How To Develop Your Online Brand

Personal brandingFor the past two fall semesters I’ve had the honor of teaching branding & social media courses at Hult International Business School. The students are awesome and I always walk away with learning something from them (more on that below). One of the main exercises I start out with is a mind-mapping exercise geared toward helping them figure out who they want to be online and help them develop themselves as thought leaders in their area.

And right now I want to thank Ryan Hanley (Thanks!) for his recent blog post where I discovered a link to an awesome free, online, collaborative mind-mapping tool called MindMeister, which I’ll be using in future classes. Boo-yah!

Essentially I am helping them with career development and their 15 second elevator pitch — which everyone should have, by the way.

I give them 5-10 minutes to figure out the following:

  • Who they currently are and who they want to be online.
  • What skills do they have? (I make them give at least two skills)
  • Why it matters? What makes them unique vs. the person right next to them?

What I learned from them?

This past year when doing this exercise I asked for volunteers to come up to the front of the class to share. What I found out was that since the majority of these students are foreign, boasting about themselves is not something that is widely accepted in their respective countries. Many of the students had a hard time with this exercise, which made me wonder on how many recruiters must overlook them based on what they don’t see online.

Apparently I wasn’t the only one curious, a handful of students were curious also asking, “Do I need to be online at all? What if I’m not online, can that hurt my  chances of getting hired?”

My personal response to this is it’s better to be in control of your online brand than to be mistaken for someone else online. You are 100% in charge of your online brand so it’s up to  you to monitor and manage it and not leave it in the hands of someone like Google, let’s say.

There are lots of ways to develop your online brand:

  1. Start posting to social networks on what you want to be known for.
  2. Start a blog in your niche.
  3. Comment on other people’s blogs or social media posts – by leaving thoughtful comments (unless you want to be known as an butt head).
  4. Make sure your profile photos are the same across platforms. This helps with consistency.
  5. Make sure your profiles have cross-reference links to other social networks. Let them know where else I can find you.
  6. Create content. I cannot say this enough about creating content but that’s what keeps you relevant and that’s what makes you come up first in Google search.
  7. Control the photos and content that are displayed of you by not allowing people to tag you without your permission.
  8. Remove unwanted content you’ve posted that doesn’t reinforce your online persona.
  9. Highlight your skills and expertise on your LinkedIn profile, get endorsements for those skills, or get recommendations for jobs well done, even if it’s volunteer work.
  10. Believe in who you are. If you believe, others will start to believe. It’s infectious!
Do you have any other tips for developing an online personal brand? Share in the comments below.


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About Tracy Sestili

Tracy Sestili is CEO and Chief blogger at Social Strand Media. She is also the author of Taking Your Brand from the Bench to the Playing Field -- Social Media Fundamentals for Business.