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The ABC’s of Having a Healthy Personal Brand in Social Media

MA_HMH_Sharifah_Niles-Lane-220x300pxBy Sharifah Niles-Lane, Social Media Director, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Given the prevalence of social and digital media in our tech-savvy world, it should come as no surprise that what we share virtually can have a lasting impact on our identities, both on- and offline. Whether connecting with family, friends, co-workers or potential colleagues, many of us have grown comfortable posting a quick status update or uploading an image to send thoughts and messages out to the world.

Digital media offers powerful ways to connect with and learn from others, but it’s important to be mindful when using these tools, leverage the best they have to offer and avoid common pitfalls. We’ve all heard the stories of HR professionals combing through candidates’ social media accounts before extending job offers, with varying results. A quick Google search could reveal the Twitter feed of a passionate industry-insider who shares regular, accessible and informative commentary with her professional network. Or, that same search could pull up a jumble of silly photos from college and an underwhelming LinkedIn profile.

The good news is that we are the primary curators of our own personal brands. As a digital media professional, I spend a lot of time thinking about effective ways to present ideas, tell stories and share personalities online. Here are my ABC’s of protecting and maintaining a healthy personal brand when it comes to digital and social media.

“A” Is for Audit
At least once a month, conduct an audit of what you’ve shared online and what appears in Google search results when you enter your own name. The Internet is forever, but it’s never too late to swap out a profile photo or clean up content that you no longer want to appear on the first page of your Google search result.

Google others in your industry peer group and see how your online presence compares. You may see best practices that you too want to start (or continue) doing, or identify personal online trends that you want to stop.
Lastly, purchase your domain if you haven’t already. I did this myself about a year ago. One thing you do not want is to Google yourself only to realize that someone else has your identity!

“B” Is for Balance
It’s important to maintain a good balance of personal and professional content in what you share online. The lines between the personal and the professional in social media are often blurry because we tend to have friends, clients and colleagues as connections and contacts across multiple platforms. Remember to be mindful of your audiences within various digital spaces. Try not to over-share personal moments with your online network of professional contacts. You can control this by adjusting your privacy settings where appropriate. This way, you can save your birthday party photo recap for a close group of Facebook friends.

I recommend taking a look at the great tips on maintaining balance from the social media gurus at Hootsuite.

“C” Is for Cadence
Part of protecting your brand is making sure that you are constantly building and maintaining it. Take the time to post on a regular basis by sharing thoughts and opinions that showcase your subject matter expertise and your personality. Be purposeful and create a posting schedule that works for your goals, and keep platform in mind. Try responding to topical news or connecting with other media users who are sharing thought-provoking content in innovative ways.

“D” is for Design
Last but not least is design. Keep your profile photos professional and relevant to the platform. No matter how cute, a picture of your cat probably isn’t the right fit for your LinkedIn profile. Your profile images should be clear and cropped appropriately.

No one is perfect and personal branding is an ongoing process. I confess that I have broken a rule or two myself over the years. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it is that it’s never too late to start protecting and maintaining your brand in the online space.

So when you have finished reading this, I challenge you to do a quick scan of your own digital and social brands. You might be surprised. There may be content that you want to clean up, or maybe you’ll feel inspired to boost your online presence by updating profiles and adding information. Either way, you’re on your way to having a healthy online brand.

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