Every year since I founded my company, Reach, in 2001, I've made predictions about how the world of personal branding will evolve in the coming year. Here are my top 10 for 2010.
1. Video, Video, Video
Thanks to greater bandwidth, cheaper storage, and a proliferation of products and services that make shooting, storing, viewing, and sharing video easy (Flip video, iPhone 3GS, YouTube, vimeo, blip.tv, vodpod, etc.), video will be king in 2010.
Video is ideal because it allows careerists to deliver a complete communication and convey their personality—a critical component of branding. More services like videoBIO (a Reach Personal Branding partner) will make it easier to cost-effectively build a powerful and positive brand image using video.
2. Hiring Process
Companies will be hiring brands rather than employees. They will use social networks and Google to source talent, filter candidates, and validate credentials.
"What's your brand?" will become as standard an interview question as "Tell me about yourself." Google is already a main reference check in the job-search process. Hiring managers and executive recruiters expect serious professionals to have a powerful online identity. Google and other social media will be an even greater part of the talent-search process.
As the number of candidates for each open position increases, Google and social media will be used more often to eliminate candidates. Lack of a virtual identity or poor-quality online content will prevent you from getting the job, regardless of your credentials, connections, and experience. In 2010, if you don't show up in Google, you don't exist!
3. Branded Partners
Often more traditional in their approach to marketing and delivering their services, professional-services firms (accounting, law, consulting, etc.) are going to jump on the "brandwagon" with reckless abandon in 2010.
Two years ago, I started working with the partners of one of the Big Four accounting firms, helping them build their brands. In the past year, two of the other three firms contacted me about doing something similar.
That trend is going to increase with big law firms, consulting organizations, and other professional-services firms joining the fold.
It's a no-brainer: For professional-services firms, people are the product. But those firms (often, private partnerships) can be slow to innovate. In 2010, personal branding will be integrated into all levels in a firm—from hiring through becoming partner.
4. For-Credit Courses
Personal branding is a critical part of preparing students for successful careers.
Over the past year, I have worked with the career-services and alumni groups at many universities. Interest in personal branding will grow tremendously in universities, and for-credit courses in personal branding will be available as part of business programs and as electives.
With the jobless recovery and fewer job openings for college students, schools will focus more on helping students succeed beyond academics to find the perfect job. You will see more collaboration between university career-services organizations and academic departments as schools start to understand their role in preparing students to obtain jobs, not just skills.
5. Unified Search
We are already seeing many new services, such as addictomatic.com, that combine search results from many different search engines.
Such tools will become more common while Google, Bing, Yahoo, and other search engines will combine traditional search results with real-time content (from tools such as Twitter) and video results—making searching easier and more accurate.
Those who are building their personal brands will need to use various tools to ensure their visibility is positive and pervasive.
6. Video Search
With the huge growth in video on the Web (see prediction No. 1), we will start to see more sophisticated search capabilities within videos.
Currently, most search tools use titles and meta-tags to evaluate the video content to include in search results. That will change—making video the most powerful tool for brand-building.
Already, powerful image-recognition and search capabilities are being added to Google and incorporated into Bing. Video is next. That trend will affect what we say in the videos we produce. We will manage that content just as we do written content to ensure search-engine optimization (SEO).
7. Increased Efficiency
One of the biggest complaints I hear about social media is "I just don't have time to update my status or post to my blog."
New services are available to make the process of maintaining your brand online quicker, more efficient, and more integrated. Tools such as KnowEm, HelloTxt, and png.fm help you build your personal brand on the Web in less time and with less effort.
Those tools, along with custom personal-branding services, will make it easier to build and maintain a strong Web presence. Expect new tools that are integrated into the communications tools you currently use (such as email) to become available.
8. Personal SEO
Companies have departments to manage their websites and optimize them for Google, Yahoo, and Bing. SEO is a huge business, and it's critical to companies. Some statistics indicate that most Web searchers never go beyond the initial search results page of a Google search.
SEO is just as important to people who are looking to build their brands. Of course, most of us cannot afford to have a full-time SEO expert on staff. That's why companies such as QAlias and PeoplePond have sprung up. Their services are great for career-minded professionals—especially those who have a common name or share their name with a celebrity. More such tools will become available and popular in 2010.
9. Digital Dirt Elimination
As Google results affect more aspects of our lives (getting a job, a loan, a date, etc.), people will engage firms such as ReputationDefender, Defend My Name, and Online Reputation Manager to eliminate digital dirt.
Such services are becoming more popular and will become as commonplace for job seekers as resume-writing or career-coaching services.
10. Permanent Mindset Shift
The confluence of Web 2.0 technologies and today's economic climate due to the subprime mortgage meltdown has changed the way we think about our careers.
The "jobless recovery" has hastened the new mindset that is taking hold in career-minded professionals. Even Boomers and Gen Xers, who grew up with some job security and a sense of company loyalty, are starting to feel the independence and freedom that is part of the new free-agent employment contract.
I have talked about the importance of managing your own career for a long time. Current economic forces and technological advances will finally solidify the mindset shift that will make that the norm.
As we start to think of ourselves as companies of one, we will be more likely and more comfortable outsourcing activities related to our personal brands—building a management team to help us achieve our professional goals.