Before the internet era, having a “brand” was a luxury very few individuals enjoyed. These would be your Andrew Carnegie’s and John Rockefellers or in modern times people like Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, and Adam Braun come to mind. Most people could never attain the level of prominence in which having a brand would be of any relevant consequence. In fact affirmation of talent or quality work came through of mouth. If you were good at something people would know because people they knew personally or admired vouched for your work. All that changed when the internet came into being and once again when social media exploded onto the scene.
In the past your brand became relevant after you had risen to a certain level of prominence and esteem, today your brand has become a key component of attaining that level of success. Think about jobs, college admissions, even just people you meet at parties. If you’re interested one of the first things you do is look them up in Google, Facebook, or LinkedIn and then determine if you want to bring them in for an interview or talk with them again. This phenomenon is well documented and almost every college or high school student today knows to be careful with what they put online. However, while most people look at the rise of the online brand or image as a risk, few see it for what it really is: an opportunity.
If you were to circle back a few years, your options were pretty constrained by pre-determined paths. If you want to get to a certain position or enter an industry you have do a number of things in a certain way at certain times. There was very little room to deviate, accelerate, or avoid work that was meaningless to you in the name of getting to the end goal. You simply could not build the credibility or reach to get to where you wanted to without traveling the established routes. There were certainly exceptions to this, Zuckerberg once again springs to mind, however, this trend was already beginning to shift when Zuckerberg invented Facebook.
Today however, more and more people are able to deviate from “the path” or accelerate their journey and a large component of that is building your own brand. In fact your brand goes hand in hand with taking the next steps in your journey. The creation of a brand image is often very polarizing, some love it while others hate it saying it’s a lie or too egotistical. The truth of the matter is the internet allows you to build a brand but also gives others the tools to corroborate it. It’s almost impossible to just make things up because a quick Google Search will determine fact from fiction. The value of the brand whether it be social media, a personal website, or simply a resume is that it allows you to craft your story and tie together the pieces in the way you want too. It gives you the opportunity to be more than the facts and figures on your resume and actually connect with others on a personal level. People respond to passion and people respond to other human beings and building your presence is essential to making those connections.
That doesn’t mean that you should act a certain way or post certain things but rather just to think about what you want to convey and the image you want to cultivate for yourself. It can be the social butterfly, the business professional, or the passionate entrepreneur – it’s entirely up to you.