By: Murray A. Mann and Rose Mary Bombela-Tobias
We’ve all seen the increasing media coverage about why professionals need to be concerned with their online identities. There are stories about digital dirt, people being fired or hired for blogging, the effect of social networking sites on career management, etc. But, have you thought about your own online identity lately?
Your Google results may be the determining factor in whether a prospective employer or recruiter calls you. People are making decisions about you based on what they find online. Even if you do have a professional, differentiated website, when you only have a few Google results you could be dismissed as not being a credible expert. After all, Accenture included the total number of relevant Google results as one of three measures they used to develop their list of the Top 50 Business Gurus.
Does your Web identity present you as you want to be known? Below are four steps to get you started.
Step One: Establish Your Baseline
The first step in improving your online brand is establishing your baseline. Google yourself (type your name in quotes: “First Last”) to learn where you stand on the digital scale. What’s your volume of accurate results? And how consistently do those results communicate your personal brand? Based on your evaluation of these two criteria, determine which of the following profiles best describes your current online identity:
Digitally disguised: There is absolutely nothing about you on the Web. Your search – “firstname lastname” – did not match any documents. It doesn’t mean you don’t exist, but it means that you remain hidden from those who may be researching you.
Digitally dissed: There is little on the Web about you, and what is there is either negative or inconsistent with how you want to be known.
Digitally disastrous: There is much information about you on the Web, but it has little relevance to what you want to express about yourself. The information may also include Google results about someone else who shares your name.
Digitally dabbling: There is some on-brand information on the Web about you. Although the volume of results is not high, the material that’s there is relevant to your personal brand. This is an easy fix.
Digitally distinct: There are lots of results about you and most, if not all, reinforce your unique promise of value.
Step Two: Understand Your Personal Brand
Of course, you can’t build an online reputation unless you first articulate your unique promise of value — your personal brand. And communicating your brand is especially challenging online, since your presence will be among billions of other Web pages, and people click away from sites quickly — at the moment they decide that it wasn’t what they were seeking. Therefore, before you attempt to build or reshape your online identity, make sure you take the time to determine what you need to express. Invest in a solid understanding of your strengths, goals, compelling brand attributes, the offerings that can only come from you, and your specific target audience and competition. Revealing the way you think and the things about which you are passionate will help you establish virtual rapport and attract the right kind of opportunities for you.
Step Three: Build Your Brand in Bits & Bytes
Once you assess your baseline online profile, you can develop a plan to enhance it. To craft the right Web identity for your brand, you have numerous options at your disposal. You can maintain a blog, create a professional website, use online networking sites, and develop on-brand content by publishing online articles and participating in web-based communities. If possible, you should try to do all of these. When you use these tools wisely, you cultivate a Web presence that ensures you’ll show up in search results the way you intend.
Step Four: Evolve & Resolve
Even when you’ve reached digital distinction, the nirvana in the world of online identity, remember that your Google results can change as fast as the weather in London. The lesson? You need to regularly monitor them to see if they need correcting. Set specific and measurable goals for your online identity. For example, if you are a director-level people manager with more than 10 years of experience, aim to reach at least 500 on-brand Google results. Every Monday morning, Google yourself to gauge your progress and determine if anything needs correcting. Also, set Google News Alerts (www.google.com/alerts) for your name so that you are notified when something is published about you online.
No matter what your digital profile is, you can always improve it. By steadily expanding your online presence and increasing your visibility and credibility, you put yourself directly on the path to digital distinction–and you remain distinct even as information about you changes in cyberspace.
This article is based on excerpts from Career Distinction: Stand Out by Building Your Brand. Copyright 2007 William Arruda and Kirsten Dixson. Published by John Wiley & Sons.
For more information go to www.CareerDistinction.com