Your Online Personal Brand – Beware the Social Network Profile

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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.

Pre-Interviews

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.

Warning 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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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?

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For more info on Xobni (Inbox cleverly spelled backwards), visit their website www.xobni.com.

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9 Responses to “Your Online Personal Brand – Beware the Social Network Profile”

  1. Tisha Gay Says:

    Eddie – Great post! Most people do not think about their personal online brand. You start out using the social networking sites to share info with a large group of friends, but then when your clients or co-workers begin joining their site, you (and they) may feel it’s TMI or inappropriate.

    When you’re participating in social media, you’re establishing your reputation whether you know it or not. Make a conscious effort to nurture your personal brand because a tarnished reputation means lost business, lost respect and lost opportunities.

    By the way, I love the Xobni tool. I use it every day.

  2. Craig McClelland Says:

    Personal brand is key. Someone once told me don’t make any information public that you wouldn’t share at a job interview. It’s so true when you’re putting things out on the web its public for all to see. FB also has some great settings to limit tagging and your pictures.

    Xobni Rocks… great tool.

  3. conyersom Says:

    What powerful article and so full of timely advice. A person just has to watch the news to learn how careful they should be on line with almost any internet site. Just last night at dinner, I had friend tell of another craigslist a story of friend who posted her services to clean houses. One response was certainly lucrative price-wise but not worth the danger person answering her ad made with his lack of clothing requests as she cleaned and his need to watch. These social networks are such a great way to drive down the avenues of the information highway and obtain leads important to business, epsecially the real estate business. Still, like driving a real car, the same education applies. We all have pay attention, keep our wits about ourselves and remember all the safety elements we’ve been taught. Check it out! Be observant! Don’t you just hate it- no matter how old and mature you get, mother or father still always knows best! Keep the good adive coming!

  4. ann bone Says:

    Perception is still reality, folks. Whom are you trying to attract and exactly what are you selling? When in doubt, get someone you respect to look it over before you post it.

  5. Mary F Williams Says:

    All of the advice is right on point. I think of social networking as a WORLDWIDE BILLBOARD!!! It’s out there for everyone to see, so caution is key. Thank you Kevin and Staff for raising the bar again within our industry. Kudos!

  6. Michael J. Scott Says:

    Very good advice. When used the right way, all of these social networking sites can be great tools.

  7. Sandra Watkins Says:

    It is a must to keep a diligent check on what photos may be posted on the internet. I upload all my photos to google so I do not lose them but if you do not mark them private your photos will end up on LinkedIn and who knows what else. Good lesson to learn.

  8. Dale Kruelle Says:

    great information, I have a side business and have been troubled with keeping the two businesses seperate. Your suggestion of creating seperate facebook accounts will come in very handy. I will probably need t different accounts.
    I look forward to more informative post.

  9. Rhonda Frazier Says:

    Thanks for the great suggestions on how to handle Facebook invitations. I have been in a conundrum because of all the invites that I receive from friends and family to join Facebook but I wanted to keep a professional persona on the social networks.
    Great suggestions for anyone who wants to be taken seriously in this age of social networks and youtube. I will forward these suggestions to students who are graduating and preparing for the work world. Trust me, prospective employers who are technically savvy will start checking Facebook, if they have not already to see if there is anything out of the ‘norm’ on your Facebook page.

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