Building an Online Brand

Read an excerpt from Randi Zuckerbeg's Dot Complicated

December 2013


Posting personal photos or videos online is only half the story. The Internet lets you do so much more. You can advance your career and career prospects by harnessing the concept of an authentic online identity and establish for yourself an online “brand.”

You can’t just wake up one day and declare yourself an expert, though you might not realize that from the thousands of people who refer to themselves as things like “influencers,” “thought leaders,” “social media legends,” and “idea accelerants.” It takes time, energy, and results to build credibility. There are lots of talented people out there who truly are experts, but most of the time you’ll find those people don’t need to declare themselves as such.

Building a personal brand doesn’t have to be a negative thing or turn other people off. You can harness the tremendous broadcasting power of social media to tweet, post, and blog about new ideas and developments related to your field of interest and make yourself known as a smart, interesting, and ambitious person.

Access is all-encompassing. If your boss can see your baby photos, he or she can also see your blog posts. So, why not make those posts count for something?

Every employee who is online is now a kind of PR representative for his or her firm. A smart employer will use this talent to its advantage, rather than just see it as a liability and try to silence it.

This is a capability that we’ve never had before in our careers. The sophisticated search tools and social networks, the massive increase in Internet users over the past decade, and the ease of building and engaging with communities of real people online make it easy to find an audience. If you can’t blog, tweet. If you can’t tweet, then retweet. Build a name for yourself. Some of the Internet’s most successful blogs were built up from an audience of zero. Everything from the Daily Kos to the Drudge Report started out as a one-person operation. If even one of your posts goes viral, you could secure a permanent readership.

And even if you work hard on a blog and still can’t attract traffic, if there’s a link to that blog on your Facebook page, your employer is going to read it, and that may be all the audience that matters.

Perhaps at one time, photocopying and handing your bosses and fellow employees a self-produced newsletter about the goings-on in your industry would have been seen as a little too ambitious, and maybe a little weird. Now leaving those same items on your blog for your workmates to discover will communicate the same message without the awkwardness. You don’t need to schedule a thirty-minute one-on-one with your boss to brag about your achievements. You can just go and achieve.

I’m always impressed by initiative and ambition. I do worry, however, about how my company could be negatively affected by something an employee of mine does online. This is why I believe it’s critical for employers to empower their employees to use social media freely, but to also train them how to use it wisely.

Most companies wouldn’t dream of having an executive go on TV or do a press interview without hours and hours of media training and prepared talking points. Well then, in a world of smartphones, where every single person in your company is speaking to a public audience, why wouldn’t you train your employees as well? Why would you just send them out into the world as potential mouthpieces for your company without arming them with some skills and a few key things to say?

Empower your employees to be good ambassadors for your firm. Instead of just having one corporate identity, remember that your employees are part of that too, and they can help strengthen and augment it online, plus humanize and develop it into a living, breathing brand.

Social media skills are going to become necessary in the new job marketplace. Employers are going to want to hire people who know how to use social media, rather than those who ignore it or are bad at it or do not appreciate its power. Every employee who is online is now a kind of PR representative for his or her firm. A smart employer will use this talent to its advantage, rather than just see it as a liability and try to silence it.

Thought Leader

randi-zuckerberg-headshot-smRandi Zuckerberg, former Facebook marketing director and author of Dot Complicated

The same holds true for whole companies. Back when Facebook was getting started, companies would usually hire a college student to run their Facebook pages and manage their social media presence, if they bothered to have one. It was an afterthought to their real marketing efforts.

Nowadays, senior marketing teams have dedicated, full-time professionals managing companies’ offline social media. There’s even a new kind of job that didn’t exist a few years ago: online community manager, which is an Internet-savvy marketing and customer-service position. These professionals are responsible for helping the Old Spice guy respond to people on YouTube, contacting customers who have posted bad Yelp reviews, and calming angry Twitter storms, to find out what went wrong and make everything all better.

Now that everyone has a megaphone, people have started shouting. The only way for companies to respond is to go out and listen—and to know how to start a conversation.

Excerpted from DOT COMPLICATED: Untangling Our Wired Lives, by Randi Zuckerberg, published by HarperOne. Copyright(c) 2013.

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