By JESSICA LORD
Daily Record Columnist
Local companies and organizations worldwide are using social media to enhance and polish their company image. Company branding is everywhere – on business websites, on LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook pages, in flashy logos and endless advertising. It says simply: “This is who we are.”
This created identity is strategically targeted toward customers, potential clients, you and me. It illustrates company values and boasts what advantages they offer. Successful company branding lands sales, creates awareness, connects people, and in the end, grows the business.
So why aren’t we, as professional individuals, using the same strategy to our advantage? Why are we not putting ourselves out there and creating our own personal branding and identity for the world to see? There are (free!) social media tools up for grabs, such as LinkedIn, that produce the same results as company branding – sales, connections, career growth – that a limited few are utilizing successfully.
It’s not just business cards anymore that will close the deal. I have made more connections on LinkedIn than at any networking event I’ve attended. People who weren’t familiar with my company learned more about it because I was on LinkedIn. That leads to more donations to my nonprofit company, sales in our stores, and table talk that spreads the word about the work we do in the community.
Additionally, I’ve had more success connecting with local recruiters online than any paper resume would ever produce (did I mention they contacted me?).
It is not just job seekers that can take advantage of personal branding – business professionals have an abundance of ways to show potential customers and clients why they should choose them for their business needs. Real estate professionals, contractors, small business owners and even the big guys. I could go on, but let’s start with the argument:
‘I HAVE A LINKEDIN PAGE ALREADY!’
Great! Not seeing results? It’s probably because you copied and pasted your resume or profession and aren’t being proactive making connections and following the right companies. Successful personal branding starts with you. Here are a few tips to get you started.
CONNECT THE RIGHT WAY
It takes effort to build your base. You will not open or maintain a page and have the community running to connect with you, no matter how successful your company branding or personal reputation already is. You must be proactive and find your audience. Colleagues (present or former), company vendors, mentors and customers are a good start.
Here are a few tips to take you to the next level. 1. Meet a potential customer or attend a networking event lately? After meeting someone, search to see if they are on LinkedIn the following day. That one meet and greet is not a lasting relationship, but an online connection will last years. 2. When you invite someone, write a personalized message. Yes, LinkedIn has the traditional “I’d like to connect on LinkedIn” but this is the perfect opportunity to say what you liked about meeting them, how you could help them with their business needs, or why you want to work with them. 3. Branch out. You don’t always have to connect with people you know. Recruiters, people you admire in the community, board members, even big business owners – the opportunities are endless and can gain you more individual advertisement than any email or casual introduction could produce.
RECOMMENDATIONS ARE WALKING TESTIMONIALS
On LinkedIn, you have the ability to recommend an individual for his or her work and you can likewise post recommendations you have received on your page. This is key for any business that survives off of referrals. Why? 1. You are a proven professional. You earn immediate credibility from an audience who likely knows little about you. You show that you made an impression on your client(s), and you individually made a difference in the process. 2. You can attach your recommendation to a specific job. Imagine if you have a page full of recommendations at each job – it shows you are a consistent performer and a dependable businessperson. 3. Put the shoe on the other foot. You have the opportunity to enhance someone else’s professional image by referring them. There is no greater compliment than saying to the online world that this person made all the difference.
YES, THEY WILL JUDGE A BOOK BY ITS COVER
It seems like a simple idea. Upload a picture to your page. But in our selfie-driven society, it’s not always that simple. Your photo is your first impression. So make it welcoming.
A few pointers: 1. No selfies. This is not a dating website and it doesn’t reflect a high level of professionalism nor is it going to make you stand out from your competitors (at least in a positive way). Have a colleague take a picture of you at work with a plain background or contact a local photographer to do a professional headshot. Cropped pictures are acceptable, but be sure to leave other people’s arms or heads out of it. 2. Pictures with other people distract from the personal networking you are hoping to achieve. The person on the other end wants to know who you are and how you compose yourself. This also means no pointless accessories, unique artwork or anything that would distract from you. 3. Wearing your company logo shirt isn’t always a smart move. Yes, it shows you are loyal and a walking advertisement for your company. But it is impersonal and doesn’t show you have the wherewithal to maintain a polished image on your own. Moreover, it’s not you – and after all, that’s what personal branding is all about.
GET AN EDGE ON WHAT’S HAPPENING AROUND TOWN
I’m not just talking about your competitors. Successful businesses in the area often promote on LinkedIn their hot new successful business practices, what job openings there are and recent service updates. Who benefits? 1. Job seekers. Walk into an interview knowing the recent happenings of the business you are applying to? Welcome to what I’d like to call a strong candidate advantage. 2. Business owners. You cannot be cutting-edge if you don’t know what other service providers are offering. Someone out there is thinking of a fresh new way to promote their business. You should follow suit, not depend on traditional methods. New customers come from new tactics. 3. You – yes, you – no matter what your profession. The more companies you follow (related to your own or not) the more you will learn about what makes companies great and you can bring those practices to your office. You will also learn ways to enhance your personal branding by what has worked well for others.
Follow these steps and you may find yourself connecting in ways you never thought possible. The proactive approach to self-marketing isn’t always easy, but LinkedIn could land you the customer, the job or the deal of your dreams. It all starts with you.
Jessica Lord is the recruitment coordinator for the Volunteers of America of Upstate New York, a local nonprofit organization that provides transitional and homeless housing, childcare services for at-risk youth, and low cost retail options to our community. She proudly serves as co-chair of Pro-ROC (Professional Recruiters of Rochester) and is also a board member of the National Human Resources Association. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. This article is brought to you by the Rochester affiliate of the National HR Association, a local professional HR organization focused on advancing the career development, planning and leadership of HR professionals. Visit www.humanresources.org for more information.