The following is a post by my friend Amanda Laird: Earlier this week I participated as a mentor at Humber College’s Personal Brand Camp. During the event, I heard many students express that they were apprehensive about, if not confused by, building an online presence.
Before we go any further, let me give you a little background on my online presence. I started writing online in 1997 as a way to connect with other young writers and artists (let’s just say my high school had more sports teams than poetry clubs). After college I realized that the skills I acquired building websites in my parents' basement were transferable to the real world. My knowledge of and passion for online communication set me apart from other job candidates, and so my personal brand was born.
I started to wonder if the exercise of forcing students to create an online presence was futile. Making them get online isn’t going to do them any good; in fact I think it might even be counter-productive. If students are keen on getting involved in social media, by all means encourage them to do so—in a smart way; it will go a long way in helping them create a personal brand. But if they’re not, don’t force them. If a student doesn’t want to blog, their blog is going to be lame, and how is that going to set them apart in the job market?
Here are a few tips that Rayanne Langdon, my Personal Brand Camp partner-in-crime and I shared with those students who were interested in getting online, but weren’t sure where to start.
Be where you want to be. If you’re not comfortable with being online, don’t be online. What makes the Internet awesome is the passion that drives people to tweet, to blog, to engage in social media. If, to you, being online means tweeting and not blogging, or blogging and not tweeting, go for it!
Be your fabulous, funny, smart, creative, passionate self, and the personal brand stuff will come on its own. Being authentic will set you apart in a job interview and online. Unfortunately, if yourself is an asshole, you might be in trouble.
Be passionate. While I am certainly passionate about my work, I’ll leave writing about PR to the Dave Fleets and Martin Waxmans of the world. I write about home cooking because that’s what I love; not only am I better at it, my “personal brand” is better for it, too.
Be nice. This one’s easy. If you can help someone online (and in real life), do it. And don’t do it because you think you’ll get something out of it. Do it because being nice is a good thing.
Be smart. I’m all for sharing online, but you’ve got to give yourself some guiding principles. I’m friends with my dad and my boss on Facebook, so I generally don’t post anything I wouldn’t share with them over coffee. And now, as my professional and personal lives blend together, I even give my actions a second thought. I don’t spend too many nights dancing on tables with lampshades on my head anymore. (But man, those were good days.) You never know where those pictures will end up.
A personal brand isn’t a limiting checklist. Sage advice from a wise man. People aren’t one-dimensional, so there is no reason to limit yourself online. Have multiple interests? Have multiple blogs! Contribute guest posts to other blogs or segment your website into sections with posts on various topics. Your online presence is just that: yours. Do it your way.
Amanda Laird is a Communications Specialist at CNW Group, a gig she got through this very blog. Her personal brand is about home cooking, complaining about the TTC, and the odd smart thought about PR. Find her online at mise en place or @amandalaird.