The concept of personal branding was introduced to the world in 1997, back when branding was primarily applied to big companies and products on the grocery-store shelf. Thanks to the Fast Company cover story "The Brand Called You" by Tom Peters, the concept of personal branding was born.

When I started my business, Reach, back in 2001, there were only five of us offering personal-branding services and limited opportunities for building your brand. At that time, I focused mainly on CEOs and other senior executives.

It's been more than 10 years since the concept of personal branding was introduced, and the employment landscape looks very different. More and more professionals are thinking very differently about their careers and the value they deliver to their employers. They've started to use the principles of branding to align who they are with what they do and how they do it, so they can advance their careers and achieve their goals.

The ubiquity of social-media tools has made personal branding even more pervasive, powerful, and efficient. Personal branding has moved online. Many Web 2.0 tools designed for building community and fostering lively discussion—such as LinkedIn, blogs, Facebook, and Twitter—are ideal for career-minded professionals who seek to increase their visibility, demonstrate their unique promise of value, and stand out from their peers.

Here are the five steps to building your authentic personal brand online:

1. Be real before being virtual

Of course, to those of you who are starting to build your brands now, the Web seems like an easy place to gain instant visibility. But before building an online presence, you need to know who you are, what differentiates you from your peers, and what makes you compelling to the people who are making decisions about you.

Branding is based in authenticity. Just as Volvo knows that its promise of safety separates it from other automotive companies, you too need to know how to position yourself and ensure your virtual brand is in line with who you are in the real world.

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image of William Arruda

William Arruda is a personal branding pioneer, the founder and CEO of Reach Personal Branding, and the author of Ditch. Dare. Do! 3D Personal Branding for Executives.

Twitter: @williamarruda

LinkedIn: William Arruda