The days of relying on making a great first impression in person by being nicely dressed, having a firm handshake, and a personable temperament are almost gone. While making a first impression in person is still very important, with the surge of social media sites and search engines, many first impressions are made online. By taking charge of your image and branding yourself online, you will stand out and be remembered, stay relevant, and have more opportunities in your field.
Who are you? Decide.
If you are already a specialist in your field, then this one will be easy. You just need to concentrate on your area of expertise. If not, you need to start thinking of yourself as an expert in something, but what? What are you passionate about? What makes you different? What makes you interesting? What makes you valuable to others?
Branding is about finding what features are useful to others and appealing to the particular audience who will appreciate these features, while remaining consistent with your image. Think about yourself like a product. What do you offer? What are your features? Pick one to three and concentrate on these.
Grab a Domain Name
See if your name is available, if so…grab it! If not, try variations until you find something that works for you. Keep in mind that you want to use your name, if possible, so when people search for you in search engines, they can find you. For instance, if your name is John Smith and johnsmith.com is taken, try john-smith.com or johnsmith.org.
Add Your Own Blog or Website
Once you have your domain name, get hosting and set up a website or blog. Web hosting accounts are very reasonable, and you can set up a simple blog or website for free or very little cost. At the very least, set up a page with your bio, picture, email address (email@example.com), and links to your profiles on different social networking sites.
If you decide to go with a blog, once you are up and running, list your blog in blog directories.
Recommendation: For around $30, you can find a professional looking WordPress blog or website on sites like themeforest.net and put it together yourself. Find one that is highly rated and simple for beginners.
Set Up Your Email
It is very important that you use an email address with your own domain name, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Note: I personally use Gmail and have emails from all my different websites/blogs forwarded to my personal Gmail account. Gmail allows the option to respond to the email from each of those individual email addresses as well. This allows me to check all my emails and respond to all emails in one account.
Make a Custom Signature
Put together a signature for your email account which gives your important contact information and has links to your website and top social media profile links. Use this same signatures in forums, if allowed.
Just like you would for a branding a company image, pick 2-3 colors that work well together and use them everywhere you can online, such as your website, blog, blog posts, forum signatures, social media profiles, etc. Be consistent.
Create an avatar that will show up on blog posts and comments across the web when you post. People identify best with a photograph of a person, so find a picture of yourself, which best represents your image and add it gravatar. If for some reason you do not want to use your picture, make a personal logo, which you will also need to add to your website or blog and other online profiles.
How to Brand and Promote Yourself Online (Part Two) will include ways to establish yourself as an expert and build ongoing relevant content.
Have other suggestions or tips? Please leave a comment, we would love to hear from you!