Personal Branding in a Down Economy

How have you positioned yourself? Have you been building your brand? How are you prepared to take advantage of opportunities in a down economy?

While you listen to the gloom and doom of the mainstream media, naysayers, and general pessimists, remember that only you have control of your career. Just like leaving your financial future in someone else’s hands, doing so with your career is a recipe for disappointment or worse.

Perhaps your position at your company is secure, and you don’t have to worry much. Perhaps it’s anything but secure. Either way, the realities of today dictate that one takes a more proactive approach to staying relevant to your industry, and maintaining visibility in your market.

The great part is that both these things are quite easily accessible to everyone. All you have to do is take the initiative and begin. Sure true training courses by “certified” learning facilities cost real dollars and take up real business hours. However there are other alternatives – search them out on the web. You may already be doing this on a daily basis online or through RSS feeds.

The bigger part, though, is to be making sure to gain visibility in your market. To do that, you’ll need to explore the avenues of “web 2.0” and social media. The tools are plentiful, easy to use, and low to no cost. Most of the ones that give you the most value are going to be the no-cost options, with only your time as an investment.

The time investment is creating and maintaining your presence. It could be one site or network, or it could me many. The more involved you are in sharing information and ideas, the more likely you’ll be to gain both mindshare and authority within your market and industry.

The important thing about working towards this goal, is to make yourself more marketable, more appealing to potential employers and clients. So it’s important that you give examples of your expertise as much as possible. Don’t worry about giving away shared knowledge, every industry has a shared knowledge pool at every level of experience. You need to demonstrate that base knowledge and build upon it. Showing what makes you stand out in the process.

The demand for quality, well-rounded, experienced people never diminishes. The more polished your skills are, and the more people know about them, the more valuable & desirable you become to any organization. And you need to have those qualities visible to the public to take advantage of that next opportunity.

True Tools

My Tool Box by Jim Frazier True Tools. That’s how I think of software & utilities that end up being indispensible. From Microsoft Windows & Office to Google & Expedia, to Gmail to Twitter. These are solutions that simple do what they were supposed to do without any fuss or muss.

We all have our favorite tools that end up work out well for us, some may prefer Linux or Mac over Windows, or Yahoo! over Google, or OpenOffice over Microsoft Office. The point being that once we stumble upon something that simply works and really solves a need we have for a task, we tend to stick with it. There are many good reasons for this, the most important one being that they save time.

That doesn’t exclude us from exploring new options, which is how we find the hidden gems anyway. There’s always going to be a better way, sometimes it takes longer for a significantly improved solution to evolve.

Take office productivity for example. For my purposes, Microsoft Office has no equal. That’s not to say there isn’t competition. Only that for the work I do in the time I have available to do it, there are few viable options. The few options that exist require compromise in one way or another that I simply can’t accommodate at this time.

Social tools are a neat example of continuously experimenting with new ideas as well as technology. For the last couple years, social media types have been watching for that next big, better social network to join. The reality is that there may not be one for some time. Looking at the main options that have any value, it’s clear that Facebook, MySpace, and LinkedIn are the heavy hitters. Because of the number of people (user base), you can get value out of these networks. It’s likely that you’ll find associates and friends on these networks.

So, while it’s fun to explore and discover new software, new ideas, and new tools, it’s the ones that get the job done with the least amount of effort expended that we stick with.


Photo credit: Jim Frazier

Launching your brand, 3-2-1… ignition

Shuttle Launch by BlueMoose New to personal branding? No you’re not!

You’re well aware of your reputation, and probably work hard to make sure it’s what you want it to be: a reflection of you and the work you do. Of course by now you’re aware that in this wonderful social media-web 2.0 world, that you are your own brand.

I was talking with a co-worker at lunch yesterday about things to do to get recognized within the company. It’s plain to me, but somehow wasn’t as obvious to my friend. All the work you put into getting noticed within any one organization, to "climb the ladder" as it’s put, can also be focused on building your brand outside the organization and can ultimately be put to better use as a foundation for your brand.

So, you ask, what can you do to start promoting my brand and how is it different than building your reputation? Glad you asked!

