Taking control of your online brand is one of the smartest, easiest ways to manage your reputation and ensure you are getting the right kind of exposure.

What does your online brand look like?

Looking for a new job? Hoping to expand your social or professional network? Want to meet others with the same hobby or interest? Take the time to build your online brand. The returns can be substantial.

1. Account name

Your name is the foundation of your brand. Use Namechk to search across the major social media channels (some of which are listed below) to see what is available. Be consistent. Ideally, you would register the same name across all accounts. Try to keep your user name as short as possible given Twitter’s 140-character limit. Building a grid will help you evaluate the best alternatives.

2. LinkedIn

Create a complete LinkedIn profile. Not only is profile completeness a prime indicator that you value your brand, but an incomplete profile also costs you in not being indexed by the site’s search engine. Get the most out of the networking opportunities by joining related groups, contributing to discussions and writing book reviews. But also don’t dilute your brand by overbooking yourself and joining too many groups. Focus on quality, not quantity.

3. Facebook

If you are on Facebook, use the ability to create lists to filter your social contacts from your professional ones. A wise precaution: Limit the amount of personal information you share, either in your profile (don’t include birthday, address, phone) or in posts. Don’t share anything compromising or that you consider private. Employers are watching.

Register a username or “vanity” URL. If your name is taken, find a close alternative, such using your initials or including your middle name. If you have a business, register the business name separately from your personal page. Cultivate professional friends that support and enhance your brand. Use the same approach when determining what friends to accept or invite and groups or fan pages to join.

Take the time to build your online brand. The returns can be substantial.

4. Twitter

Use Twitter to post updates to LinkedIn and Facebook. This is a convenient feature, and Twitter appears to have resolved the initial kinks. As part of your branding arsenal, Twitter can be a powerful tool. You can complement Facebook page memberships following the same sources on Twitter.

And think before you tweet. If the majority of your tweets are accounts of minute-by-minute minutia, you can lose credibility and risk turning off–even losing–your followers. Leave a minimum two characters of the allotted 140 to allow people to “rt” or retweet your posts. However, Twitter recently released a beta feature that replaces “rt” with an icon, so the clock is running down on this conventional advice.

5. Blogging

Blogging about your hobby, profession or other interests is a great way to get exposure, make connections and set yourself apart. You can simply participate on blogs, leaving comments, or create you own blog. There are many services available, but the best known are WordPress and Blogger.

Too busy to write a blog post? Share an interesting article  from your news feed or leave a thoughtful comment on a LinkedIn discussion.

6. RSS feeds

Have up-to-the-minute headlines delivered to your desktop and/or mobile device via RSS feeds. Subscribing/unsubscribing has become so easy, you can accomplish in two clicks what used to require code copy-paste.

Invest in a professional-quality profile photo. As the saying goes, “an image is worth a thousand words.” 

7. Dashboards

Optimize your browser dashboard. Yahoo!!, Google, Bing all offer interfaces that you can customize. And these platforms are making key improvements ongoing.

8. Profile photo

Choose a photo that best represents you, one that would be an appropriate accompaniment to your business card. Invest in a professional photographer. Note: I am in the process of doing so myself.

9. e-mail Signature

Promote your online brand with every e-mail you send. Include the relative social media icons and links in your e-mail signature. Your e-mail program will have specific instructions on how to accomplish this. Always test on different programs to ensure as much continuity as possible.

10. Google Alerts

Now you are ready to create Google Alerts. Use alerts to monitor your brand and also to follow developments in your areas of interest. For a job-seeker, alerts are a great way to track your employers of choice.

Periodically, Google yourself to ensure your alerts are on target. Given that employers and recruiters are increasingly looking online to get additional information on candidates, consider that you are always on the market. Don’t put off building your online brand. Taking the time now will put you ahead and keep you up to speed on changing trends and branding tools.



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