As a small business owner, you’ve likely heard a lot of talk about your “personal brand.” Entrepreneur defines a personal brand as“how you appear to the world,” noting that “a strong brand is preferable to one that is unpolished and uninteresting.”
Why does this matter? Because the way the world views you will inform the way the world views your businesses. Make no mistake, your potential employees, customers, clients, and partners WILL Google you—that’s simply a fact of today’s world that’s beyond your control. What is in your control, however, is what they find when they look you up. Set aside two hours to tackle the 9 steps below in one sitting. Before you know it, you’ll be so proud of how you look online that you’ll want everyone to Google you and your business. Here’s how to get started:
1. Know Your Personal Brand
Imagine yourself as a product. What would you tell someone about yourself? Your personal brand is sort of like an elevator pitch for how you want the world to see you. This step is the most important, and perhaps the most time consuming. Think about the things that are important to you. Your business will be part of it, but other things might, too — your involvement at your church, a club, civic organizations, your kid’s school, etc. Once you’ve keyed in on what’s important, write a 75-word biography, or personal brand statement, about yourself. Think: if there were going to be a story about me in the newspaper, what would the “about” blurb look like? Then, shorten it to a 15-word version (think Twitter bio). Don’t be afraid to share with those around you for feedback. These bios are important and will be used in many of the following steps.
2. Know Your Business Brand
This step is similar to the one above, but it’s for your business instead of yourself. What sets you apart from competitors? How are you unique? It could be your core values, mission statement, or a unique approach to customer service. Put these points of differentiation into words. Aim for a 30-word version and a 75-word version. This will be important as you talk about your business on your personal pages.
3. Google Yourself
If you aren’t currently Googling yourself on a regular basis, now is the time to start. Use Incognito Mode (or a similar disguised search feature in your favorite web browser) to ensure results appear as they will for a stranger. Make a note of the top 10 results. Note anything you don’t like, or any returns that come back for someone who shares your name but isn’t you. Next, filter results by “News” and “Images.” Again, note the top results and anything you see that you don’t like.
4. Update Your LinkedIn Profile
If you aren’t already on LinkedIn, sign up. The professional networking site is one of the first places people will look for information about you and your business. Choose a professional photo of yourself, and use the 75-word bio you wrote about yourself to help get your page started. If your small business doesn’t have a page already, it’s worth considering setting one up to share updates and communicate information. New to LinkedIn? This article offers 30 tips to help you reach pro status in no time.
5. Tune Up Your Personal Facebook Page
If you haven’t checked the privacy settings on your Facebook page in a while, now is a good time to do so. Regardless of if you think your Facebook is “personal” and separate from your business, it isn’t. Being a small business owner means having your business judged on YOU, the owner — including things you post online. Your Facebook profile should be a reflection of the personal brand you defined in Step #2. Consider deleting any posts that don’t fit within that description. You may also want to consider un-following pages that have the potential to alienate potential customers, including political pages.
6. Audit Your Other Social Network Choices
Now is a good time to decide which other social networks, if any, you’ll participate in personally. Remember that each is a reflection of you and, as an extension, a reflection of your business. There’s no right answer to which networks to participate in, but pay attention to the privacy settings on each to ensure you know what you’re sharing with whom. If you haven’t been active on a network in at least a year, consider deleting your profile or using it to direct people to a network where you are active.
7. Make Sure Your Email Address is Professional
Even if you only occasionally use email for your business, it’s important that it be professional. If you’re still rocking something that sounded cute in college, or a once-popular free email site, it’s time for an upgrade. If you have a business website that you use for email, firstname.lastname@example.org is always a strong choice. Otherwise, email@example.com is always a solid option.
8. Decide if You Need a Personal Website
While some small business owners choose to have a personal website (like firstlastname.com), it’s really a matter of personal choice. Some feel that for the $10-12 per year it costs to secure the URL, it’s a safety net against someone else scooping up the domain. Others like to build out a simple site with a photo, personal brand statement, business information, and clippings from any press. Still others choose to buy their names and redirect to the business website. The choice is yours — but it’s one to make now, while it’s top of mind.
9. Make a Date
Congrats, you’ve made it through the list! Now, set a calendar reminder once every month to Google yourself and check for updates. Do an incognito Google search every month to make sure no unwanted results appear on your front page. This can help ensure you remain in control of your personal brand.