How Personal is Too Personal With Branding?

One of the hot topics of personal branding is the question of how much of your personal life should you include in your content and interactions with people?

Do people really care about what you ate for lunch? Does it build rapport like you’ve been told—or is it just another form of useless self-indulgence? Should you talk about religion and politics, or is that still taboo?

Before I get into answering those questions, I’d like to talk about the goal of personal branding. The goal of personal branding is to establish yourself as an industry expert, unique individual, and eventually a “figure” in your industry others look up and respect as a leader. This is done by identifying a foothold in your niche—and then taking that foothold to market.

Unfortunately, most people don’t ever take that step—and use their personal blogs and business blogs as a form of “I have an opinion too; you need to listen to me.” I call this the “rock star” or “celebrity” mentality, where business owners and professionals start to shy away from helping their followers—and start to use their network and influence to push forward their own personal agenda.

You may ask me, “but Jerry—isn’t the whole point of personal branding to promote my personal agenda? Naturally to be perceived as an expert I’ll have to dictate to my followers my teachings and message.”

Right now I’m doing exactly that—sharing with you my advice and opinions on personal branding, based on my years of experience and education. Where that line would end, however, is if I used my blog as a platform to argue a personal viewpoint, that won’t educate my readers.

I recently thought about including an article to this blog about the 1st Amendment in the United States. Specifically, I wanted to talk about all of the comments I’ve seen online where people are arguing free speech—when it doesn’t apply. As I thought about it more, I realized this wasn’t going to do anything but extend an opinion that I was not expected, nor qualified to make. Not to mention, alienate my readers and clients who live in different countries!

My personal brand is focused on helping others use the internet to grow their brands, businesses, and/or annual revenue. Everything I do and teach is an extension from that. Politics, religion, social issues, and more—those are not what I help people do (and, in turn, is not a good subject for my blog). Not to mention, just because I have a blog does not mean I’m a celebrity, and the same is true for you. It’s very easy for business bloggers to let their reader base go to their heads.

For  example, I saw a local business (a food shop) post some scathing reviews of President Obama on their business Facebook page a couple of years ago. As expected, the comments were a mix of “support,” and a larger “I didn’t ‘like’ your page to see this garbage.” The owner responded to one of the comments stating, “I believe I am entitled to report on this, as I’m a small business owner. Most people don’t know what small business owners go through with taxes. I can inform them to help make better decisions for their community.”

I hate to break it to you, but most people don’t really care what small businesses go through with taxes. They care about what you’re doing for their needs.

The point of the article I’m writing is exactly this: your newfound soapbox does not mean you now have the right to “preach” down to your masses about subjects that impact you personally. You are not a celebrity, and your followers/peers/clients/employer does not view you as one either.

Now, I am of course not saying that you simply can’t go out there and preach your personal messages to the masses. I am saying, however, you cannot expect to say those things without alienating clients and other professionals.

I leave you with this. Keeping in mind I teach businesses and professionals how to use the internet to grow their brand and achieve their dreams, which would you rather see from me:

A Twitter post with a picture of my lunch, or:

A Twitter post during my lunch with a link to an interesting article I just read.

Think about that. Whenever you post anything ask yourself “does this fit in with the brand I am used to write, or is this something to stroke my own ego?”

Image Credit: Stefano Principato

How to Deal with Internet Trolls and Personal Attacks on Your Brand

how to deal with internet trolls

The internet is a dark and scary place sometimes. With an unfiltered and “anonymous feel,” it can become very easy for people to humiliate and degrade strangers, their writings, and their personalities. This can be in forms of nasty comments on your article, harassment to you, or shameless self-promotion across your network (including poaching your clients or connections for their own personal gain).

This is often one of the biggest and most concerned questions I receive when I’m helping a business or individual market themselves online: “How do I deal with nasty comments, trolls, and unnecessary aggression?”’ No matter what niche I’ve assisted in marketing there are ALWAYS people who feel the need to attack/destroy an article and ideas in the comments. They sometimes will even take it a bit further and attack the author, their beliefs, and their unique selling proposition.

It happens.

First of all, you will never become an expert in your industry if you cannot professionally and calmly deal with negative feedback. You will have competitors, they will have clients, and you’ll need to be able to fully explain why you believe what you believe. Remember, your articles are still your opinion (no matter how many times the subject or teaching has worked for you in the past).

