Your online persona can be personal, like your Facebook page or Flickr with your latest vacation pics. Or it could be professional, you might be on LinkedIn or have a blog about topics related to your area of expertise. And it's also all the blurry areas where your personal and professional life overlap. When you approach social networking from a professional perspective (which is what I'm focusing on here), building your online persona is like building your online resume.
Your online persona can be negative, neutral or positive. No one wants a negative online persona. So don't go there! Be conservative about what you share and post, what you meant to be private or personal can also get noticed in the professional arena.
Social Networking mistakes that can break your career
Tips on cleaning up your online reputation
You may start out just wanting to keep your online persona neutral. Maybe you don't want to see anything come up when you do your Google search. It's your choice to stay "off the grid" but consider whether you're missing out on an opportunity. If you choose to, building your online persona can give you an edge in a competitive job market.
How do you start building a positive online professional persona?
Find the right sites to participate in
There are general networking sites that don't focus on a specific industry, such as LinkedIn. But you may be better served by seeking out an active site focused on your industry. Vertical social networks target a specific set of users who connect around a specific set of interests. If you’re a developer, IT pro or student, I'd recommend My developerWorks as the place to start.
Set up a "rock star" profile on the sites you participate in
- Add a picture - consider how the picture represents you. Think about the community you're a part of and the impression you want to leave. You may just want to "be yourself". You may want it to be more formal or casual. Think about what you're wearing, your facial expression, etc. There's nothing wrong with a fun, casual picture, as long as it fits with how you want to represent yourself.
- Include as much information as you can about yourself - specifically your professional self. What are you good at? What projects have you worked on? What company do you work at? What's your current role? What are you interested in learning?
- Spend a little extra time on your profile. Someone may be reading this like they read your resume. Edit until you're happy with how it represents you (and don't forget spell check).
- Simple steps to a great profile on My developerWorks
- Look for people you know, people you work with now or in the past, and look for people with similar interests to yours.
- Invite them to be part of your network.
- Join groups based on your projects and skills, and interests to expand your network.
- Find ways to speak out in your community, such as group discussions, comments, and blogs.
- If you're not ready to start posting videos or writing a blog, start out by commenting, rating and bookmarking.
- Sharing your experience and opinions helps demonstrate your knowledge and experience and show off your innovative thinking.
It may seem overwhelming, but you don't have to craft your online professional persona overnight! Take it one step at a time, slowly. Get to know the communities you are a part of before jumping in. Think about what you want to accomplish. Do a little research and learn before you take each next step.
Now, I'd love to hear from you... Are you actively trying to build your online professional persona? If not, why not? If yes, what are your challenges or obstacles? What's working for you?