personal_brandThis week I’ve read at least three articles talking about the benefits of recruiting employees as social ambassadors for a company’s brand (see articles at the bottom of this post). It goes without saying that an employee’s social network will have more trusted and loyal connections than a branded social network. It’s the next logical step in an organisations journey to social maturity. However, not all employees are ready to become brand ambassadors. For many, working hours end when they walk out of the office.

So, does business have to become personal in this socially networked world? In my opinion, yes.

As an employee, I recognise that my profession (of Marketing) is changing. If I don’t change I’m going to be out of a job. It’s not the responsibility of my employer to take care of my professional development. I have to invest in myself. Learn new skills. Read about how my profession is changing. Build a network. Protect and nurture that network. Carve out my own professional identity. In effect, I’m running a business around my personal brand. It is personal – it’s who I am. I don’t suddenly change my personality when I walk out of the office.

As the Social Business lead at SAP EMEA, I’m encouraging other employees to take a similar approach. It’s great for the company – nurturing thought leaders to share their experience and knowledge to wider communities. But it’s also essential for professionals who want to further their career. My message is simple. Business has become personal. Figure out what your brand angle is and then build upon it.

Here are my top tips for stepping into your personal social brand:

  • Decide your brand angle: Look through your previous roles. What have you done? What have you achieved? What kind of companies have you enjoyed working for? What do you like doing? What don’t you like doing? What are you passionate about? What is it that keeps you talking…you know, when people can’t shut you up because you’re so passionate about the topic? That’s your angle!
  • Update Your LinkedIn profile: Your LinkedIn profile is your personal web page so make sure you update it and keep it fresh. There are a couple of things you absolutely need to do – a professional photo, a good headline and a keyword filled Summary about you and your experience. Take time to get this right. There’s only one chance to make a good first impression.
  • Build Your Network: Take time to build your network. Connect with friends, old college buddies, fellow employees, old colleagues – the bigger your network, the more valuable it will become. Remember, you’re not just connecting with them – you’re connecting to their network. Someone, somewhere may need your help or advice. This is all about providing value and being helpful.
  • Educate Yourself: No-one else is going to do this for you. Stop waiting for that “training budget” and start reading! There is a ton of content online to help you along. Set up some Google Alerts so that you are notified when blogs are written around topics you’re interested in. Sign up to LinkedIn Pulse and choose topics that relate to your role and read your news feed for 5 minutes every morning. Stay informed.
  • Write A Blog: Okay – this takes commitment and time but it’s a great way to log your thoughts and opinions and is the next logical step to building your personal brand. It’s also a brilliant want to augment your LinkedIn profile with something that makes you stand out from the crowd. This is a topic on its own so I will stop writing here!

There is no doubt that employees will adopt social business at different rates. There are three generations in the workforce – Gen Y, Gen X and Baby Boomers – all with varying levels of experience, technology adoption and attitudes to work. A recent article in The Economist (Winning The Generation Game) discusses such challenges facing organisations.