You're a Brand. So Start Acting Like It.

By Daniel Varitek

Everyone has a brand. What you post online, how you talk, the things you do for fun, and your principles and values all culminate into a single idea — you. During each interaction with your friends, coworkers, classmates, and professors, you are displaying your brand image. But what many forget to do is develop a strategy for this brand. Have you, too?

Your brand is what other people say about you when you’re not in the room.
— Jeff Bezos

This applies to companies and individuals. No matter how many billboards McDonald’s buys to try and make me feel proud about eating their food, if I’ve had terrible experiences eating there, that’s the brand to me. And that’s what I’ll share with my friends.

But McDonald’s, and thousands of other companies in the world, are on the right track. They understand that putting these billboards up and improving their business is part of what makes their brand. They have a strategy for improvement. More often than not, people forget that these same principles can apply to them.

Michele Boyet, a Digital Marketing Manager at The Breakers in Palm Beach, spoke on branding yourself online successfully at the National College Media Convention. Incidentally, she was also the one to sit down with me and critique an in-progress redesign of The Signal’s website.

The internet is one of the strongest tools you can use you brand yourself. Every account you own is a reflection of you personally, and every piece of content you share is a reflection of what you enjoy and believe in. The first thing to keep in mind here is that you should care about your accounts. Consistent profile pictures and usernames make it easy for users to find you across multiple platforms. Semi-professional bios (depending on the platform — LinkedIn warrants a more professional bio than Facebook, for instance) and links to your personal website help give visitors a better understanding of who you are and what you do!

Have you ever Googled yourself? How often do you do it? You should be Googling yourself at least once a month and digging through the first four pages of results. If you have a website, it should be the top result. If not, something like your LinkedIn or Twitter should be next. In my case, my LinkedIn pops up first, with my website just a few results down.

Most importantly, understand your privacy features. It’s completely okay to have work and personal accounts, but be 100% sure that your personal content isn’t bleeding online to the public. Regularly check your security settings on Facebook and Twitter so that the content you want public is public, and the content you want private is private.

After your accounts are well-built and professional, define a strategy for yourself. Figure out which audience you’re chasing. If it’s fashion, tailor your content to fashion. Likewise, for sports, tailor your content for sports fanatics. Then, decide on a voice and tone for your content. Hardline political candidates may take a serious tone on social media, whereas a comedian would absolutely not. Develop a list of words and adjectives that best describe who you are and what content you post. Regularly share those words in different posts so people begin to associate them with you.

Lastly, target areas of growth and monitor them. Depending on the audience you’re chasing, use appropriate and growing hashtags to promote your account. A great website Michele suggested is hashtagify.me. Monitor your analytics on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook to see how much engagement your posts receive. This helps you decide which content gets the best results.

Many forget that individuals can employ similar brand tactics as companies do. Build your brand! It can help you get a great job and makes you more personable to people online and in real life.