Like most things in the online world, it’s both very similar and rather different than what we do offline. Start thinking of yourself as a brand like your favorite cola or automotive company and you’re off to a good start. At the same time, you need to be as diligent and aware of the record you leave behind as you did about your reputation. By working to promote your brand online, you’re going to be leaving behind a permanent record that is easily searchable by anyone.

That can be a double-edged sword of course. If you’re not consistent and follow through, it’ll be remembered, likely written about at some point. It all comes back to word of mouth – the best & hardest type of advertising one can hope for. In the case of personal brand in the 21st century (heh, don’t you just love saying that – so futuristic), it’s a fully indexed and archived word of mouth – and that is the biggest difference. Our memories are now much longer because of the technologies we use.

My biggest tip is to check out resources on the ‘net to start learning more about personal branding and how to go about building a successful one. Starting with Personal Branding Magazine (and it’s fine contributors), and moving on to Googling "personal brand". That’ll get you to the best initial places to start reading up on the topic.

It’s really up to you to make it work. Start filling out some social networks, decide if social tools like Twitter, FriendFeed, Flickr, Brightkite, are for you, start blogging or podcasting. Whatever direction you decide works for you, the key part is to participate and give back as much as you can to the communities that help you build your brand.

(Disclosure: I write the "Social Media Exploration" column for Personal Branding Magazine)

Photo credit: BlueMoose

How Do Companies Find Their Community Managers?

Online Communities by .mw It’s a new field where there are no experts; no real training for classification or certification, and it’s difficult for folks participating in it to explain how it works. It’s not a lawless field where anything goes, but the cowboys still roam the prairie where social media grazes. Christopher S. Penn describes the problem and the process quite well in his post How to Become a Social Media Expert, comparing social media to the nuances of martial arts training – pretty good analogy in my book.

Since there are no real experts with years of schooling and experience, how does a company find a community manager? Heck, how do they determine what they’re looking for – most companies really don’t even know exactly what they need. Several are starting to here “community manager” more in relation to social media, and I suppose it does make a bit of sense to the average hiring manager.

As I’ve been looking around in this space as a consultant myself, I’ve noticed a bit of mislabeling, and misunderstanding of what these positions do. They can range from being a glorified forum moderator, to the public figurehead of the company in social media circles. The vagueness and inconsistency is frustrating to both those looking to move into these jobs, and the companies who realize they need someone to fill this indefinable niche they have.

Normally, a company would hire a consultant to help define the needs, address the process, and sometimes assist in filling the role. The problem though is… aren’t consultants experts and there really aren’t any social media experts? Catch 22 huh?

Some firms are looking internally and finding candidates in their existing staff. This could be anyone from marketing, to information technologies, to human resources (and beyond). Sometimes it’s easy to get noticed and get in front of the right people. Other businesses are going for the big guns and hiring out consultants from the A-List to assist them in their social web endeavors.

At least, several of the A-List actually have participated in building, shaping, and forming the concepts of the social web through the work of Cluetrain and their own pieces through the years. This is a great place to start, even for organizations with small budgets – many of the thought leaders in social media give away really good information for companies to start from.

So in this nascent “industry”, there is confusion on both the side of organizational need and individual growth in social media. The next step for those mastering the dark arts of the social web is to be bold, go forth, do good things, and prove that you have the vision and understanding. Both to the founding concepts of Cluetrain and to the fiscal responsibilities of corporations that want to participate in, not control, the message.

Photo credit: .mw

What’s in your social web?

The Web That Is Us - by esctaticist With all the talk of “social” in the web today, I started getting really tired of the references to social networking or social media and so on. After all, isn’t networking social by its very nature? What I eventually came to recognize though is that all these tools online are just another means to extend and empower us in life. Whether for our personal or professional lives, the way we’ve adapted these tools and technologies is the important part. I’ve come to call these tools and the use of them the “social web” as it’s a culmination of the technologies and how we use them.

So past all the great site and service ideas, there is actual real-life functionality. That’s what we’re looking for in most of this, simply some way to connect easier, or communicate faster, or share ideas with more information and context. Through our use of these web 2.0 technologies we like to lump together and call “social media” or “social networks” there is something more important to each of us: how we use it.

My question, then, is how do you use the social web? Is it for work? Is it for play? Is it to connect with friends & relatives? Is it to build your brand? Do you use it to speak for yourself or your company? What’s in your social web?

Photo credit: ecstaticist

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