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Personal Brand Management in a Social Networking Age

Personal Brand Management in a Social Networking Age main image

Elke Schwarz

In today’s media-saturated environment, networking through social media channels has become just as important as face-to-face networking, in both personal and professional spheres. The role of social media platforms in personal brand management should certainly not be underestimated – read on to ensure you’re making the most of the opportunities presented by social networking to market yourself at a global level.

Of course, not all social media platforms serve the same purpose. Social media users can select between platforms that address professional, academic, personal or specific regional audiences effectively. While Facebook and Twitter are by far the largest and most widely accessed online social networking platforms at the global level, there are different regional trends. Orkut, for example, is the most popular social network for the Brazilian audience, while Kaixin001 is a favored professional online network in China. Likewise, StudyVZ is a tremendously widely used social networking platform for student populations across Germany.

All are relevant for establishing and maintaining a personal and professional image, and all can be used not only as way to connect with others but also as a way to market yourself in a professional and academic context. Here’s a quick guide to using different social networking platforms to take your personal brand management to the next level.

Facebook – make connections and market yourself (carefully)

With 1.1 billion users across the globe, Facebook is by far the largest and most widely used online social network. The platform is available in 70 languages with most users being located in the US, Asia, Europe, Africa and Oceania. Together with Twitter, Facebook is one of the most frequently visited sites on the internet. The potential to make connections and market yourself to a wide audience seems enormous!

While many use Facebook primarily as a platform for entertainment and for keeping in touch with family and friends, it also offers opportunities for professional networking and personal brand management at an informal level.

Most organizations and businesses will have a fan page on which discussion forums are held, news, announcements, comments and suggestions are posted and connections can be forged. This also applies to universities and graduate schools.

These pages can serve as an interesting access portal to become familiar with a specific organization, business, university or graduate school, and to participate in relevant discussions. As such they offer a great virtual means to make connections and build relationships with groups and individuals across the globe that share similar interests or offer relevant opportunities. It’s worthwhile to click the ‘like’ button for an organization or institution you are interested in, in order to stay up to date with their latest news and activities. 

As well as using Facebook to forge connections and access information, it’s also important to think about the image of yourself presented. Beware: organizations and businesses that you link to and whose networks you join might be able to access your profile and information. Many a prospective employee has had to face the dreaded “Facebook inquiry”, where all the fun drunken party pictures posted on a profile instantaneously became a liability.

If you are in the process of applying for a job or a study program, ensure that your profile on Facebook is an asset, not a burden, by cleaning up any needlessly gratuitous pictures, drunken rants and ill-advised posts, and making sure your privacy settings are as strict and confidential as they need to be.  


LinkedIn – join the world’s largest business network

While Facebook blurs the lines between personal and professional, other online social networks are designed for a distinctly professional purpose, such as LinkedIn or Academia.edu. The set-up and layout of such networks is already designed for a specific purpose, so the temptation to post a host of private pictures or interests is limited.

Available in 14 languages, LinkedIn is a designated online network for business professionals. The platform boasts 135 million users and is the largest business network worldwide. Professionals from over 200 countries make use of this international network to create and foster business connections, find new job opportunities and keep up to date with career and industry news.

Research has shown that LinkedIn is particularly useful in landing higher paid jobs, and it definitely pays to consider how to maximize your personal brand management on this platform. An important aspect is your profile picture. First of all: always post a picture – a profile without a picture is statistically less likely to be viewed by others. Ensure that the picture you post conveys you in a professional and approachable manner. It should be friendly and meaningful in a business context and reflect all the best of who you are.

A second crucial consideration is the information you provide about yourself. Make sure your profile is complete and lists the relevant information about you, your skills and abilities, as well as career goals. It should demonstrate diligence and care.

Build your business network of LinkedIn connections steadily and with care, and encourage colleagues to endorse you on the platform. This inspires trust and confidence in you as a professional. LinkedIn can be an incredibly efficient way of making the most of the opportunities afforded by social networking if you use it actively and with care.

Academia.edu – showcase your academic career

Similar to LinkedIn, Academia.edu caters toward a specific audience. As the world’s foremost academic networking site, Acadmia.edu connects scholars around the world, allowing them to document their own academic career achievements, share research papers and monitor and evaluate analytics on the impact of their and other scholar’s research.

This is a tremendously useful source for keeping up to date with the academic output of specific scholars or your topics of interest, as well as providing a platform to present information about yourself and build connections that may open up job opportunities and advance your academic career.

As with other social and professional networks, it’s important to choose the information you present about yourself with care. Having an inviting profile picture is helpful, but the most vital element here is to carefully select what papers and publications you present online. These should reflect your quality as an academic and scholar. On Academia.edu you also have the option to add your full CV so that potential employers have quick access to your data.

Twitter – build networks and stay up to date

Lastly, a brief word on Twitter. The hugely popular micro-blogging and social networking site was founded in 2006 and has since garnered over 500 million registered users, producing some 350 million tweets daily. For many, it might seem questionable to engage with a medium that allows people to post blurbs in 140 characters about any and every topic on earth, many of which amount to nothing short of navel-gazing.

But the true value of Twitter lies in its incredible potential as a news aggregate (by following certain news outlets or industry news journals), as a way of connecting on a specific topic via the “hashtagging” convention, and for building specific networks with likeminded people. It has proven to be a powerful tool to raise political awareness and can be exceptionally useful for keeping up on specific topics of interest, whether personal or professional.

As with other social networks, you have to create your own profile to use Twitter. However, this is less extensive and is perhaps not as important compared to other sites – though as ever, do be conscious of what you reveal about yourself and what you say; remember a prospective employer or professional connection may read your past tweets.

Online social networks are certainly here to stay, and though they can be demanding and time-consuming, they also present huge opportunities for anyone looking to focus on personal brand management and professional networking.

This article is adapted from the QS Top Grad School Guide 2013/14.

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Great article! Simple yet very informative. Thanks for posting a very informative article. Keep posting!

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