Crafting Your Personal Brand

Creating a persona isn't new to you.  You've probably already created various online identities to participate in online games, chat rooms, or special interest communities.  Your range of profiles may vary from a slight obfuscation of your real self and real name, to a completely fictitious phantasm. What I would like to do is talk about producing an online image that promotes careers in the real world.
If you're a professional, the product that you have to offer in the open marketplace is yourself.  But how do you market yourself as an entity that the rest of the world finds worthy of investment, be it through time, attention in discussing you, participation in your ventures, or employment or other financial compensation?  What are the essential elements to crafting a distinct, attractive, and popular online self-brand in the Web X.x environment?

I'm posing this as a question, because I don't pretend to be an expert.  Let's be frank: were I the Heinz Ketchup of Advisors, this would be a printed hardcover book in the front window of a bookstore or on the main page of Amazon, rather than an entry on a free blogging service. :) 

Having made that disclaimer, here are some of the salient aspects as I perceive them.  Feel free to add your own by commenting below:

Your brand is pretty worthless unless the image it projects has a firm basis in reality.  While you obviously wouldn't completely fabricate credentials and experience, you need to polish what you've got to make it shine as brightly as possible (on your bio page, user profile, etc.).

A campaign for your personal brand should include all the veracity normally absent from a weight loss system or a teeth-whitening commercial.  While these products and their "Results not typical" smallprint can safety disappear from the market, your name and face will continue to linger on the planet for decades to come.  With that in mind, don't purport to be something you aren't, take credit for things you had a minor role in, or promise skills and expertise you can't deliver.

Whenever I read a resume or a skill set that goes on and on into oblivion, I wonder how well the person would fare if I asked them for multiple, specific examples of these skills in action.  Could they deliver?  Could you?  Ill-substantiated claims are tantamount to lies, and your reputation will continue to drag you down even when the muck is no longer visible on your clothes and the voices aren't openly hostile. Sure, you can create another online persona, but they'll only exist virtually (like your "Captain Fabulicious" avatar), and won't do you any good in promoting the real-life you once the live networking resumes. :)

Create an honest representation of yourself, and take care of it.  I'd rather read a profile where someone can promote themselves in 5 bullet points with a wagonload of examples to back them up, than someone seemingly possessing the backgrounds of 5 people.

That said, your virtual Web X.x brand should be no different from the resume you: a highly selective and customized, best-of, greatest hits version of yourself, engineered to sell your rockstar skill set in lieu of albums and T-shirts.

Creating a brand that can permeate the public conscious is more effective if you use consistent imagery.  A standard photo, drawing, caricature, or symbol of yourself that is used on every blog, discussion forum, profile page, or wiki promotes quick recognition.  You want others to browse, find you with relative ease, think "Hey!  They're here too!" then poke around to find out what you're up to.

Your brand should be visible in multiple places, but you needn't be omnipresent.  In fact, trying to simultaneously exist on huge tracts of web makes you look like someone with too much time on their hands; not the image you're trying to convey. Instead, create (and maintain!) accounts and profiles in significant locations.  Externally these should include a blog, Twitter, LinkedIn, and any significant communities specific to your professional discipline.  Internally, you should have a presence on your organization's social networking, forum, and collaboration environment.  Make it clear through regular updates that you've been there recently.

Share useful information.  Post interesting links.  Pose valid questions. Write thought-provoking blog entries. Respond to these same content streams provided by others.  In other words, pair your recognizable visual brand with content and contributions which make you worth following, and, in the spirit of Web X.x don't just publish -- interact.  When the web was largely a unidirectional experience, people were content to discover someone worth reading.  Now you need to be someone worth communicating with.

Be a confident self-promoter; blow your trumpet; be noticed.  Don't be the horn player who plays so loud that your notes distort and drown out the entire brass section.  Don't be the rooster who crows so incessantly that passers-by engage in idle fantasies about your strangulation.

Resist the urge to frequently update your Facebook or Twitter status unless there's a valid reason to.  If you look carefully, right after the prompt that asks "What are you doing now?" there's a bit of small print in off-white coloured font.  It says: (that's interesting).  A lot of people miss that.

Cross promote your content streams, but don't over-advertise on each.  The flock doesn't need multiple reminders of a new post or an upcoming appearance or the podcast/video of said appearance.  Be sparing about ReTweeting news and comments about yourself. Let other people share tweets about you. Appreciate them by retweeting something else from their content  stream. They'll notice, and be likely to tweet something about you again in the future. Don't try to create too much buzz about yourself. Focus on remaining helpful and relevant. Buzz happens. Let it happen.

Again, if you have other thoughts, I urge you to share them.  This information is intended for my own benefit as much as yours.  In reading the list, it's clear to me what I should do more of (or less of).  How about you?