Critically Thinking About Your Personal Brand Online

If someone asked, “who are you?” what would you say?  A mother, an entrepreneur, a conservative, a reality TV show fan, a soccer player, a dreamer?  Each of those individual characteristics that you use to define yourself should be part of your personal brand.  Here’s a more difficult question- “Is your brand at work different than your brand in social media?”

The way you portray yourself on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Blog posts will inevitably become your personal and professional brand. Everything you do online is searchable and is permanent.  In addition, perception is reality.  You may have 2,000 tweets, but if your future employer sees one inappropriate joke or controversial statement, you may lose that opportunity.  That one statement may be the only thing someone remembers and colors their perception of you forever.  Even if you believe you have separated your personal life from your professional life online, it is important to remember that nothing is truly separate.  If it can be found online, it is now part of your personal brand.

Before you make a branding blunder in social media, consider following the RED Model of Critical Thinking:

Recognize Assumptions:

  • Not everyone has your same sense of humor, openness to sharing, political/religious views, or interest in bacon.
  • Just because you do not have any coworkers, clients, or customers on your Facebook account does not mean the information is private.
  • Remember that your planned career path now could change.  You can be controversial now if you’re a professional blogger, but some day you may have to work in a corporate environment and those high traffic posts may come back to haunt you.
  • Before you complain about a company online, remember that just because they aren’t your employer or customer now, they may be in the future.

Evaluate Arguments:

  • Just as you would avoid an emotional topic at work, avoid it online if that is not part of your intended personal brand.
  • When engaged in a debate online, take 3 minutes to think before you respond.  You will phrase your ideas more clearly and avoid overreacting.
  • Get a second opinion.  Check with a trusted colleague, mentor or friend to see if they think the content is appropriate.

Draw Conclusions:

  • A great rule of thumb is before you post anything, imagine how you would feel reading it to your mother, father, sister, brother, grandma, grandpa, pastor/priest, boss, coworkers, customers, clients, competitors, best friend, future boss, and children.  If it still feels appropriate, then post it.
  • Alternatively, think of your posts as serious as a tattoo.  They are both permanent.

Have you made any personal brand blunders in social media?  How did you learn from the mistake?

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Editor’s Note: Breanne Harris is the Solutions Architect for Pearson TalentLens.  She works with customers to design selection and development plans that incorporate critical thinking assessments and training.  She has a Master’s degree in Organizational Psychology and has experience in recruiting, training, and HR consulting.  She is the chief blogger for Critical Thinkers and occasionally posts at ThinkWatson.  Connect with her on LinkedIn and Twitter for more of her thoughts.

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One response to “Critically Thinking About Your Personal Brand Online”

  1. Wayne Potter

    Food for thought. And I didn’t even know I was craving it until I read it. Must be a Potter thing. Thank you for putting it out there…on “permanent record”. (couldn’t help it)

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