Sell yourself: Personal branding in the age of the Internet

This is a guest post by Murray Newlands.

In the past, there were very few places you could go to verify what a company said. If Coke said it was refreshing, a lot of people believed it to be true. We weren’t sheep, but there were much fewer information outlets (even though newspapers personal branding were more diversified) and those outlets that did exist were dominated by people who could afford to run ads.

The Internet made it so that anybody with a keyboard and a web browser could buy a domain (or get one for free) and start their own website. If they then spend a little time building links to it from other websites, they could show up high on Google and reach out to a targetable audience who wants to hear what they have to say.

Personal branding and social media

Social media transformed Internet marketing by making it even more accessible and by giving advertisers a new avenue to reach potential customers. Perhaps more importantly, at least in terms of how it affects most people’s lives, social media gives us the ability to market ourselves and control our personal branding.

Facebook profile

In 2006, seventy-seven percent of employers look up potential employees on the Internet. Out of that 77%, 35% eliminated candidates based on their search engine results. This was before Facebook was popular so the information employers had on you was limited, but a lot of them still made decisions about who to hire based on what they found online.

A lot of recent college grads fear that their Facebook profiles will be seen by potential employers. Fearing employers finding your social media profiles is the wrong outlook, and I’ll tell you why:

Use social media to promote your personal brand

Most employers will look at your social media profiles after they read your cover letter and resume but before they call you in for an interview. Your resume already has started to shape your personal brand. What school did you go to and what was your major? Do you have a .aol email address? Does your email address have your name in it?

A resume is about whether or not you’re qualified for a job, and what you can bring to a company. You’re selling your experiences and your skills a lot more than you’re selling yourself. Resumes aren’t always very good indicators of things like personality, how well someone performs under pressure, and whether or not they’re a hard and intelligent worker. To a much greater extent than a resume, Facebook profiles and other social media give employers an explicit presentation of who you are as a person.

By building social media profiles to present a good image to prospective employers, you can leverage social media profiles as an opportunity to forge a good personal brand and thus be more hireable before you even walk in the door for your interview.

This is a guest post by Murray Newlands. Murray is the CEO and Founder of Influence People, a San Francisco-based online marketing and blogger outreach consulting firm. Jim Kukral and Murray Newlands recently wrote What is Personal Branding? How to Create a Memorable & Powerful Brand that Sells YOU! to help people learn how to market themselves.

I work with purpose-driven service-based businesses, implementing compelling brand and communications strategies (including setting up their own podcast/podcast series) so they can attract more clients who pay them what they are worth. Through working with me, my clients have doubled (and even tripled) their results. >>> Want to double (or triple) your results - while BOOST your reach and influence with your own Podcast Series? Let's talk! My details are on the Contact link (top of page).
I'm also the Host of Ambitious Entrepreneur Show & Women In Leadership Podcast, and have often been referred to as the 'Podcasting Queen' by my community. I hope you'll subscribe to my shows!

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • The social media wave has hit the world by storm and almost every person in every corner of the world belongs to one, two or even three social media sites. This made it is easier for people and companies to advertise themselves. As much as there are many benefits of social media it has also been a source of many problems including people getting fired, broken relationships, loss of trust to mention but a few. People should be careful on how they use social media.

    • You raise some very important points Jesse. While social media tools can be leverage to build a strong online profile, if not careful, someone can quite easily destroy their reputation. As you say, be cautious about what you say and do online. You don’t want to be creating digital dirt (the information that may one day negatively impact your reputation).

      • That’s definitely true, Annemarie. Especially for small businesses who make multiple profiles because someone tells them “to go on Twitter” but then they quit updating them after a month or so. This makes them look sloppy and also might imply that they’re out of business.

        • Totally agree! Or their bio and the images they use are so unprofessional, that it makes you wonder whether they are really worth investing in. We all need to be so careful about the messages we portray. EVERYTHING impacts your brand/reputation so be mindful of all of your actions and interactions.

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  • Annemarie & Murray, I was looking for social media buzz for my presentation with exactly the same page title, and found yours to be more popular 🙂 congrats!

    Didn’t quite understand why having an .aol email address is good or bad for a student.

    I also think Social Media now plays a great role in personal branding. But, if you can use QR codes, you can make your paper-based resume even more interactive. e.g. you don’t have to list all the skills, just make a tutorial video on YouTube and share that on your resume in QR codes.

    • Hi Asif, thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts.

      I’d have to agree with Murray on this one with regards to a QR code. Many of the recruiters and employers I network with, wouldn’t bother to click through a QR code, nor watch a video, often due to being against time deadlines. Also, with regards to videos, I would generally caution any candidate to be very careful about what they put out there. I have seen some videos that would end up doing more damage to someone’s personal brand than good. So unless someone has the ability to make a professional looking video that adds real value – I would advise against it.

  • Thanks Ansif.

    I didn’t say that .aol is bad for students, though I’m glad you pointed them out since they usually have to put their email addresses on college applications.

    .aol is bad for students, recent grads applying for jobs, and job-seekers because it is a) unprofessional and b) implies that the applicant is technically inadept.

    Nobody would read a job or school application that’s submitted as a QR code.

  • Hi Annemarie and Murray,
    Business owners and bloggers now focus on connecting and building relationships with their customers and followers because they now realize that that’s what it takes to stay in the business.
    And social media plays an important part in this relationship. If used properly, social media can bring huge benefits to a business.
    Sadly, many people still don’t realize this and do more harm by posting inappropriate photos and spamming.

    • Hi Theresa, totally agree with everything you have said. I’m still surprised when I speak to some business owners who flatly refuse to integrate social media into their businesses, and not recognizing the amazing opportunities these tools offer for building a network and solid relationships with other likeminded business owners and of course potential clients.

      As far as people creating digital dirt due to the photos they share and comments they make – particularly youth, I shudder to think what a future employer will find when doing an online search about them. I don’t think they realize just how important it is to protect their image – both offline and online!

  • Thanks for your thought also. I also think in addition to words or short summary, you can print QR Codes when you are referring any URL to aid people to go to a page in more convenient way.

    • Asif, this could be a great strategy but only if you have planned it correctly, included valued-added and outcome-focused material in your summary/resume (positioning you as a must-have candidate). A summary/resume is far more than a list of tasks/functions; it’s a personal marketing statement that outlines the benefits the organisation could expect should they hire (invest in) you. Once you’ve achieved this on your document (summary/resume) a person will be more likely to click through with the QR code, however again, you need to give them a compelling enough reason as to why they should; and ensure that what they are clicking through to (ie a video) continues to position you in the best possible manner.