For young professionals, entrepreneurs and freelancers, creating an online visual identity can be crucial in getting you a job or helping you land a client.
What do people see when they Google your name? What images are popping up? What words, posts, tweets, captions or tags are lodged inside search engines just waiting for a hiring manager or prospective new client to discover when they look you up?
If you are a creative, advertising, marketing or public relations professional, maintaining an online visual identity should be a seamless extension of your offline assets like your resume or portfolio.
But also for young professionals, entrepreneurs and freelancers, creating an online visual identity can be crucial in getting you your next client or landing that next gig.
Personal branding is by no means a new or light topic, but with the rise of social media and platforms such a Google, LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook, personal branding is as accessible as ever.
But it also means you have to put much more care into how you’re representing yourself both offline and online.
Define Your Goals
What do you hope to achieve when people search for your name? What do you want them to see? If you’re a budding entrepreneur, your personal brand could make the difference in whether your idea is successful.
When people research you online, what they learn about you can be a deciding factor in whether they invest in your idea.
If you are trying to sell a product or service, creating a strong online visual identity can make you appealing enough that people want to connect with you and chances are you’ll sell more of your product or service.
If you want people to see your work experience and receive new opportunities in your area of expertise, concentrating on developing your professional profile and connections will go a long way in attracting job recruiters, head hunters and job leads that you might not others be exposed to.
With a strong persona and unique branding proposition, you’re almost guaranteed to stand out from the crowd. In a competitive marketplace, it’s important to show what makes you different.
Develop a Short Bio
Write a brief summation of who you are, what you do and what you stand for. Typically, positioning statements are created for brands or products, but in this case, you’re developing one for you.
This will be helpful since each social channel you create, will ask for some type of description. This is what people will see when your name pops up whether it’s on Google, Facebook or Twitter so it’s important to consider this carefully.
I suggest even taking it one step further and condense your short bio into an even shorter tagline. You have 50 words or less to define who you are to your visitors.
Reserve Your Name Everywhere
It’s important to reserve your name everywhere. Having your own website, domain name and email address are critical components to creating your online visual identity. This is especially important for optimizing your name on Google.
Having your name listed as a website will help your name get indexed quicker. The best way to climb to the top of search engines is by having your own domain such as JohnSmith.com.
You should also set up a personally branded email address such as email@example.com as this looks much more professional than a free email service such as firstname.lastname@example.org.
Use a service like Bluehost to register your name and create an email address.
Once your domain name is ready, you use it on your other social media channels and platforms and create a hub for all your content – a sort of, “one-stop-shop” for everything you.
When registering your domain name, also keep in mind what name you’ll use on your social channels. Your domain name and your social channel name, username or Twitter handle should all be consistent and easily identifiable.
For example, John Smith might use the username @johnsmith on Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram.
Create Your Social Media Profiles
There are dozens of social media channels and online platforms where you can promote your personal brand. In the last ten years, social media has flattened the playing field, allowing “everyday Joes” to reach their audiences, at multiple touch-points, using hundreds of online tools.
Consider the options below if you’re a young professional, a freelancer or an entrepreneur. But you don’t need to be everywhere. Think about where your audience is – whether it’s job recruiters or potential clients or customers.
For example, if you’re a healthy cook and you want people to buy your new recipe book, you probably won’t get sales via LinkedIn.
You’d most likely focus your attention on a website, a blog, a Facebook Page, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram and Tumblr. It’s important to be visible and ready to connect on the appropriate channels and platforms.
Deciding which platforms are right for you can be difficult and time-consuming, especially considering the endless methods and platforms that are at your disposal for reaching your target audience.
But once you define your goals and create a plan of attack, you’ll be in good shape to figure out where you need to be.
Once you’ve done this – it’s time to create your social profiles. Don’t forget to use the same name or “handle” across all your social channels. In the case of platforms like Tumblr or About.Me, you’ll want to use the same name as our domain.
Create Visual Elements
One of the easiest ways to differentiate yourself from the competition is by having unique visual elements that are consistent across all your channels.
Your choice of photos, images, logos, colour, style and tone are branding aspects that should reflect your initial goals, enhance your personal brand and be flexible enough to work across all areas of your communications. But consistency is key here.
For example, if you use a blue colour scheme on your personal website, don’t use a yellow one on your Facebook page. The idea is to make yourself memorable. People are more likely to remember you if you use a consistent look and feel on all platforms.
Control Your Google Results
Your goal is to fill the first page of Google with as many positive results as possible. When your name is searched online, your name should appear in search results. If you’ve already registered your domain name with Bluehost and you’ve got your social media profiles correctly set up, you’re ahead of the curve. Use
Use Google Alerts, Twitter Search and the many other tools available to you so you know when you are mentioned somewhere on the web.
This allows you to put out fires early, as well as network and thank people who are helping or linking to you.
Nurture Your Network
Now that you’ve registered your domain name, created a website and social media profiles, you’re done, right? Wrong! You should consistently engage your audience. There is no “set it and forget it” here.
Provide and curate relevant content for your audience that highlights your expertise or industry knowledge. A blog is one of the most effective ways for creating this type of “expert” content.
Then you are able to disseminate this content to your audience via your Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or Tumblr channels. Building a platform such as a blog and nurturing and growing a community are rocket fuel for your personal brand.
As you can see, there is a lot of work involved in understanding how to brand yourself but also actively managing your personal branding and online visual identity.
Without an online presence, or worse, a presence that is less than desirable, people you know and don’t know will likely have an inaccurate first impression of your personal brand.
If future bosses, colleagues, clients or customers are searching for you online, and you’re not showing up in the search results, you’re behind the eight-ball… without even knowing it!
Today, it is just plain irresponsible to be passive about your personal brand. You spend a lot of time building your offline reputation. It’s time to apply that same discipline to your online visual identity.