Are people talking about you? Build a Personal Branding Early Warning System

A common definition of Personal Branding relates to the first impression you make. What do your clothes say about you? Do you look friendly, or aggressive? Expressions such as “you only have one chance to make a good first impression” reinforce this definition further.

Here’s a second definition: what people say about you behind your back. Imagine two people talking, and one asks: “what do you think of so-and-so?” Their answer would define your Personal Brand.

Social Media provides an interesting opportunity to listen in on this discussion. Most people don’t recognize that recruiters (and others) routinely do this, either to find “hidden” candidates, or disqualify inappropriate ones. If you are invisible, or have a negative online Personal Brand, then you have a problem.

Each time you are listed on a web site, and each time you are mentioned within a Social Media post (or are tagged in a photo), your Personal Brand is tugged one way or another. Use a Personal Branding Early Warning System by Better to How do you find out about yourself online? Here are some ideas:

1) Search on Google: Enclose your name “in quotes”, so that the results are more specific to you. And if you have a common name, consider using a second search term, such as your city, your profession, or other identifier.

2) Use Google Alerts: Google Alerts automatically send an email to you whenever a new page has been updated with your search terms (eg your name) on it. Check out

3) Review your Photos: Popular photo sites (such as Flickr, Facebook Photos, etc) allow others to “tag” your name to a picture. Review these photos within your Social Media accounts and untag photos that are out-of-brand.

4) Search Social Media: While Google might bring up your profile page, it won’t bring up everything. Schedule monthly searches within Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter. And use tools like Hootsuite, Seesmic, or TweetDeck to automatically flag your presence on Twitter.

Interestingly, both definitions of Personal Branding are correct: you only have one chance to make a good first impression, and your personal brand is defined by what people say about you behind your back: the problem is that this first impression often happens in Social Media, as others “observe” the conversation about you, without your knowledge.

This week’s action item: According to the Internet and Social Media, what is your Personal Brand? Is it positive, negative, or completely invisible? This week, enable your Social Media Early Warning System, and if you don’t like what you find, or if you don’t find anything, and resolve to do something about it.

Postscript: A powerful tool that can help is my recently updated “Online PR and Social Media for Experts“, which is designed to help authors, consultants, speakers, and experts develop their online reputation. As a special thank-you, get a 10% discount with the coupon-code HAPPEN. (coupon code expires January 31, 2010.)

Note: The Make It Happen Tipsheet is also available by email. Go to to register.

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Randall Craig has founded several successful start-ups, held a long-time position at a “big-four” consulting firm, and was an executive at an American public company. He currently serves as the 108 ideaspace CEO and chief strategist. Randall has been advising on digital strategy since 1994: he put the Toronto Star online, the Globe and Mail’s GlobeInvestor/Globefund, several financial institutions, and about 100+ other major organizations.

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