Personal Online Branding with Dan Schawbel, Gil Yehuda & Sheryl Victor Levy


CONTEXTYesterday, Dan Schawbel, author of Me 2.0. ran a seminar on Personal Branding, to help people who are looking for jobs create a more compelling online presence for themselves. Schawbel is an ambitious young man who, as an even younger man, was inspired by the August 1997  Tide-brite cover of Fast Company magazine featuring “The Brand Called You” by Tom Peters.  Now, Schawbel dominates the Google results for “Personal Branding,” appearing even above that same Peters piece. 

Dan put together this free seminar, and crowd-sourced himself a couple of expert co-presenters, Gil Yehuda and Sheryl Victor Levy, who gave some practical tips and guidance on how to most effectively use and manage blogs, Facebook, Twitter, and other tools of social media.  Both Sheryl and Gil demonstrated incredible insight into the subject, and some of the nuances that come into play when people use social media for the purposes of establishing, defending and promoting a positive personal brand.

QUESTIONSA big part of the personal branding idea is to establish a single, easily-understood picture of what you are, professionally. Successful branding means that you appear as an “expert” of some sort.   For someone with clear aspirations, this is good news.  What about all those job seekers who aren’t so clear on their aspirations?  What about the people who have 2, 3 or more possible options, which they are exploring?  

Consider that expertise — whether on subject matter or functional area — is only a small part of what a person values in searching for a job, and also a small part of what experienced recruiters look for (inexperienced recruiters are another story). Is it really so wise for every job seeker to devote all this energy to establishing a singular image of themselves, when the “good fit” may be more elusive?

The classic model of job searching via face-to-face social networking suggests that job seekers have a singular focus in each encounter, but to allow for this focus to change, depending on who you encountered. But with most online social networks, especially the publically-viewable ones, all your contacts see all the same information.  Are we throwing out an important sales/marketing principle (know your audience — and find a way to be relevant to them) by virtue of a current technological limitation? 

For example, in his portion of the session, Gil Yehuda related how he uses a slightly different thumbnail image of himself — his avatar (via Gravatar) — depending on the context of where he’s posting a comment. It’s just like having a wardrobe in real life: Gil’s got his business suit for corporate blogs, his casual wear for friends and recreational blogs, and his l33t SL g4m3r 4v4t4rrrrr for all the other l33t g4m3rz.  Some personal  branding  experts tell you to always use the same photo everywhere (to maintain consistency), but I like this approach, because it reflects reality.  Yes, even Tide comes in a few different scent varieties.

Similarly, Sheryl Victor Levy talked about privacy features on Facebook to control what people see, depending on their relationship to you.  This function took a while to arrive in Facebook, and Sheryl noted that even with these privacy features, “there are certain things people don’t say on their Facebook page” …that is, if they’re being smart about cultivating their “brand.”

So back to the question at the top — assuming the technology will continue to develop and reflect more of the nuances of real life, should job seekers really go to great lengths to brand themselves to some specific functional area or industry, if they aren’t sure what their next step will (or should) be?

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About danspira

My blog is at: http://danspira.com. My face in real life appears at a higher resolution, although I do feel pixelated sometimes.

Posted on August 28, 2009, in Blogging, Career, Networking, Social Media. Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. Dan Great question!

    I posted a similar answer on my blog (where you summarized the question)
    http://www.gilyehuda.com/2009/08/26/personal-online-branding

    I honestly don’t have a definitive “here’s how you do it” answer. I struggle with the same question. My approach is that I try to manage my multiple “personas” very deliberately – putting them in their right digital place. My Blog is focused on work, with a good sprinkle of personality in it. My Facebook is more about me and my family life, with a good sprinkle of work in it. I have many side-interests which I don’t share online, as they are not related to my online personal brand. I keep elements of my hobbies, political thoughts, and religious inclinations off of my blogs, but might share a bit more in email or on Facebook. And yes, I’ll use different avatars (but most still look like me) — to help punctuate the differences.

    The part I struggle with is: what will help me land the next job? should I add all my facets into the online brand? should I maintain multiple destinations? I don’t know.

    I look forward to reading what others have to say, so that we can learn together.

    • Thanks for this input, Gil, as well as the answer posted on your blog.

      Some of your tips and tricks for non-writers on how to create compelling blog content (e.g. build a discipline around what you read and bookmark online and channel that into your blog) could be a good “middle ground” for people who want something a bit better than a LinkedIn profile, but who aren’t ready to become Mr-or-Ms-Expert-In-A-Particular-Subject.com.

      Of course, just as in real life, the issue of WHAT a person says online is much less important than HOW they say it, in terms of the impression they create to their target audience.

      For job seekers (or job promotion seekers), this target audience — recruiters and hiring managers– is fleeting and occasional.

    • These Media Lab sites never work on my laptop… always asking me to increase my window size, no matter what my screen resolution is set to. I’ll have to remember to go there when I get back home to my Dr. Strangelove-style war room…

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