Building your online brand: You can’t fake it

Pretending to be someone you’re not is one of the biggest mistakes to make when it comes to building your online brand, according online marketing experts.


Pretending to be someone you’re not is one of the biggest mistakes to make when it comes to building your online brand, according online marketing experts.

This is one of the lessons that Rebecca Hollis, founder and CEO of enterprise online brand developer Big Biscuits, learned early in her career.

“I have fallen foul of this, when I started a business when I was 18. I felt like I had to look and act like everybody expected me to. I dressed very conservatively, tied my long, blonde hair in a bun and wore non-prescription glasses. I felt like I would only gain respect from clients, prospects and fellow industry professionals if I presented myself in this manner.

“Needless to say, I could not keep this up and not only did the business suffer, but I had grown a network of people that I didn’t really know, like or trust,” she warned.

When Hollis became head of social media at Intuit, the software company, she decided to present a more realistic online image, which made it easier for her to attract like-minded people.

“[After Intuit] I went out on my own as a freelancer being completely myself and decided to go out there with the ‘all or nothing’ attitude. What this has done is attract the right kind of partners and customers where we work together seamlessly due to our compatibility.

“Now, I hope, everyone sees the creative, passionate, social evangelist with the long, blonde hair, who is also a cheerleader and likes Take That. And all the while, this does not affect my credibility as a professional and a pioneer in my field,” she said.

Jane Lewis, a senior premier field engineer at Microsoft, and Sue Black, a senior research associate of software systems engineering group at UCL and senior consultant at Cornerstone Global Associates, both agree with Hollis.

“Keep it real, be authentic and genuine,” said Black, while Lewis added: “Keep your voice consistent and keep honest to your brand.

“People come to your blog or your online brand as they become familiar with the subjects you are talking around. If you keep chopping and changing, it makes the experience inconsistent.”

Judith Lewis, a specialist online marketer and head of search at digital, analytics and search consultancy Beyond, believes a good starting point is knowing of what your online brand comprises.

“You can’t manage something you aren’t even aware of, so create Google alerts, know what is in your LinkedIn profile, check old social media profiles, lock down your Facebook and make sure you are aware of what is being said in your name online,” Lewis said.

She maintains this control of her own online brand by making sure that wherever possible, when people spoke about her, they linked back to an online “property” that she controlled.

“I had a property in my nickname online, one for the industry blog, one for my consultancy, one for my LinkedIn, one for a more relaxed blog, one for a review site I used, and more. Each place where the profile was public and I wanted it to be found, I used my name and linked to it from elsewhere, like my Google profile.

“Links are key and also letting people know those properties exist by being active on LinkedIn, Twitter or other visible property is essential,” Lewis said.

People might find that having so many online profiles off-putting, due to privacy concerns. But Judith Lewis believes you can reconcile the two.

“You cannot be a wholly private person with no profile online and brand yourself online; however, you can limit and control online information about yourself,” she said.

Judith Lewis, Jane Lewis, Sue Black and Rebecca Hollis were recently part of a panel discussing how to manage your online brand at a event

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