The following is a Q&A with Digital You author William Arruda, the latest book from ATD Press about real person branding in the virtual age.
Why do professionals need to have a personal brand?
There are many people with similar jobs, credentials and career goals. To stand out and attract the attention of people who matter, you need to be clear about who you are, what separates you from everyone else who does what you do and what makes you relevant and compelling to decision-makers. That’s personal branding. If what you offer is the same as everyone else who does what you do, you’re a commodity, not a unique brand. That means you’re replaceable by anyone who shares your job title.
How can you be visible in social media without it taking over your life?
Many people confuse being active in social media with writing lengthy articles or publishing videos that were created in a studio. You can make a significant impact in social media in just nine minutes a day if you commit to doing it every workday. The trick is to combine content creation with content curation and to repurpose content you create.
You say that just sharing content from your company or from other media sources with your connections and followers will have no impact on your brand. Why is that?
If you just share content, people interacting with that content don’t associate see it as coming from you. But when you share others’ content and add your point of view – making it more valuable – you get credit for the content others have created. It’s as easy as saying “Pay attention to the third paragraph, that’s where the biggest learning is.” This article identifies the five most important skills for IT execs, I agree with all five and would add these two.
Isn’t digital branding just an opportunity to build a curated persona that makes you look like you’re the happiest, luckiest, most successful person on the planet?
Digital branding has been hijacked by those who seek to create a fake image to impress others. You need only look at your Facebook or Instagram feed to see these carefully crafted existences that likely don't resemble reality. The problem with that is eventually you’ll be found out. Effective digital branding is all about translating the flesh and bones you into the bits and bytes you. Then whether someone meets you in person or online, they’re having the same experience.
What does Digital First mean and why is it so important to career success?
Digital First refers to the phenomenon where first impressions of something – or someone – happen online rather than in person. Its implications for career success are significant. We all know how important first impressions are to being able to build meaningful relationships. The digital first trend means you need to align your digital brand with your real-world brand. It also means that everyone needs to focus on building their brand in the virtual world.
Isn’t Twitter just for the Kardashians and Justin Beiber? How can it be a valuable tool for professionals?
Twitter is actually a powerful tool for building your personal brand. We know that journalists use Twitter to identify sources for their stories. They want to see who’s currently talking about the topics they cover. Twitter is also a powerful “pointing device” that directs people to content and materials you want to showcase – regardless of where you posted them.
If I’m happily employed and not looking for a job, why should I waste time on LinkedIn?
If you think of LinkedIn as your online resume and the place you go to search for a job, you’re living in 2003. That means Arnold Schwarzenegger is the Governor of California and Friends is the #1 TV show. Today, LinkedIn is the place you go to do your job better – to learn and grow – to connect with others – and to build your personal brand. It’s also quickly becoming your first impression.
You say video is the any ambitious professional’s “killer app.” Why is video important to career-minded professionals?
Remote work is becoming more and more prevalent. When you can’t be there in person, video is the next best thing. It allows you to deliver a complete communication (words only account for 7% of a communication) and to cut through the clutter of email. Video allows you to connect and engage on an emotional level – and it will be the most prevalent communications tool in the near future. So get comfortable with it now.
In Digital YOU, you reference a trend you call brandscaping. What is brandscaping and why should we pay attention to this trend?
The world is a noisy place. Over 100,000 articles are posted on LinkedIn each week, and 576,000 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every day. And the volume of the noise is increasing. To stand out and get noticed, you need to be singing the same note over and over. That means distilling your brand into the thing you want to be known for. Volvo is known for safety, Apple for innovation. When someone looks at you, what do you want them to think?
In today’s world of work, you’re expected to operate as a free agent even when you’re “working for the man… or the woman.” Yet company loyalty is highly valued. How can that be?
We’re witnessing one of the greatest contradictions in business history. On one hand, the thirty-year, lifelong career with the same company is gone, but company loyalty is praised. Company loyalty has taken a new form. In the past, your career success was about focusing on your role and function. Today, success requires that you be a company brand ambassador and megaphone. Company communications used to be a solo act. The CEO, via the communications department, would decide what to say to the world. Today, corporate messaging comes from a chorus. And nowhere is this more important than online. It’s the collective voice that helps support the corporate mission, and your voice must be a part of that. This not only benefits the company, it also benefits you and your free-agent mindset. When you do commit to interacting with company-produced social content, you move yourself outside the normal hierarchy, learn what’s going on in other areas of the company, and expand your visibility with your own online community.
You say your brand is held in the hearts and minds of those who know you and also that your brand is based in authenticity. How can both be true?
Effective branding is based in authenticity. You can only get away with trying to fool people for so long. So knowing who you are is important. And key to that is introspection – asking yourself a lot of questions. But introspection alone won’t work. You might think you’re the most creative person on the planet, but if we ask people who know you what words they would use to describe you and they don’t use the word ”creative,” you don’t own the brand attribute of creative. To be truly crystal clear about your brand, you need to seek feedback from others to validate your self-perceptions.
You suggest that there’s one action that every professional must engage in every day if they want to remain relevant and compelling. What is it and why is it so important?
Learning. There’s a trend called treadmill learning that I reference in the book. It means that you need to learn every day. Just like on a treadmill, if you don’t keep moving forward, you’ll fall off the back and be left behind, it’s the same with learning. To remain relevant you need to treat learning as any other task on your Do-List. You must commit to learning every day. That means taking time to plan what you want to learn and acknowledge the learning you have achieved.
Digital You: Real Personal Branding in the Virtual Age
ISBN: 978-1-949036-75-6 | 232 Pages | Paperback
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To schedule an interview with Mr. Arruda, please contact Kay Hechler, ATD Press senior marketing manager, at email@example.com.