Beyonce and Jay-Z recently filed an application with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to protect daughter Blue Ivy Carter's name--a probable first step to establishing the newborn's personal (and likely profitable) brand. While the move may seem a bit premature, web users of all ages are similarly trying to navigate social media sites to get seen, heard, and hopefully, trusted.
Even if you work within a large organization and don't have celebrity parents, it's a good idea to start thinking about your personal brand today. Not only will the resulting larger network help you keep your options open on the work front, participating across social media sites can help you to stay informed about your area of expertise so you don't fall behind.
Yes, it's all about expertise. If you've been successful on the personal branding front, chances are that you've established yourself as an expert. Whether you blog about real estate, tweet about stocks, or pin about jewelry, social media makes it easy for anyone to shape herself or himself online.
Aside from creating compelling content, a personal branding regimen should also include an active plan to achieve your daily goals. Consider short intervals during your regular routine when you can manage your various online accounts. That might mean jumping on social sites every couple of hours for 15 minutes at a time, or maybe more depending on how important a strong digital persona ties into your professional success.
Once you've put aside the time to engage, there are a few key tools beyond the obvious services such as Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter that you should use to maintain a healthy digital presence. Here are five to help you get started and to stay on track.
1. Namecheck - This free tool is invaluable to personal branding newbies and experts alike. With one click, enter your desired (or current) username into the search box and discover where that name is registered across multiple social media sites. The service automatically sifts through 12 of the top services to see if the name is taken or available. It's a good idea to register your name on sites that you don't plan to use, just in case those platforms soar into popularity in the months to come and you want to protect your identity in those respective places.
2. Squarespace - This out-of-the box tool has been available for some time, but it still tops the list of easy-to-use services for a hosted website (in other words, no technical skills required). Whether you want to blog, include social media widgets (such as a Twitter feed), or show off image galleries, Squarespace is a cinch to set up. Moreover, the mobile apps versions of this tool for both iOS and Android work great. If you currently blog on WordPress or one of the more popular engines, it's simple to import all your content into Squarespace. For a personal site, it's just $12 a month--not too shabby considering you can use any of their beautiful templates and be up and running in minutes.
3. HootSuite - Everyone needs a good social media dashboard, a place to manage your personal brand online. Not only is HootSuite one of the best, it's also free to use and it plays nice with the biggest social networks online (five profiles within the basic version). The reports are easy to read and it's simple to follow a topic of interest within one of the many viewing panes. There are currently three million people using this service, which is a pretty good indication that it works.
4. Rapportive - Email continues to be one of your most important digital communities. If you want to bring your social networks into your Gmail account, this tool can help. Once you install this add-on, you will be able to monitor what your email contacts are doing across Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter (and see their profile photos). Moreover, Rapportive makes it easy to connect with them from directly from your in-box. For example, if a new business colleague emails you, the Rapportive sidebar will include their online profiles and allow you to follow them on Twitter and other services. If you're not a Gmail user, Xobni is a tool with similar functionality that works across multiple platforms (including Outlook).
5. YouTube - There is perhaps no better way to further your personal brand than using video. However, this tends to be the one avenue that people shy away from because it takes time, effort, and for the ladies, makeup! Nonetheless, creating short how-to and informational videos can help to establish you as an expert on a particular topic. The key is to keep these clips short and sweet, and use your various social media networks for distribution. For more about leverage the power of online video, check out the 5-video work week.
[Image: Flickr user Dustin Diaz]