If you’ve spent any time with me, you’ve heard me refer to your online personal brand. If you were to roll up all of your blogs, social network profiles, comments, and websites into one “image” that reflects your professionalism and personality, you would get a good glimpse of how the internet public perceives you.
If you’re a real estate agent, your agent website and your blog are probably the primary avenues you use to broadcast your online brand. But don’t forget about your profiles on social networking sites, such as Facebook, MySpace, and LinkedIn, and what they can say about you.
I recently installed this really cool plug-in for Microsoft Outlook called Xobni, which automatically queries social networking sites for profiles of the people who send you e-mail. It’s very useful for me to get some background info or see photos of people I work with but never meet in person.
|Note: Xobni only works with the program Microsoft Outlook. It will not work with your webmail.|
Social networking sites are integral to marketing plans for sales- and service-focused professionals. I, like many other corporate decision-makers, tend to pre-interview potential vendors and employees by examining their online brand. LinkedIn, for example, shows a person’s experience, current job title and recommendations. That’s useful information for me, and a great avenue for someone to demonstrate their expertise to me without having to blow their own horn. Tools like Xobni make it very easy to browse these profles, which can be more effective than a simple Google search. But online profiles can also be a double-edged sword.
Hi, I am your customer service rep. I also like to party.
Here’s a true story. Among dozens of other vendors, I sometimes order hardware and sofware from one that we will call (for the sake of privacy) CDQ Software. My assigned customer service rep, let’s call her Susie, has been courteous and professional over email and telephone. However, she has been less than diligent in managing her online personal brand. Much to my surprise, her Facebook profile is public. I noticed her headshot in Xobni while reading a message from her and started to peruse her profile. The posted photos quickly digressed from casual headshots to parties, drinking, and dancing, and the immodest/suggestive behavior that generally accompanies such activities.
While I don’t personally find the photos offensive, and they were certainly not lewd or obscene, they did slightly change my perception of Susie. I still work with her and I still use the services of her company, but had I not worked with her before I saw her profile, I may not have established the relationship in the first place. Especially if her competition had a professional online profile that stressed their technical expertise over their Paris Hilton impersonations.
So, what can you do to mitigate the risk of social network profiles? Here are a few ideas.
- Keep your personal profile private. There is no reason not to have personal profiles on sites such as Facebook for friends and family. However, edit your account’s privacy settings to ensure only friends and family can view the details.
- Don’t accept just any friend invitation. If your profile is personal, don’t accept a friend invitation from your boss or a co-worker. Remember, your party friends can post photos of you. Your other friends can see those photos.
- Create two profiles. If you want to have a private profile and a professional profile, create two. Use your work email address for the professional profile, and only accept colleagues and co-workers as friends. Use your personal email account for your private profile.
- Monitor your profiles. Keep an eye on photos posted by others. Keep your information up-to-date. Google search your name once a month. You must be aware of how others can view your information.
Being active in the social networking space is important to your business and can be fun at the same time. Just make sure to remain diligent and constantly aware of your exposure. Know how to use the privacy features of these websites, and only post publicly when what you have to say is in line with the image you want to portray to potential customers.
How do you manage your online personal brand?