A Digital-First Approach To Personal Branding Is No Longer Optional

I’ve advocated a digital-first approach to personal branding for a long time. Getting your brand right online first forces you to articulate who you are, what you do, why you do it, and where you want to go. You can’t wing it online, in the same manner, you can wing it on a chance meeting with someone you meet in an elevator — back in the time when you might actually share an elevator with a stranger and have a conversation without a mask on. But now as we linger in this pandemic longer than any of us anticipated, a digital-first approach to personal branding is no longer an option. It’s a necessity.

Start by freshening up your LinkedIn profile

Whether you’re lucky enough to be gainfully employed, worried you might not be in the not too distant future, are already unemployed or have discovered that all that reflecting you’ve been doing as you’ve been sheltering in place has you reevaluating and reconsidering what you’ve been doing and where you’re going next, take a good, hard look at your LinkedIn profile and adjust accordingly.

Be a thumbstopper

Whether the average human attention span has shrunk to eight seconds, less than that of a goldfish has become a point of debate. What we can all agree on is that we live in a world of constant distraction. If it doesn’t grab us, we keep scrolling until we find something that does. If we have to think too much to figure you out, we hit the delete button.

Evaluate your profile. Have you told us your unique story? Have you used the summary section to try and engage us? Does your profile photo make you look approachable? If you didn’t know you would you be interested enough to want to know more?

Be strategic

I learned a long time ago that going to a networking event in-person was useless without knowing what I wanted to take away from it or who I was interested in meeting. The same thing happens online. Don’t be one of those people who send automated and unvetted emails to people on LinkedIn because three keywords matched in a search. You wouldn’t do that in person. If you really want to connect with a stranger online — do some homework. Look for a point of connection. Make it personal.

Be a sharer

There are those who share interesting stuff that is relevant and pertinent to what they do and how they philosophically approach their profession. It helps to build the image people have of you. And there are the lurkers. The lurkers tend to just watch. They’re the people who go to the dance, but they don’t dance. Lurkers are not brand builders. Sharers are. They share and they tell people why they’re sharing something. They think before they post. They comment and they engage. And sometimes that’s how they make a new connection — especially right now when our online activity is the only thing we have to work with.

Be a creator

Those who want to project thought leadership and expertise, don’t just share content they curate. They create their own. It’s an opportunity for people to hear your voice before they actually speak to you. Creating content does not have to involve hair and make-up and a sound studio. It can be as simple as posting a blog which LinkedIn, as well as Medium, make it really easy to do. If it’s something you’ve thought about doing before and haven’t — there is no time like the present. We’re all reading more and we all have more time to create something new.

Be human

Make no mistake, I miss humans. Given the opportunity, I would never substitute a digital connection for a real-life in-person one, but it is what we have to work with now. That means getting creative and figuring out ways for digital you to be a seamless version of in-person you. Too often I read LinkedIn summaries or comments on posts that sound more like a piece of Artificial Intelligence wrote it than a living, breathing human. If there is anything we’re all starved for right now — it’s human interaction — so sound like one.

Be you

Be yourself — but within reason. There is no doubt that we’ve all gotten more relaxed on our side of a Zoom screen but that doesn’t mean that the TikTok video you made of yourself drinking shots of tequila at a virtual beach bar is the you that should show up on LinkedIn.

What I am suggesting is that you get comfortable with yourself and not try to be someone you think you need to be to get a job or make a new connection. In the long run, that does not work in person and it definitely does not work online. We’re all getting very good at separating the “fakes” from the real deal — so be the real deal. Get your digital house in order. It’s the one you’ll be spending most of your time in for the foreseeable future.

Originally published at https://joannetombrakos.com on July 22, 2020.

Storyteller • Digital-First Marketing Strategist • NYU Prof • Writer • Podcaster • Personal Brand Advisor https://joannetombrakos.com