The majority of questions I get about personal branding  revolve around protecting privacy. Coaches and administrators are concerned that students and staff know how to avoid the social media screw-ups of oversharing or inappropriate posts. But the more important piece is teaching people how to be their own media by building a strong personal online brand. Be in charge of your own information to help steer your search results and put your best digital foot forward.   

Let's start with these five tips:

1. Work on creating succinct bios that highlight your professional mission. Look through profiles on the sites you're working on to see what others are doing.  Business writer Jeff Hayden recommends avoiding these words: passionate, authority, workaholic, guru, serial entrepreneur, technologist, strategist, and unique (we are all unique). You will need these:

  • short bios (<160 characters) for headlines on sites such as Twitter and LinkedIn. Remember that snippets of this bio will appear directly in Google search results (except for Facebook)
  • 100- and 200-word bios for longer profiles and "About" sections

2. Buy your internet name domain, such as johnsmith.com. Consider the extensions as well (.net, .org, .biz), as they are usually inexpensive add-ons. You may not use your domain yet, but reserve it now so somebody else does not buy it. Companies like GoDaddy, Register.com, iPage, or Blue Host can sell you a domain, web hosting, or email services. They are fairly inexpensive.

3. Set up an email address that uses your name. Do not use a school (.edu), Hotmail, or social media email, such as your free Facebook email. I recommend using gmail as it is free and part of the Google family (see point number five for more information on the importance of Google accounts).  It should reflect your real name, such as john.smith@gmail.com, and it can be used for all your professional correspondence if you don’t have your own domain email. At present, gmail and personal domain email addresses are the best professional email standards.

4. Get a professional looking headshot. A headshot is a picture from the chest up with you smiling. Make sure you are dressed for the job you want, not the job you have, as my friend Chris Yandle would say.   A couple specific tips: for men this means no caps or hats, for women this means no cleavage.

5. Set up five key social media profiles. This list may change with time, but all five of these profiles are good SEO material. Make sure when people search your name, you help direct what they see. Authors Herbert Tabin and Craig Agranoff (Do It Yourself Online Reputation Management) suggest spreading this task out over a week or so. If you set them all up in one session, Google seems to think you  might be gaming their system. Also, keep these current and dynamic by adding accomplishments, new jobs, awards, whatever will further you mission. That way, Google won't perceive your information as stagnant.

  • Google profile. Having a Google profile allows you to move seamlessly through all Google products and may give you some search advantages. I also recommend looking at the Communities feature in Google+. It's a good information networking tool and a place to connect with influential people.
  • Facebook. Make sure your privacy settings are at least "friends only" or more private, if you prefer. But don't use those privacy settings as an excuse for inappropriate behavior. Don't post anything that a future employer could get their hands on.
  • Twitter. Just remember that Twitter is public unless you protect your account. Read up on how to use Twitter well. Follow influential people that are where you want to be.
  • LinkedIn. This platform is a must anymore. Luckily, there are many good tutorials on how to use the professional networking site well. More jobs and leads are generated on LinkedIn than any other social media platform. Learn how to extend an invitation to connect and learn how to accept one.
  • About.me. This "calling card" website features one-page profiles you put together. It is basically an online resume. There is an option for some interaction with other users, but it is not necessary. Just make sure you take advantage of all the information you can post here and keep it current. Here's a piece that might give you some inspiration with 25 good examples of pages.

Good luck setting up your personal brand and let me know if you have any questions. Please add to the conversation in the comments. This information is from my book Practice Safe Social: How to use social media responsibly to protect your reputation and build loyalty.