Editor’s Note: We’re coming up on the start of NIU’s fall semester, when a new NIU Business social media intern will post to Student Voices. In the meantime, another NIU Business student sent in a guest post and we’re delighted to publish it! In this post, Ludwig Gerdes (that’s him in the picture!) shares great suggestions for building your digital presence and your personal brand. It’s a wonderful thing to do because building a personal brand helps you become more intentional about your goals and even more focused on how you Show Up for things in this great adventure called Life! Check out all of Ludwig’s suggestions in this story (below) and also on Ludwig’s web page. (We couldn’t help but notice that one of Ludwig’s tips is to build a branded webpage. And we also couldn’t help but notice that he not only gives the advice, but lives it too! Awesome. So now your turn…go for it!)
A guest post on building your personal brand by Ludwig Gerdes
You may not realize it yet, but you are already contributing to your prospects of getting your dream job in the future. Whether your contributions are positive or negative, however, is the real question that you should be asking yourself.
What I’m trying to say is that your personal brand is already having an influence on your future, and it is high time you manage what your personal brand is saying to the people that matter.
“Your brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room.” – Jeff Bezos, Founder of Amazon.Jeff Bezos, CEO Amazon
Do a Google search for “Jeff Bezos”. What do you see? Probably you’ll see multiple pages detailing his biography, some videos of speeches he’s done, and numerous articles about or concerning his work with Amazon.
Now search for your own name. What do you see? You’ll probably find your Internships.com profile, an old assignment you did for a class during your freshman year of college, and who knew you still had that old MySpace page.
So how are you and Jeff Bezos different, other than the $30.2 billion between your net worth and his? Well, he understands the importance of his personal brand more than you do yours.
But here’s how you can fix that.
1. Delete EVERYTHING (and start over)
It’s time for a good old-fashioned wiping off of the slate. Oh, but you spent so much time racking up those 2,000 friends on Facebook! They’ll still have profiles when if you come back. Think of it as a breath of fresh air. Believe me, you’ll thank me later.
If you do, however, have content that you want to keep (e.g. Facebook photos of yourself in high school, old Tweets you thought were hilarious, or Pinterest pins that showed exactly how you can turn that old desk in your parents’ basement into a GORGEOUS vanity) back it up. Save screenshots, download files, or whatever you have to so that you don’t regret deleting everything else.
If you need help, you can head over to PrivacyFix, or to one of these sites to search for any profiles you might have missed. If you’re willing to spend some money, head over towww.reputation.com. These sites are useful if you are worried that you might have missed something on the web.
Now that you’ve made it through that step and are most likely shaking from separation anxiety, you can start thinking about the next part: what do you want to do with your life?
2. Make Your Personal Strategy
Where do you want to be in your life? No, this isn’t an existential question. I’m asking you what you want your career to look like. Where do you want to work? What do you want to do to make money? Where do you want to live?
You should ask yourself all of these questions before you even START to think about anything else. Give yourself time though. It’s your life – don’t rush through it. Good? Great.
Understanding where you want to be in your career in the next 2, 5, and 10 years is vital before you start shaping your personal brand with different social media accounts.
“It’s important to build a personal brand because it’s the only thing you’re going to have. Your reputation online, and in the new business world is pretty much the game, so you’ve got to be a good person. You can’t hide anything, and more importantly, you’ve got to be out there at some level.” – Gary Vaynerchuk, Author of Crush it! (2009) and Jab, Jab, Jab Right Hook (2013)Gary Vaynerchuk, CEO Vaynermedia
Gary Vaynerchuk (one of my personal heroes) understands the value of personal branding. Having attended a small private school in Massachusetts and receiving less-than-noteworthy grades, his personal brand and his attitude have more than anything made his career what it is today: a multi-million dollar media agency.
A. What Platforms to Choose (Professional)
Just how exactly do you start choosing what social media platforms to have a profile on, you ask? Well, really it depends on where you said you want your career to end up, and how that relates to different social networks.
If you’re a design student (graphic or otherwise) you’d better have somecombination of profiles on Behance, Pinterest, Instagram, and Dribbble.
But wait! Don’t be on all of them. My recommendation is 2 – 3 accounts so that you can stay active on each of them, and it doesn’t stop being fun. Too many and you’ll never keep up; too few and you won’t have enough of a presence.
