Poor Generation Z and Alpha; for most of them, their online brand starts from day one in hospital,
in mom’s arms as she smiles for the Facebook and Instagram post. #newborn #babygirl #instababies. . . Before you even know your name, your online brand has already been kick-started.

Most of us have zero control over how, or if, we build our digital brand. That short bio on your company’s website, your name on a conference attendees list, that online family tree to which aunty Audrey added you—there’s no avoiding it! What we can do is take some control and craft our brand to start benefiting our work and personal lives. If you need more convincing, just think: Do you really want your colleagues, family, friends, and frenemies telling your story for you, for all the world
to see?
Take your online brand into your own hands. Here are five tips to get you from a zero to the hero you want to be known as online.

1. AUDIT AND CLEANUP TIME

Before you get too overwhelmed, take stock of where you stand. Google yourself and see what comes up. Brace yourself, you may be shocked to see that old MySpace profile or your mention of coming third in the high school science fair; don’t forget to look through Google Images, too. Make a list of the shockers you want removed or get pushed down in the rankings. After your audit, it’s time to clean up.

Contact the sources of the mentions you want removed if you’re unable to do it yourself. Don’t forget to go through your social profiles from the very beginning and delete any incriminating photos. While you’re doing this, it’s also worth changing your social media privacy settings so that your personal photos are not automatically visible to the public.

2. BE YOURSELF—EVERYONE ELSE IS TAKEN

Now that you’re pretty squeaky clean on the search engines, what’s next? Before you think of updating, posting and sharing, there’s an important exercise you need to do first: getting to know your brand and how you want to be perceived to the world. This can be quite daunting if you’re a private person.

Here are some questions to help you get started:
 
What do you do, or what do you want to do? Even though you may not be in your dream job, you can decide what you want to do and tailor your personal brand according to your dream: You could be working at a coffee shop, but your personal brand is a fashion blogger and designer. Taking control of your brand is believing you can be whatever you want to be.

What is your brand voice? Are you funny, professional, academic, analytical, conversational or controversial? The key is to keep it consistent throughout all your online communication— be the most authentic you, and don’t change per medium or audience.

What is your competitive advantage? What skills and strengths do you have to stand out from the crowd? People with strong personal brands are clear about who they are and maximise their strengths. Once you know what your skills and strengths are, you can build your brand around them and become a thought leader in your industry.

3. CHOOSE YOUR VEHICLE

Blogging, tweeting, vlogging, podcasting . . . the list goes on and on. It can be tricky when having to choose a medium to express and promote your brand. If you’re new to the personal-branding game, there are a few basics to tick off:

Social media: To truly catapult your brand, you need to dive head-first into social media—but you can pick your poison. Twitter is great for starting and jumping onto conversations around industry topics and current affairs; but you really need to be all-in with Twitter, because a tweet now and then won’t get you far. Facebook is a better avenue if you want to share industry news and information around your business or what you do. Plus, if you have a business page, you can put ad spend toward your content and really reach a more defined target audience—this is probably one of the best ways to get your brand out there quickly. When you think of an online résumé, you immediately think LinkedIn, as it’s a powerful tool you can use to build your personal brand quickly and is highly favoured by the Google search algorithm.

LinkedIn has all the personal branding tools available, from showcasing your work history to gathering recommendations to publishing articles on LinkedIn Pulse. We can’t forget about Instagram and SnapChat, either. Remember that some influencers are so good at building their personal brands that they make a career from endorsing products to their network. The modeling industry is also changing, as some agencies are doing away with the traditional Z Card and sending clients their models’ Instagram profiles— which means the more followers, the more bookings.

Content creation: If you had to answer the question, “How do you build an awesome personal brand online?” in two words, the answer would be? Content creation. The key to separating yourself from everyone who has a LinkedIn profile and blog is consistent content creation. How often do you need to push out content? People who are serious about building their brands do weekly vlogs and on a daily basis update their social profiles with relevant content relating to their ‘why’. Some people don’t like to do off-the-cuff videos and want to spend more time editing. That’s fine, but take time each day getting some sort of content out there—a tweet, a short blog post—as it all adds up.

Your hub: Social media profiles are fantastic tools to build your brand, but a personal website is a great hub to consolidate your content and express yourself in any way possible. Even if you don’t get to building your hub straight away, it’s worth buying a domain name that will represent your brand— this can be your name or what you do. Visit GoDaddy.com and spend some time seeing what names are available; a .com is always going to be first prize.

4. NETWORKING, NETWORKING, NETWORKING

‘It’s not what you know, it’s who you know’ has never been more relevant than when it comes to your personal brand. Associating yourself with thought leaders within your industry will elevate your brand. You can do this by tapping into a conversation on Twitter, connecting on LinkedIn, or sending them an email to meet up over a coffee. Once you make a personal connection, even over one coffee, you’ll feel more comfortable engaging with their content and asking for feedback around yours. Even better would be to secure a mentor who has perfected his or her personal branding strategy. Learning what has worked for others could eliminate a lot of trial and error, so research the personal branding gurus. Check out American serial entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk— he’s killing it when it comes to personal branding.

5. IF YOU NEED HELP, GET IT

Back to blogging, tweeting, vlogging, podcasting and snapping—it sounds like a lot of work! You may have a passion for business but not for social media or blogging, now what? Well, your brand is your best investment to guarantee future earnings. If you need to get an assistant, tech-savvy friend or agency involved to help build your brand, it’ll be worth every penny. Begin small with a ghostwriter to start producing content, and a designer to conceptualise the look and feel of your brand. If you don’t have the resources to get help, don’t let that hold you back—just start. Your first blog post may not be perfect, or you may stutter in that first video, but you’re getting your message out. Don’t mind the haters! Not everyone’s going to like your content, and those haters have definitely not done a vlog before. It takes guts.

Now you may be thinking: I don’t want to be branded, put up a politically correct facade, or delete that Facebook photo from that night out I don’t remember—well, you don’t have to. The beauty is, you have control over how much or how little you want to share, but we all have a voice and something to share with the world. And that’s what your personal brand is all about.

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