messages, notifications; RSS feeds and Google Chrome apps; Twitter; and a variety of other items – this works great for me, but find what works for you to stay on top of the latest news and best content on the web and SHARE it!
The biggest tip I can give you once you start expanding your online presence is to find your niche and link everything together into one, cohesive digital brand that is consistent, easily understood, and totally yours. Figuring out your brand and expressing it online isn’t easy, but once you start delving into these areas you will grow more comfortable and grow in network influence and efficacy. Google yourself on occasion and see where your name is coming up, think about how your typical audience will be finding you and what they most want to see, and keep it clean (yeah, you probably should delete those pictures from last weekend… #justsaying).
The next installation of “Get your life in order” is set to drop on MONDAY. Is this series working for you? It’s hard to condense everything in a down-and-dirty guide like this, so let me know what I missed or what you feel is lacking (I can always revisit or expand on topics!). Post comments, reach out via Twitter (@Tarantino4me), and – if you’re really a fan – share my blog with friends!