PR Expanded Student Series: A guest post by Shawn Bond, a Student at American University.
Jeff Bezos said that your brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room. Because the digital space gives people a new way to take a look into who you are, here are 7 steps to use so digital to work for you.
- Perform a digital audit
The first step in boosting your brand is understanding what’s currently out there. This past June, I did a quick Google search for my name and the results were shocking. I found old photos, YouTube channels, and even Twitter accounts from when I was 13.
If I could find this quickly, so could any employer. Take an hour or two and dig through several pages of Google and close accounts that no longer align with your goals. Dig through old email addresses and passwords to make sure these accounts are closed. You’ll thank yourself later.
- Own what’s left
Once you have the accounts you want to keep, focus on what’s left. For me, there was little to no reason for me to have a public-facing Pinterest account. Most of my professional interests lie in politics and politics simply doesn’t happen on Pinterest. Map out what social media accounts you still have, how you want them to work for you, and how they can be used to reach your target audience.
Politics happens on Twitter for better or worse, so Twitter is my primary public-facing social media account. It’s changed the way people communicate and it’s where I spend most of my time.
- Create a website and host an online portfolio
There’s a remarkable difference in the effectiveness of telling someone your skills and being able to show someone your skills. Domain names can be extremely affordable and websites are easier to build now than ever. Your website can serve as a central hub for your online presence and serve as a breathing portfolio and resume as you jumpstart your career.
Your website should be clean, informative, and reflect your goals. Because this is your living portfolio, practically everything you do online should link back here. The URL in your bio on your social media accounts should be linked to your website. Unlike the old accounts you closed, you WANT people to find your website.
It’s worth noting that your online portfolio doesn’t need everything you’ve ever written. Use it to highlight your best work.
- Maintain consistency & adapt
Now that you have your own corner of the Internet carved out, it’s important to develop consistency. If someone was to open your LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram accounts, it should be clear that they all belong to the same person.
Take a moment to use a clear photo of yourself that captures your personality and goals and upload it to each of these sites. Create your bio and do your best to make them uniform, tweaking them to adapt to the platforms.
Default profile photos should already be a thing of the past — no one wants to follow a Twitter egg and no one trusts a Facebook account without a profile picture. Maintain consistency with similar photos across the platforms.
- Location matters
Now that the basics of your new personal brand are in place you can work to get your content in front of more people. Many social media sites, including Twitter and Instagram, offer a way to do this with relative ease — locations.
To provide a quick case study, I updated my Twitter location from being a set of area codes for cities I’ve lived in to simply being “Washington, D.C.” and saw results instantly. Twitter makes it easy to search by location and tweets may show up differently depending on where they come from.
Instagram is a similar, but a different beast to tackle. The location bar allows you to get creative and funny, but consider actually using the location you took the photo. This will help put you in front of more people with similar interests to whatever you were just doing.
- Post more & engage
You can’t expect your content to be in front of more people if you aren’t producing more content. Tweet consistently but thoughtfully, post on Instagram regularly, and tailor content to each platform. Use images and implement best practices across the services to create the more shareable content you can.
The simple truth to social media is that it’s just as much about shareability as it is anything else. Research shows that images, photos, and links are interacted with more.
The next step is to follow more influencers and interact with both people you follow and people you don’t. Jump on hashtags, reply to comments, and give your readers something to buy into.
Share your own work, but more importantly share others. If you see a blog post by someone that fits with your message, tweet it out! You’ll be amazed at how quickly people return the favor.
Your work shouldn’t stop there. Continue to check in on how your individual posts are performing and then check topline statistics. Twitter offers a useful tool at http://twitter.analytics.com to see some of the most important stats. Let go of what isn’t working and continue doing what is.
Data should help you make informed decisions about what you’re posting and over time it’ll begin to tell a story.
This is only the beginning. Entire books can be written about this topic and they would be outdated by the time you finished them. Your brand should be ever evolving. Get started in college and get your professional life jumpstarted.
Shawn Bond is a fierce advocate of an expanding digital world & student at American University. He packed up his life in Kentucky and moved to Iowa to work for Hillary Clinton less than a week after graduating High School and hasn’t looked back since. He currently works in digital strategy for political candidates across the country and is passionate about using digital to build brands, tell stories, win elections, and craft meaningful relationships. Learn more at shawnbond.net or @TheShawnBond on Twitter.