This means, that your interpretation of situations can be different than what others have seen. While you may think haters will only do your business harm—it can actually prove as a way to better defend your position, change their view point, and disarm objection that the quite readers thought—but didn’t confront you directly about. When you receive a nasty comment or slight online, simply follow these easy steps:

  1. Don’t react right away. This is your court, not theirs. They have sent you the initial “attack.” If you attack back—you’re no better and will be viewed as unprofessional and uncollected by your audience. If you think clearly and with a level head—you’ll provide a much better response. Often times I’ll hear, “well he was an asshole first. I was just defending my name.” Ah yes, you met his unprofessionalism with unprofessionalism of your own. To everyone else, it’s just two assholes arguing.
  1. Think to yourself, is this a valid argument/point the attacker is making? If it is a valid argument, you must respond to disarm the argument. As discussed earlier, this is an opportunity to destroy the skeptics and move your ideas forward. Most of us have learned our greatest life lessons in being wrong and in failure. This is part of your journey in becoming a known expert in your field.
  1. If it is not a valid argument, thank the person for their contribution and then point out how stupid their point is (professionally of course). Avoid using “you,” statements, as in “you’re wrong about this,” and focus on attacking the subject, “I disagree because…” When you make it about you arguing against her, both she and you will quickly start attacking each other, and get personally angry. If it’s about the subject at hand, it easier for everyone to talk with a level head.
  1. If this escalates further, remove yourself from the situation. You’re online to establish your professional identity, and arguing with a troll will never help that message along the way. All it will do is frustrate, discourage, and anger you.

Remember, if you’re doing business blogging or content creation—then you’re online to make money, grow your network, and establish your expertise in your chosen field. You’re not here to argue with every troll that wants the internet to know how “smart” they perceive themselves. Remember, you’re using your writings and content to help grow yourself in your chosen industry and niche. There are people who simply have nothing better to do than “hate” on that, and try and destroy what you’re building. Never let someone else’s perception of you become your reality, and never let a negative person ruin your drive to build a personal brand, and achieve your wildest goals and dreams. Anything I missed? How do you handle trolls? Light up the comments below with your thoughts.

Image Credit: Kevin Dooley

The Basics of Building a Personal Brand

What better way to start my personal blog, than to talk about personal branding?

Although Jay Nine Inc. mainly does consultations for service and web based businesses, we are also contracted to help professionals and job seekers build their personal brand. This could be someone looking to make a company change, or an executive/key member looking to grow their network and influence.

One of things we insist upon with these clients is the importance of establishing a personal brand, and having content on the web where people can find out about you. In today’s day and age, it’s time to talk about what you’re doing to represent you online.

Here’s something I’d like you to do:

  • Do a Google search on your name (and location if you have a common name, another personal qualifier if you have an even more common name) and see what comes up
  • Do a Google search on your email and see what comes up

What does your personal brand say about you? Are you happy with it?

If the answer isn’t an immediate yes, let me give you some guidance on establishing your personal brand:

Clean Up Your Social Networks

I know you think this is obvious, but I’ve sifted through thousands and thousands of profiles in my professional career—and I bet yours needs work.  This goes beyond making everything “private.” In fact, I actually encourage most job seekers not to make everything private—only the truly private things.

Here are some things I see a lot:

  • Endless complaining in status updates. This is really unprofessional, and shows that you’re a “whiner” not a “doer.” Do you like working with people who complain about everything? Neither does anyone else.
  • Slutty pictures. This goes for both women and men. In fact, I’ve seen more shirtless drunk men pictures than I have scantily clad women when doing job searching and professional prospecting.
  • Party picturesThere’s a big difference between having a picture of you and some friends at a party or business mixer, and having a picture of you (or your friends) in a state of falling down drunk. Look at each one of your pictures and imagine this picture is blown up and behind you in a consulting or job interview.
  • Lame job descriptions for being unemployed. Identify yourself as a professional in the industry you’re looking for a job in. Being “unemployed” or another immature writing of “unemployed” will not get you anywhere. The purpose of your personal brand is to demonstrate your expertise. “Experts” are never “unemployed” or “seeking new opportunities.”
  • tYpn Lyk Tis. [Translation: “Typing like this”] or any other variation of “text speak,” and illiterate speak. A few typos here and there and non-perfect grammar is forgivable in most cases. Your potential employers are not morons and know this is your person life, and you’re not necessarily going to type with 100% accurate grammar. With that being said, if what you’re writing doesn’t make any sense—it is a reflection of your communication skills.

