Personal brands have the power to leverage you professionally and personally. They also have the capacity to destruct and ruin careers. Equally, having no personal brand can be just as damaging. This is especially key in research where being brand savvy can set you apart in the sector.
Your digital footprint gives an insight into who you are (both online and offline), which is why it’s important to be aware of the trail you’re leaving behind, and its possible effects …
Why Personal Brands Matter
Thanks to social media it’s never been easier to broadcast what you look like, where you work, who your friends are, where you go, what you like and don’t like… and then some! Everything you like, share or comment on tells the world a little more about who you are as a person…permanently.
It is common now for customers to not only research a business’ online presence, but also to research the employees representing the company. Employees are now brand ambassadors, whether they like it or not. And the line between your personal and professional brand is more blurred than ever before.
What a Bad Personal Brand Does
We’ve all heard social media horror stories. What you share today might seem like a good idea at the time but it may also come back to bite you in the years to come. It’s completely acceptable to look like you are having a good time on social media, but just keep in mind that your social media accounts are increasingly becoming the first impression people get of you.
Actively job seeking or up for a promotion at work? It may be worth paying your privacy settings a visit. Although you may not be rocking up to work with a cocktail in hand, if a journey through your timeline shows you consistently wasted every weekend for the past 10 years you may end up on the back foot from the get go.
What’s Your Digital Footprint?
The only way to get a feel for your digital footprint is to view your online presence through the eyes of a stranger. What would a complete stranger’s first impression be stumbling upon your social media accounts? Try googling yourself using Chrome’s Incognito mode. Delete all search history and cookies to ensure a bias-free search. You might be surprised with what you find!
To see how your Facebook racks up publicly, you can select ‘View As’ on your page to see how you look to the public eye. Profile picture of you from 2008 giving the finger to the camera? Delete. Cover photo with marijuana leaves saying ‘Should be legalised’? Delete. Long political rant on your timeline? Delete. Delete. Delete. Deleting not an option? Then be sure to beef up your privacy settings quick smart.
Damned If You Do, Damned If You Don’t…
Although there are the obvious downfalls to having a negative personal brand, in the modern job market, it is important to not just be another face in the crowd. Neutral personal brands risk losing out to those individuals with stronger ‘more curated’ brands. This generally happens without you even realising, as potential employers or customers may judge you based on your online presence and chose not to pursue you further.
How to Curate Your Brand
Your personal brand is only going to become more relevant. So embrace the power of a strong personal brand and use it to establish yourself in your industry. Ask yourself what you want people to think of when they hear your name? Work out who your target audience would be and how you can appeal to them. Put yourself in their shoes. What would you want to see if you were them? What are they interested in? What do they like/dislike? What’s your point of difference? Once you know how you want to come across it becomes easier to curate and control your brand.
There are countless benefits and pitfalls to having a digital personal brand. Whether you love or hate social media, it’s incredibly important to maintain control over your brand. Make your personal brand stand out (for the right reasons!) and reap the rewards. And always put careful thought into what you do online, as you never know where your digital footprint might trail to… and when it can come back to bite you.
Megan Boyle is a Marketing Executive at MRS.
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