As I’ve shared many times on this blog, your personal brand is brought to life in many aspects of your behavior, including how you show up online. The relationships, comments, 3182395engagement (or lack thereof) and personality you demonstrate is matched up with your experience, expertise and skills to create a perception that others will have about you and what it might be like to work with you.

That said, there are rules for building your social equity and engaging with others (people, companies and organizations) online. It seems the more vibrant and robust social networks get, the more our tolerance for unacceptable behavior is tested.

Some rules to follow as you pay attention to your online reputation, proactively build your personal brand and take advantage of social networks to increase positive perception about your value (and values):

1. Your Brand is Your Own. Online, in person, in print, etc., your personal brand is yours. Remember that everything you post, comment on or are tagged in is a direct reflection on the image and perception you are building with your target audience. By taking control and being intentional about your reputation, you are managing your personal brand online more intentionally.

This means it’s ok to:

·       Unfriend someone who posts about things you find offensive or disturbing. If you are bothered by political rants, contrarian viewpoints or photos of baby’s first steps, you have the right to limit that content. You can hide those posts, or unfriend someone who you believe isn’t adding value (or is detracting) from your reputation. You may not win a popularity contest if you aren’t careful about managing this removal, but it is your reputation at stake.

·       Share your interests, hobbies and passions with others. Let others see you as a human being and a human doing.  What do you do in your free time? What interests you?

·       Scrutinize contacts before accepting every invitation to connect.  You don’t have to be everyone’s friend or contact. It is your network that others are joining, so you can determine how you use it.

·       Review everything you post or comment on and ask yourself, “If this appeared on the cover of the New York Times tomorrow, would I be proud or mortified?”

I recommend creating a rule for your online personal brand management and then sticking to it. If your rule includes not friending people who post about political leanings,or you won’t offer a recommendation for a co-worker,or you won’t add family members to your Google+ circle, then so be it.  As long as you can articulate your rule, and live by it, you can be intentional about the rules you put in place.

2. Authenticity is Key. There is only one you, and when I meet you in person or online I want to know who you are to see if we should talk further. If you misrepresent yourself, you really do neither of us any good. Instead, show me who you genuinely are, and we can perhaps find common areas of interest and determine whether we want to do business together.

Being authentic means you:

·       Speak in your own voice. If you have a sense of humor, let it shine (appropriately). If you typically converse in academic language, then let that show because when I meet you, I will see that in you.

·       Speak from your heart. Let me know the good and the not-so-good. Particularly on social sites like Facebook, your friends want to know what you’re passionate about, interested in and what breaks your heart (dogs needing adoption?) If you’re only posting the successes, then your audience might feel left out from your real life.

·       Apologize if you need to. If you share too much, hurt someone’s feelings or post about something you regret, apologize. You may not win back fans and friends, but your integrity will suffer if you ignore the infraction without owning it. Personal accountability is critical for building social equity and personal brand success.

3. Celebrate Others. The online social space is about collaboration, community, engagement, learning…. and selling. If you’re doing too much of one and not the others you’re potentially missing opportunity or wearing out your welcome with contacts.  Celebrating the successes, talents and accomplishments of our online contacts builds their credibility, exposure and confidence. This is a critical part of the social equity equation. When we have relationships with contacts on social networks, we seek to learn about their interests, passions, talents and services. These are the people we feel we “know,” so we’d likely look to them when hiring for their service.

Celebrating others online means:

  • You congratulate, acknowledge and reward others for their accomplishments and achievements. Be specific when sending a virtual “atta boy” – what is it about their personal brand that makes this success meaningful?
  • Recognize the accomplishments of people you are truly familiar with. On social networks, we can have a false sense of intimacy with people we are only tangentially connected to. Before you post a personal note of congratulations on someone’s wall, be sure you are in a close enough relationship to do so (otherwise it can be perceived as gratuitous or that you are trying to attach to their brand for your own purposes).

Building equity for your personal brand (online and otherwise) takes strategy, patience and focus. The online platform is highly public and transparent, and is awake 24/7 to watch your moves. The opportunity to build a personal brand that is relatable, compelling and relevant has never been greater than by using social networking tools to humanize and create your story and message.