Take charge of your personal online brand
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It's all about taking charge of your personal online brand -- and helping to maximize your business and career potential.
In a high-tech world of instant access, digital bits of information ranging from bios to article comments to Tweets and LinkedIn posts are readily available. Collectively, they give potential employers, clients and business partners an impression of who you are professionally -- your personal brand.
That impression is going to be there, so you might as well shape and manage it to your advantage, say Long Island professionals and social media coaches. Nowadays, new acquaintances are Googled "before they are even out of eyesight," says Mike Seilback, 33, a nonprofit vice president from Commack.
"Be in charge of what shows up," says Emily Miethner, 24, a 2010 Hofstra graduate, social media coach and founder of NY Creative Interns, a career organization in Manhattan. "Every employer is going to look you up, so be sure the top part of a [search] page is filled with stuff you put there."
That's what Brendan Stanton, 29, worked to do last year when he noticed his online presence associated him with his previous role working with elected officials, and not with his present job as chief communications officer for Mineola-based law firm Meltzer, Lippe, Goldstein & Breitstone, LLP. In addition, he had to distinguish himself from another person with his name -- a Division III basketball player with numerous links to high school athletic rosters.
"I seized the opportunity to define my professional identity on my terms," he said. He beefed up his LinkedIn profile, connecting it to his Google+profile and other social media accounts, and started interacting more with contacts online -- all of which influence search engine rankings.
Here are further approaches experts say are best practices for managing your online presence:
Shape YOUR BRAND
A "personal brand" is a well-thought-out snapshot of skills and attributes for which you want to be known, including what makes you stand out from the pack. Think of a corporate tagline, such as Harley-Davidson's "American by birth, rebel by choice," only describing you.
It's a chance to showcase your best features that "the world might miss otherwise," says Louise DiCarlo, a social media and online community manager in Stony Brook, who describes herself online as: "Community Producer. Certified Life Coach. Master Storyteller. Writer, Speaker, Wordsmith. Crazy about gadgets, music, Yanks, Isles, Giants."
Claim YOUR NAME
Beth Granger, a social media consultant in Port Washington, always claims her name when a new social site arrives on the scene, even if she's not sure she'll be using it. Claiming your "parking spot" is especially important for those with common names, she says. You may not have a use now for, say, Pinterest, a social site where people organize and share images, but you may in time. Check Namechk.com to see if your desired username is available on a number of social sites.
Mike Seilback, policy and communications vice president with the American Lung Association of the Northeast, says that while he's not very active on Google+, the search giant's social networking site, he does have a profile and occasionally posts there because: "It's a Google product, and they are looking to integrate it into their other products." Indeed, Google his name and his Google+ profile is on the first page of results, along with other links, such as those to his LinkedIn and Twitter accounts.
Update PROFILES AND BIOS
Your biography appears in so many places these days: Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Google+, alumni and professional association sites and directories, your employer's and volunteer groups' sites, and so on. Use the same professional and current photo for all. Make sure all your bios are updated and consistent. Granger advises clients to maintain a file or spreadsheet to keep track of all their bios, so none will be missed when it's update time.
Monitor SEARCH RESULTS
The Web is ever-changing, so it's important to monitor what's said about you.
When Mirirai Sithole, 22, a new theater alumna of Adelphi University, was setting up her website, she says she Googled her name every other week to see what surfaced. More recently, she and a group of colleagues at The Children's Theater Company in Manhattan did a group search for one another's names. Besides having fresh eyes view the results, "we learned about each other," said Sithole, also a social media intern with Theatermania, a news and discount tickets site.
Those who want to automate the process can set up Goolge alerts for their names.
Influence SEARCH RESULTS
BrandYourself.com is a site that lets users know when key links rise and fall or a new link appears in search results for their names, as well as offering tips on how to make certain links more search-engine friendly. The Syracuse-based site was co-founded by Pete Kistler, of Needham, Mass., who says that as a Syracuse University student he couldn't get an internship because he was mistaken for a drug dealer with the same name. Among the tips the site offers for "boosting" your favored links higher: fill in profile information completely and keep it updated; add a photo; customize the URL, using your actual name, not a nickname; link your sites -- say, a website, blog, Twitter, LinkedIn -- to each other; share your profile with your social networks.
Measure YOUR EFFECTIVENESS
Some social media experts question the validity of Klout, a tool which, like Kred and PeerIndex, scores and ranks people by their social media "influence." Still, the scores can be of value to those looking to learn the ropes or who tend to put tweeting on the back burner. For them, when it comes to the scores, "it's not the number, it's what your number is doing," DiCarlo says. If you see your score start to nosedive, you can say, "Oh, I'm slacking. I need to punch it up." She says, "It's like stepping on the scale."
Polish YOUR IMAGE
Include in your email signature links to your social media sites, as Granger does. WiseStamp.com is a tool that can help with this.
Those with no personal website can set up an About.me page, a "fantastic tool to quickly and easily establish a web profile page" that serves as a landing page linking to all your social media sites, says Paul Biedermann, who runs a design and branding business in Huntington and is a board member of Long Island's Social Media Association. Another such tool is Flavors.me.
Gmail users can check out Rapportive, a service that displays a social media profile of the person with whom they're corresponding. Especially important is your ability to edit the details that show up when Rapportive displays your own profile in your contacts' Gmail boxes.