To have a successful career in marketing, doing a good job is no longer enough. You need a solid reputation that extends beyond the walls of your company—and you have to be proactive in building it.
One of the best ways to reinforce your reputation is through your online identity.
Your colleagues, managers, employees, customers and recruiters are searching the Web to learn about you. According to a Harris Interactive poll, 23% of professionals admit to Googling people before meeting them. That's an impressive figure that will increase over time.
Don't you think you should be actively managing your online identity?
If you aren't online, do you exist?
Being Googled is the new-millennium version of the reference check. It provides your constituencies with some critical information about you. What they learn from your Google results will color their thoughts about you. Not showing up doesn't bode well.
It's no surprise that professionals are using the Web to learn about potential job candidates, customers and business partners. After all, we use the Web as our primary source of information gathering.
As marketers, we research our target audiences, check out what's happening on our competitors' Web sites, find secondary research, etc., all with the help of our friend Google. And we make judgments from the results that Google provides.
If you're meeting with a customer, applying for a new job inside or outside your company or running for a board position at your local marketing association, you can count on being Googled.
Using the Web to build your personal brand is an opportunity—something to be excited about, not something that should stress you out. It affords you incredible reach and enables you to use rich features and multimedia to deliver your highly differentiated, on-brand message. It helps you improve your visibility among people who are making decisions about you.
Being online helps offline, too
Having a positive and powerful online identity even helps you increase your visibility among those whom you don't even know that you need to know. I call this the serendipity factor. You need to be visible so that the right people can find you even though you don't know that they are looking for you.
For example, when journalists and producers are seeking experts to profile or include in their stories, they look online. That's how I got to do a TV program for the BBC. They typed "personal branding" into Google, and I showed up in the top three results.
Make your mark on the Web
The best way to ensure that your results say what you want them to say is to build your own Web site or portfolio. Senior executives have had their own sites for years. Now is the time for all career-minded professionals to use the Internet to express their personal brand messages to their target audiences.
As a marketer, you have been connected to the Web longer than most people. You know how it works, especially from the perspective of communicating a clear and consistent message; so you're well equipped to maximize the value of the Web for your own career advancement.
It's easy—and essential
It all starts with one post, one article or a one-page Web site. Unlike building a house, where you need the whole structure in place for it to have value, building an online identity increases your RQ, or reputation quotient, from your first post. Starting small and starting now will ensure that you build a solid reputation over time.
Before you decide to make your next career move, do some work on your online identity. The days of creating a fantastic resume to get your ideal job are over. Any conscientious hiring manager is going to Google you before deciding to short-list you for an interview.
A survey by Recruiters World revealed that nearly two thirds of respondents used Google to research candidates. Even witty writing and numerous credentials are not enough to make your resume leap from the tall pile that's sitting on the desk of your future manager. Augmenting your written reputation with a powerful online identity will differentiate you from your peers and enhance your image in the eyes of executive recruiters and hiring managers.
So, what does your current online identity reveal about you?
Right now, open a new browser window. Go to Google.com and type your name into the search window (in quotes: "sally smith") and see what the world's most popular search engine says about you.
Surprised? Delighted? Depressed?
So what happens if your Google results say nothing, nada, zip?
Even if the results of your search did not yield one response, there's hope. You can start to build your online identity in no time. Here are six ways to begin building your brand in bits and bytes:
- Write articles for online portals. MarketingProfs is just one of thousands of places that are looking for your high-quality marketing-related content. Select a topic about which you are truly passionate, and write.
- Build your own Web site or career portfolio. Include your bio, a professionally taken photo and your accomplishments. Be sure that it reflects your differentiation. Even if you don't want a Web site right away, buy your domain name (you can do that at godaddy.com) and put up a coming soon page. Remember, go for quality over quantity. One crisp, well-designed page is better than a series of pages with typos and amateurish graphics. To people who don't know you, your online identity is your entire identity.
- Create a blog. Blogging gives you an opportunity to express your opinion and will not take up much of your time, since a posting can be just two or three lines long. But get in now. According to Seth Godin's blog, there's a new blog every six seconds. A word of caution: don't put anything in your blog that you wouldn't want your current employer to see.
- Participate in online forums and information exchanges. Share your marketing expertise and increase your visibility at the same time.
- Review marketing books at amazon.com and other online bookstores and link back to your Web site or blog. Having a call to action with contact details will make it easier for others to reach out to you.
- Submit a letter to the editor of online magazines. Take the opportunity express your opinion while building or expanding your online presence.
Note: Part one of this article appears here.
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