Having been in the field of personal branding since, well, it became a field, I can attest to how valuable, powerful, and essential personal branding is for achieving career success. Yet that sentiment has never been truer than it is now.
When I wrote my book Digital You: Real Personal Branding in the Virtual Age (ATD Press, October 2019), I was preparing readers for a new era when everything would move from the real world to the virtual world. I expected it to happen as a steady, step-by-step evolution over time. But in March the move happened with the flip of a switch. As a career-minded professional eager to grow and contribute in a way that takes advantage of what makes you exceptional, what does this new all-virtual, all-the-time world mean for you? And how can you use the wholesale move of your brand to the digital world as a spark to advance your career?
Here are three mindsets to adopt and the associated actions you need to take so you can be relevant and successful in the all-digital new world of work.
Digital branding is a translation process.
Before you start publishing content online and building your digital brand, note the step that precedes being an A-class tweeter or YouTube star. That step is about uncovering your real-world brand. That’s right. Digital branding won’t work unless you align the bits-and-bytes you with the flesh-and-bones you. To uncover your brand, self-reflect. Think about your passions, values, and purpose. Identify your secret sauce—what separates you from everyone else who does what you do. And get clear on your superpowers—those signature strengths that help you stand out and deliver exceptional value to those who are making decisions about you.
Your first impression is virtual.
When someone wants to learn about you, they’ll type your name into Google and whatever comes up is who you are. When someone wants to check you out in a professional capacity, they may ignore Google and go directly to LinkedIn—after all, it’s the most professional of all social media platforms.
But even if they do start with Google, your LinkedIn profile is likely to show up in one of the top spots in the search results. Since 62 percent of Google clicks go to the top three search results, those who start at Google will end up at LinkedIn.
For many of us, a LinkedIn profile’s About section (formerly called Summary) is the most comprehensive bio we have on the web. In our new work-from-home world, it will be the most-read version of your bio. Your LinkedIn About section (all 2,600 characters) provides the opportunity to tell your story in an authentic and compelling way. That means you have to go beyond your job titles and degrees and integrate the human side of who you are. Use your About section to share your passions and values alongside the accomplishments and accolades to tell a complete story of the brand called YOU. Think of the intersection between credibility and likability.
Virtual branding is about delivering value.
Once you’ve nailed your digital first impression, it’s time to increase your visibility with the people you seek to influence—your target audience. That means being visible, available, and valuable in all that you do online. It doesn’t matter if you’re writing articles for your LinkedIn blog, creating videos for YouTube, or curating content you found in your favorite online resources—like the ATD Insights blog, for example. Before you publish anything on the web, make sure the answer to these questions is yes:
- Will this be valuable to the people in my target audience?
- Will this help me build my thought leadership and express my point of view?
- Does this fit with the other things I have posted, creating consistency in content and style?
That’s it. Your brand has moved online. And take it from me—those who commit to building a virtual brand that’s congruent with their real-world selves will stand out from the pack, attract the attention of decisions makers, and take a major leap toward achieving their goals.