You can take a look at my comprehensive guide to choosing a social media platform based on industry. But in the meantime, let’s just say you’re majoring inbusiness administration, like me.
As a business student, your best friend is your LinkedIn account. On it, you can display your professional work, talents, and interests in such a way that someone interested in hiring someone with talents such as yours can easily find you. Did I mention that approximately 94 percent of recruiters use LinkedIn to source and vet job candidates?
Secondly, you’ll want somewhere to host your work.
You love making slideshow presentations? Slideshare. Avid photographer? Instagram + Pinterest make for a one-two combo. You have musical skills? Use SoundCloud to show off your masterful ability.
Each social platform has its unique features that lend itself to the betterment of your personal brand. Be creative and have fun.
B. What Platforms to Choose (Personal)
Now that you’ve decided on some professional profiles, you can decide if you want to accentuate them with one or two “personal” profiles.
What you have to remember in any case is that your personal accounts are still visible. Even if you set all of the privacy settings to your personal accounts to MAX, there are still numerous situations in which potential employers, co-workers, or recruiters can see your profile. So do not post anything you wouldn’t want emerging in an interview with the employer of your dreams.
Personally, I recommend sticking to the messenger apps like GroupMe rather than other, often problematic social media accounts, but for each their own.
C. 100% Completion
It’s not enough to just have a profile on a social network. You need to invest the time and energy required to reach 100% completion. Otherwise, you’ll come off as looking like an amateur. Do you want your brand to say “Amateur”?
Start by making sure that you have a sound profile picture. The picture should be less than six months old so it actually looks like you and not your younger, less stylish self. Also make sure the picture looks professional. No selfies or mugshots. Nor any generic background photo that looks like you cut it out of a yearbook. (I’m talking to you, NIU faculty!)
Link all of your professional accounts to each other so that they are easy to keep track of. Also, PLEASE customize your social account web addresses, if possible. http://www.linkedin.com/in/ludwiggerdes looks infinitely more professional than www.linkedin.com/in/12019283102
Just go the extra mile to avoid looking like an amateur.
3. Create A Professional Website
Now that you have a professional presence on social media and are benefitting from the improved SEO that comes with that presence, you can take it one step further and create a professional website that can serve as a portfolio, blog, or simple contact form.
I know that you may have made a basic website during the early stages of your college career, but let’s face it. It was probably a piece of garbage. If you haven’t yet, go back and delete it.
With more modern technology, you can create a website with little-to-no difficulty using a combination of HostGator (web hosting) and WordPress (Content Management Software). I recommend following THIS GUIDE to creating your professional website.
I did, and then I slowly improved. You can take a look at my finished copy atwww.ludwiggerdes.com
One thing that I do (albeit less frequently than I would like) is write articles and publish them to my self-hosted blog. A quick Google search of my name will show you that my personal website is one of the highest-ranking results, just behind my LinkedIn profile and the work I’ve published for LinkedIn. That’s because original content is king. You can use this to your advantage just as easily as I have, and boost your own ranking in Google searches.
Regardless of whether you blog or not, the most important part of your website is the message behind it, and the brand promisethat it displays. Again, be creative and original.
“Your premium brand had better be delivering something special, or it’s not going to get the business.” – Warren Buffett, Investor and philanthropistWarren Buffett, CEO Berkshire Hathaway
4. Stay Active
So you have successfully created your professional presence on social media, a professional website for yourself, and cleansed the Internet of all traces of your unprofessional self.What’s next?
Well, now comes the hard part.
You need to stay active online. Not for a grade like some college courses require. I meanfor the sake of your future career.
You should endeavor to contribute to online communities, because other community members will take notice. However, you shouldn’t contribute by not contributing (e.g. spamming LinkedIn groups with questions you don’t actually care about).
Your personal brand is only viable if you maintain it. If you don’t strive to maintain it, then you are in essence telling potential employers that you don’t take pride in your work, and that you can’t be relied upon.
So you need to keep up with your social media presence, your professional website, and the online community that you are a part of.
If you don’t, then you may have already ruined your chances of getting your dream job.
“Be Yourself, Everyone Else is Already Taken.” – Oscar Wilde, Author and Playwright
Ludwig Gerdes is the social media marketing strategist for Northern Illinois University, as well as the 2014-2015 President of BASA, NIU’s Business Administration Student Association.