Three Ways to Ruin Your Personal Brand

Last Updated Mar 17, 2010 6:06 PM EDT

image credit: eft-downloads.comBrand building takes time. Coca Cola and Apple weren't built in one day, and a personal brand no different. It's a long-term relationship with your audience, established through trust and a sense of meaning that people gain from their experiences with you. Many people either rush into personal branding or they haven't even noticed what brand they're already communicating. In the social web, people who don't behave themselves or aren't aware of how to interact appropriately are cast out, and once that happens, it's hard to re-engage. By learning from other people's mistakes you will be ahead of the game.

Here are three common mistakes that I've noticed over and over again in the past three years:
1. Too much self-promotion. When people first start a personal branding campaign, the common inclination is to self-promote constantly. From tweeting about your latest press mention to blogging about a new product you're offering, self-promotion can turn people off if overused. The most popular people at a cocktail party, or in a chat room, are interested in learning about other attendees; they make the conversation about everyone else, not about themselves. When you cross the line and consistently promote yourself, without any concern for others, you will be unfollowed, blocked, and ostracized. The best way to avoid giving the impression of self-promotion is to promote others instead. If you provide value the majority of the time, your community will accept your occasional self-promotional messages, and they might even share them to support you. Delivering value, such as sharing a news article, a quote, a fact or even asking a question can make people pay attention to you, and it humanizes your brand.

2. Not enough specificity. There are thousands of Twitter bios that say things like "John Doe, Social Media Guru." It may sound like the hot title to have, but if you position yourself the same way as everyone else, you lose originality and it becomes much harder to stand out and attract the right people. By mimicking other personal brands, you become so much background noise -- when the goal is to claim your own niche. Don't try and be Suze Orman or Lady Gaga. Have a focused approach to how your brand is positioned on the web. Companies segment their markets by geography and demographics. You can do the same. Instead of being a "personal finance expert," why not be more specific and call yourself a "personal finance expert for students in Boston." The more specific your position is, the more it will stand out to the right audience. If you Google "personal finance expert," Suze Orman comes up first, but if you narrow it with more specifics, you have a chance at owning that top slot.

3. Not enough consistency. You aren't Bill Gates, and you're certainly not Oprah, so don't assume people will always recognize you. You don't see companies switching their logos and taglines for different venues; likewise you should not use a variety of pictures across your different online properties. By having a different picture on Facebook than you have on Twitter or your blog, you'll confuse people. Each time you use the same picture, one reinforces the other, and people can start to follow your digital tracks. Another example is your name. If your name is Matthew or Michael, but you would rather be called Matt or Mike, then use that name consistently across the web. Finally, your bio information, which tells viewers who you are, what experience you have and what audience you serve, should be consistent everywhere as well. Keep in mind that as your career accelerates, you must update your information everywhere. For this reason, it might be smart to keep a spreadsheet with the last time you updated each site.

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