Tuesday, March 6, 2012

A Plug for Personal Branding

I write a lot about professional relationships here on Like-em. I feel they're critical to the success of our careers. It's cliche to say "it's who you know," but there is and always will be a ton of truth to that statement. I know plenty of talented, brilliant people who have gotten nearly every job they've ever had based on who they knew and not being a blind candidate for a position that they are well-qualified for.

Given that, I feel that many of us miss the boat on opportunities to really brand ourselves professionally. We go through our professional lives, working hard and being brutally modest about the results. There's nothing wrong with modesty - until it restrains us from well-deserved growth.

A huge opportunity that we have in today's world is digital social networking. It doesn't really matter which digital platform you spend your time on, - Google +, Facebook, Twitter, blogging, etc - there are people to be met everywhere. An interesting thing about how we use those social platforms however, is something we need to keep off the back burner.

I'll use Facebook as an example. It's a wonderful platform for a lot of reasons. At the heart of the platform are a number of core features that allow us to easily remain connected to friends and family that we otherwise might lose track of from time to time in our busy lives. I can personally say that I have grown a number of relationships with extended family and friends from past cities, jobs, and schools because of Facebook. The ability to share the simplest of events with a large group of people encourages deeper relationships. 

In the past, I've compared Facebook to a Friday night out (you can choose if it's for food or drink) where you connect with someone you haven't seen for a while. You share a few things about what's happening at work, your family, your kids (we tend to be redundant when we're catching up don't we?), and any other various personal interest topics. This is a great component to a relationship, sharing these things builds trust and familiarity.

It's also missing something. You know that project at work that you think is headed the wrong direction - the one you can rant about at a moment's notice? Chances are you didn't mention that in your status update tonight. Remember that industry-related article that really got your mind spinning about how changes are on the horizon for your customers? You left that bottled up inside too. And those questions that are burning a hole in your head about how to overcome a new challenge in your industry? You didn't have one meaningful conversation with someone who understood the topic as well as you do.

Enter a new perspective on digital social networking. It can be more than just a diversion for your weeknights on the couch. There are any number of like-minded professionals around the globe tackling the same goals and challenges as you are. They aren't millionaire business moguls, high-priced consultants, or well-meaning best friends. Actually, they're just like you, hard-working professionals making an average salary and trying to do the best they can. And there's a way that you can find them - because digital social platforms have made the world a whole lot smaller.

When you use a digital social platform as a way to promote your personal brand - one as a professional with an understanding of your industry, working to gain more knowledge, and willing to network to do it - you'll find these people coming out of the World Wide Web's woodwork (that's wwww for those keeping score at home).

Now I can promote any digital platform - some are better than others at creating an open environment for this - but ultimately any one can work. Here are few tips that I've found helpful for helping me to be a better professional and to help build a reputation (personal brand) for being a person who is focused on growth within my profession.

  1. Read and Share - Everyone tells you to read more. It's true, by reading industry/job related content you can improve yourself in a number of ways - not the least of which is deepening your understanding of what you do. By sharing what you read to a social network you are letting others know what you are reading (so they can see how smart you are getting) and allow them to engage in a conversation with you about the topic at hand (allowing you to battle-test your new knowledge).
  2. Create some content, share that too - Reading is for growth, writing is for proof. You don't have to be a regular blogger, but by posting your personal ideas and observations to your social account you can really show what's important to you and where your mind is at. This can generate awesome conversations as well allowing you to really get to the bottom of a topic of interest.
  3. Seek and connect with like-minded individuals - Our society still feels a little funny about connecting with our peers around the globe. We seem to be more comfortable being a silent follower of some "expert," but by connecting with people just like yourself, you will find some of the best conversations.
Additional Encouragements:
  1. Open up a little bit - Building relationships is about getting to know people a little bit. If you just swing by a platform to post a professional tidbit and move on you're not doing much beyond personal marketing. Move past your narrow, professional interests once in a while and share content related to your personal interests and hobbies. You don't have to share pictures of your kids, just a good article about your favorite restaurant or sports team.
  2. Add value to conversations - This isn't all about you. In fact there are going to be a lot of people involved and win-win is one of the best relationship tactics I know. Share some of the good content you see from others and make comments that add value. Joining a conversation takes some of the weight off of your creative juices too.
Bonus plug for a platform

Over the past seven months, I have really enjoyed the growing community over at Google +. The platform still has plenty of growing to do, but it's one of the most engaging communities I have ever been a part of. You can't really compare it to Facebook, because you'll find a whole other group of people to connect with at Google +. 

I've dedicated a lot of time and energy to building my own network there since it's launch, but it is and will continue to be worth the work. I know that most of you reading this are from that network and I thank you. For those of you who either aren't using it or are minimally using it and want to find ways to make it more impactful, feel free to connect with me there and I can try to point you in the direction of some interesting and engaging professionals.

A big reason that I've made Google + a core component of my personal branding efforts is that the design of the platform highly encourages both connections with like-minded individuals (rather than existing friends) and quality engagement. These are things that can happen on other platforms, but are the foundation of the Google + design.