At the end of the day, you need to look professional—relative to whatever field you’re in.

Note: My clients and I have trashed just as many applications that have no information online, as the ones who have stupid information online. When you’re going through 100 or more applications, the ones that can’t be “prescreened” are garbage. This includes applications from vendors. Meaning, if you’re a business professional selling to other business professionals—your sales pitch will be ignored if I can’t learn about you without calling you first.

Establish a Blog and Website

A personal blog and website is a wonderful, wonderful way to showcase your thoughts, ideas, concepts, and tell the world (and your employers who you are). It will also likely help you become a better writer, and thinker—while helping you further develop your thinking strategies.

Try and develop the blog around your unique selling point (USP). In business, we refer to a USP as “what you have that none of your competitors do.” Or, what makes you “unique.”

This blog shouldn’t be your resume, but should help people identify who you are as a person. It should be a way that people can find out what you’re passionate about, what your strengths are—and even what some of your weaknesses are.

You can start off with low cost alternatives to establish and build this website—but I highly recommend hiring an expert to help you. Not only will a good one build you a tailored website—they’ll also provide an outside opinion on your area of expertise.

Spiff Up Your LinkedIn

So many people are missing out on using LinkedIn for professional growth. LinkedIn is a powerhouse in business marketing and personal branding. It’s time for you to take another look at what your LinkedIn looks like.

Here are some things that will put you above 90% of other job seekers:

  1. Have a good profile picture

Get a professional headshot done for your LinkedIn profile. If you can’t have a professional headshot, have someone snap a picture of you in a suit or something else that’s professional. Don’t post the picture of you at a basketball game or (worse) at a bar. In the age of smartphones, there is no excuse for you to have a non-professional picture on LinkedIn.

  1. Write a great LinkedIn Summary

Write your summary from the first person, and again, talk about who you are, and what you do. Talk about what your goals are, and talk about why you are the best fit for whatever industry you’re in.

Also, as some food for thought, consider which person YOU would contact for an interview?

I’m looking for new experiences and a position as an admin assistant.”

“I’ve been a top performing admin assistant for years, ensuring that my bosses see more down time and a better organized office.”

Be confident in who you are and what you offer when you’re writing your summary. Use text and stories to tell people about what you bring to the table, and spend some time getting it right. I wrote an article for my company that gives you more insight on writing a LinkedIn summary.

  1. Complete Your Profile

It’s important you have a “complete” profile. It helps you rank higher in LinkedIn’s internal search feature, and it provides potential employers with a lot more access to your work, work history, and who you are as a person.

  1. Add As Many Connections as Possible

Your LinkedIn “network” is based on how many connections you have. Use their tools to add your colleagues, classmates, friends, family and so on. Now, here’s the part where most other guides miss the boat—start interacting with them as soon as they accept your connection! It astounds me how many people’s friends don’t know what they do for a living. “Oh he does something with computers,” people will say about someone who does graphic design work.

Studies show that between 60 – 80% of jobs are found through personal relationships. Freelancer, independent contractor or business professional, and they will likely tell you that referrals are their best source of new business. Most of my best and biggest clients are people that were referred to me, or people that I knew personally (compared to cold sales or direct advertising). LinkedIn helps build and expand this network.

Following these strategies will help you identify and build your personal brand. Remember, a personal branding campaign never ends. Until you die, you should be constantly growing yourself as a professional—and sharing your journey along the way.

PS. On Passwords and Giving Employers Full Access

For job seekers: there is a new trend arising that employers will ask you for your Facebook/LinkedIn username and password before giving you a job. I’d highly recommend you don’t even consider giving them that kind of information.

First, it’s becoming illegal in most states and hopefully will be illegal everywhere very soon. Secondly, do you really want to work for the person who wants to go through all of your personal messages, thoughts and similar before they hire you?

While it’s one thing for  present employers to have access to email and work related networks (for example, my employees provide us with access to their LinkedIn profiles, so we can coach them with sales and marketing efforts) it’s a completely different ballgame for someone to want to go through your personal information before hiring you.

Image Credit: Ryan Rancatore