Building Trust in the Digital World SMEI Vancouver April 20th 2010
Business on the Digital Era Advent of the Internet and the profusion on social media comes a new way of doing business. In the old paradigm businesses were in the driving seat. Every communication was vetted. These days thanks to digital networks control has been put back firmly in the hands of individuals and consumers. Consider Amazon – are you more or less likely to buy a book if it has a good review from someone who bought it? Off course you are. Or TripIt – if your intended vacation destination gets a bad review will you go there? Not likely. We are social by nature and we like to run in packs – we tend to trust other people over corporations – its our nature. The digital era simply facilitates this.
The Digital Era We are firmly ensconced in the digital era. Consider some statistics: 1.7billion have internet access Over 400 million Facebook users About 30 million LinkedIn users Twitter phenomenon Blogs 120 million Practically anyone and everyone you could want to do business with is using these forums Good news is that its easy to connect.
Personal Brands But first you need to consider your personal and professional brand. The concept of personal branding has had a lot of coverage in these difficult economic times as people look to market themselves more effectively in order to stimulate their careers or build more business. The idea of having a professional image is not a new one – uniforms have been standard for many occupations for centuries. The difference with personal branding in the digital era is that the concept is not to make you look like one of the crowd, but rather to make you stand out from it.
Your Personal Brand Personal branding is, in essence, a way of packaging yourself in such a way as to present a particular image for career or business purposes. But it is not about you though, it is about how the community perceives you through your brand. The good news is that you have control over this. Everything you do or say online reflects who you are, what you do and will ultimately factor into whether people will do business with you or not, hire you or not. Remember this – its very important. Think about it every time you contribute to your online communities. If you use digital technologies and social media tools wisely you can build a brand based on trust that will help you get more business, find a new job, make the right hire or establish yourself as an expert in your field.
Your Personal Brand Identify the unique aspects of your personality, skills and experience and education . Use those to make “you” stand out from the crowd. By building a personal brand that is true to you, your efforts will be more rewarded and your image will be more realistic and authentic and therefore trustworthy. Your presence has to reflect the real you. A personal brand that portrays a false image will be apparent to everyone you come into contact with and will do more harm than good.
Social Media - 4 Key Tenets Why does social media lend itself well to building your personal brand? Connect – the underlying nature of social media is to allow people to connect with others anywhere and easily. Community – build community – with peers, competitors (yes!), prospects and partners. Gain their respect and they become your army of advocates. Communicate – share in real time, what you do, your principles, beliefs and what makes you unique. Collaborate – share content with your targeted community, learn from others and add value.
Which Tools To Use Using social media is an ideal way to build a trustworthy personal and professional brand but which tools should you use? There are thousands of different social networks and social media tools out there. As busy people, we cannot have a presence in all of them (or we wouldn't get any other work done). Hone in on a few networks that best represent who you are and your goals from online professional networking perspective.
Who Are You? Who you are and what you are great at (i.e. what differentiates you?). For example, an artist, photographer or someone who has a visual presence should use a tool like Flickr or YouTube. An accountant looking to build awareness might use a professional network like Xing or Plaxo to spread awareness of what they do. Think about your resources and what you like to do: Someone with little time on their hands might choose to build the brand awareness and network on Twitter because you can do so in short burst of activity (140 words to be exact). Others who love creating videos will enjoy using a video site like YouTube or Vimeo to build their brand. A writer would be best to blog. This should be fun and not a chore!
What Are Your Goals Which social networks you use to build your brand will depend also on your goals. New business entrepreneurs with a goal of building awareness - Biznikmight be the best place to start. Real Estate agents might use ActiveRain Marketers might join Melcrum. If you want to make a move to a new location then find out which networks people there use - in the UK and Europe Bebo.
LinkedIn Foremost professional network in North America. Best forum to present your professional brand in a positive manner. Over 30 million users have used this tool. Network built around your resume online. Tell people more about what you do / are doing. Highlight the aspects that differentiate you from peers. post Build communities around the people you have done business with in the past, peers in your industry, with clients, partners and competitors.
Facebook By far and away the most widely used social network: practically everyone is on there these days. Many are using the forum from a purely social perspective . More and more Facebook users are looking to build their professional brand there too. If you use Facebook purely for social networking, it is important to consider how your professional audience will perceive you there too.
Tips For Building Trust Online Google yourself – the results = your online brand. Do the Granny test on the results or the boss test – would your boss approve? Make people aware of what you do using these forums. Professional image: include a good headshot that is authentic and don’t post any photos, videos or images that compromise your image. Portray yourself professionally – never post in the heat of the moment and always be respectful of others . Be true to who you are: transparency builds trust. Participate - don’t be afraid to join the community and voice your opinion. Never sell – 80-20 rule – blatant selling in digital forums puts people off. Always pay it forward - look for opportunities to help others – answer pertinent questions – share in the community.
Building Trust in the Digital Age Done right can really advance your career and grow your business. Done incorrectly, it can damage your chances. Focus on the tools appropriate to you and your goals Use networks appropriately and strategically to build trust with your communities. Always look to add value and pay it forward. You will be rewarded.