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In 1997, when Tom Peters coined the term "personal branding," few had any idea of exactly what it called for and how to achieve it. Today, personal branding has become the standard for career development and a necessary part of how we communicate with others online.

Blogs and social networks only add to concerns—and opportunities—for our brands. We now have "personal e-branding"; that is, we have to take who we are in reality and compose an Internet version of it, without losing authenticity. That transparent nature of our brands allows for open dialog among peers, including admitting mistakes and communicating a clear opinion on where we stand on various topics.

As we market ourselves as brand over the Internet, we must be conscious of how we present ourselves and how people perceive us. Due to the nature of the Internet, most people have neglected "small things" that could actually help propel our brands to superstardom.

What may go unnoticed by some, will turn into a competitive advantage for others.

Tip 1: Name and Topic Associations

If you want to be known for a specific topic, then people have to be able to connect your name to it. Every time they see your name, the topic should surface in their minds. Likewise, every time they hear your topic, your name should come to mind.

But how do you accomplish this?

  • First, pick a domain name that is either YourName.com or YourTopic.com.
  • Second, take the title tag of your Web site that aligns with this domain, and put the topic and then your name: "Your Name—Your Topic." That way when your site is crawled and ranked in Google, it will start the association.
  • Third, use your name and topic in the keyword meta tags for your site.

(Free meta tag generator: www.addme.com/meta.htm)

Tip 2: The Consistent Brand

From your avatar to your picture, your blog, your social network profiles, and even your writing, you need a consistent brand as it appears everywhere on the Web.

Way too many people fail at consistency because they rush into promoting their e-brand without first planning their strategies. All of your "main" pictures should be the same; that is, use the same graphic (headshot) for all of them. This includes your avatar (LinkedIn/MyBlogLog, etc.), your Facebook picture, and the image you have on your blog or personal Web site.

If you are young and trying to be successful, but you use different pictures, people will tune out or forget who you are and so fail to make the necessary associations. If you are already a name brand, such as Donald Trump, you can get away with picture inconsistency.

And when writing, remember that your tagline, name, picture, and bio should be as consistent as possible, if not identical, as you establish your own blog, guest-post for other blogs, write for online resources, and display your profile on various social networks.

If you're promoting your brand through multiple social networks, you need to retain and reuse the same interests, work experience, education, and status fields. If you don't, your viewer will be confused and you won't be remembered.

Tip 3: The Social Network Sheriff

TechCrunch has highlighted over 2,000 companies in its crunchbase.com database, and about 80% of them are social networks.

Some 3-5 social networks are announced each day, and people keep joining them. I'm quite worried that people are making a serious personal-branding mistake by registering for all of these networks.

Issues that arise:

  • Maintenance—If you register for every social network, how are you ever going to maintain your presence on each one? What if you switch jobs or decide you don't like a certain hobby any more as you age? As the number of social networks that you register for increases, so does the time you need to spend updating each one.
  • Personal information—By registering for all social networks, you are giving your information to many Web sites. Typical registrations consist of your email, name, user name, password, and more. Why would you want everyone to have this info? It is a way to open up privacy and identity-theft issues.

Your checklist:

  • Volume: A social network is only as strong as the number of people who are a part of it. Think about it: If a message board has no messages or a blog has no comments—if there is no one to interact with on a social network—why join? If people in your location aren't using it, then it makes no sense to join.
  • Credibility: So the social network has a million users; that's great. What if the million users are people who have nothing to contribute? There is no point in being part of something that can't serve as a support system and resource for your personal brand. If the people on the network aren't credible, then you won't get anything out of it. To me, LinkedIn is the most credible social network on the planet right now because it contains profiles of Fortune 500 executives and leading entrepreneurs.
  • Relevancy: Totspot.com is a social network for mothers and their babies. If you are a single male who attends college, this network certainly isn't for you. It's a waste of your time and others' if you sign up for every social network but have no conversation common denominator.

* * *

What goes unnoticed by many can be an advantage for the few. By taking the step to not only build a personal brand but also seek new ways to get your name out there, you will be more successful.

When people become busy, they tend to lose sight of what they are actually doing and how they are being perceived by the public. So consider the "small things," which can quickly amount to "big things."

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
image of Daniel Schawbel

Dan Schawbel is the managing partner of Millennial Branding, a Gen Y research and consulting firm. He's also the author of Promote Yourself: The New Rules For Career Success and Me 2.0: 4 Steps to Building Your Future. Reach him at dan.schawbel@gmail.com.

Twitter: @DanSchawbel.