Digital Brand Card
If there is data on the web about you, anyone can see it, anytime, just about anywhere! How many times have you clicked on someone’s social media profile to find pictures of him or her having a big time at a party? Now they may indeed be having a good time and wanting to share that good time with friends; not only friends are looking however. How do you think a potential employer or customer views those good time photos? What about someone who continuously posts political views on LinkedIn®? What about someone who publishes blogs on religion without a solid research base? Think about those things for a moment and remember; what you put online will most likely become attached to your digital brand card.
What we put out into cyberspace becomes a permanent part of our digital brand. It follows us forever; you cannot delete the Internet. We are not the only ones contributing to our digital brand. What about news articles you may appear in online? A court case? An arrest record? All of these things pop up on our digital brand card when our name is loaded into a search engine. How do you want online viewers (everyone) to see you? You can be certain that anyone you are selling to is looking you up online before he or she accepts a meeting with you. Anyone who you want to “friend” on social media is doing the same. Your digital brand can significantly enhance or detrimentally hurt you before anyone gets to shake your hand.
Here are five theories that can help you build and maintain your digital brand.
Building the network
There are two sides to the “networking coin” to look at. The first side is to allow anyone and everyone into your online network. The more the merrier. After all, the more connections you make the vaster and greater your opportunities become. The second side of the coin is to be very scrupulous on whom you allow to enter your network. After all, you are judged by the company you keep, so keep good company. Whichever side of the coin you decide to flip to, do keep in mind that your strategy to build your network should be driven by a specific purpose and clearly defined goals as to why you are building the network.
Balance with reality
The digital world is an exciting and almost limitless place to navigate and interact in. You can build social networks, professional networks; join groups with similar interests or hobby driven groups. You can surf to find your favorite authors, musicians, actors, comedians, news stories, latest fashion trends, and the newest furniture lines. You can immerse yourself in your device for hours on end with limitless entertainment value. All this connectivity and accessibility is wonderful but for goodness sake remember that outside of the digital playground are people; real people who want to have real interactions with you! If you are in business, the people who you do business with probably want to see you every once and a while.
Find your niche
Why would people want to connect with you online? Why join your group? Why connect personally or professionally? You have to be able to answer that question definitively. If you cannot tell yourself why people would join your group or you, ask a friend or colleague whom you trust! Why are they your friend or colleague? What need are you filling? Most likely, it is something unique about you, a special product, service, talent or skill you have that becomes your niche.
Once you have found that niche, use it to become valuable to your network, your employer, and those around you! People will engage with you if they are getting value from you. If you do not provide value, why would they bother? Sometimes being valuable can be as simple as having a genuine interest in helping someone else get to what he or she need. Be a connector and curator of genuine helpfulness and see where it may take you.
Protect your digital brand
Protecting your digital brand is an important thing to do. Photographs and other digital media sources like articles were discussed in the introduction of this article but need more attention. Think about the photos you appear in online, maybe the ones attached to one of your social media profiles. Would you be embarrassed if your grandparent saw them? Would you be embarrassed if your boss saw them? How would a recruiter see you for the first time? Keeping professional and even inspirational photos of yourself out there in the digital world is probably ok, but beware of those “wild” photographs; they could do you harm.
The articles and blogs you write are attached to your brand as well. You must be conscious of how you will be understood and viewed by others. Unless it is your job to offend others, beware of your published content and how it may make you look to the community reading your stories; and the outsiders too! What about articles you appear in? Unfortunately there is not a lot you can do about others writing about you, but keep a watchful eye for your name appearing in publications outside yourself or your organization.
Keeping your digital brand safe sometimes requires outside help. What if there is a time when someone or an organization is out there telling untruths or spreading misinformation about you online? Unfortunately, it happens to many good people who do not deserve the treatment. As mentioned in the beginning of this article, you cannot delete the Internet. There are companies, however, that can help you repair your reputation online and clean up the mess. Do your homework and be sure you deal with a reputable company. Get references and check to make sure they are a “real” company before investing in services. Hopefully you never need them!
By building your network, balancing digital and reality, finding your niche, adding value to your network, and protecting yourself online your digital brand card should look pretty darn good! Why not ask someone you trust to look at your digital brand today. Tell them to give it to you straight and start polishing that brand to the best it can be!