Personal branding is not just a fad or buzz word on the interwebs. It is business. Big business. And it is the future. Period.

Business has always been about products and service. But now, more than ever before, it is about branding. And not just the branding of multinational companies. But people. It’s personal now. People like Apple the company, but they also want to know about Steve Jobs its founder. People like Nike, but they need a person to properly represent the brand, e.g. Michael Jordan or Tiger Woods.

You can do this!

Companies and organizations rise and fall on their personal branding. People want to do business with people, not computers. So even if we are at home by ourselves, we still follow each other on Twitter, and friend each other on Facebook, and like each other on YouTube. We still want to feel connected. And yes, unfortunately for many, it’s still a popularity contest. Remember high school. Well, popularity online matters. What, you want fluffy bunny slippers, or honest truth to help you brand yourself? So, let’s keep it real. You’ll be better positioned to promote your product, service, or yourself, once you

understand why branding is so important. And don’t worry, anyone can brand themselves online. Yeah, this is way cooler than high school. All it takes is a little time, money, and strategic focus.

Sure there’s a cost. Companies spend millions of dollars on their brand, to keep a good image. Actors spend millions of dollars on their image, because they are their brand. From sports teams to nonprofits, successful brands are built and maintained through focused strategy and constant care. So whether you’re a starving artist, or a thriving small business, whether you’re just starting out, or been in business a while, you need to be watching and learning from how successful people and brands spend their money and time. You can even emulate favorite brands and personalities.

What happens when someone Googles you?

Today, people are “googling” each other more and more. Especially when they encounter you, but don’t know who you are. They look to Google to tell them. So, being found online, the way you want to be found, is very important, and should be your priority. How you appear in the search engines speaks directly to your character. Are you credible? Can you be trusted? Are you at least presentable? There’s no longer room for weak excuses about how you look, or not being into ‘techie’ stuff. It’s time to put down the bag of chips and get to work branding yourself online.

Yes, you can do this. Even if you’re a newbie, or tech illiterate, now with the power of web 2.0 (cue opening music) you can create a look you enjoy and are proud of. So, if you’re serious about your personal brand, then you must understand some foundational basics first, and then strategically implement some of my recommendations below.

WHAT’S IN A NAME? THE RIGHT PERSPECTIVE

My Dad told me once that “clothes don’t make the man.” True, but they sure do make a first impression. So let’s be clear–Branding is everything! Being found online the way you want, is your top priority.

If you want to matter at all, you must brand yourself. It’s no longer optional. In 1980, would you want to do business with someone who was NOT in the yellow pages? So today, what happens when someone Googles you? Are you there? Do you matter? Do you represent well? What’s the first thing that pops up? Is there some stupid photo of you at a party you’d like to forget?

Remember, we DO judge a book by its cover. It’s like leaving the house without having performed any grooming or personal hygiene rituals. You will be judged by society’s standards. Conclusions about your character, skills, connections, likeability etc will be instantaneous.

So, you MUST prioritize branding yourself.

Also, branding is different from marketing. Branding comes first. Branding is who you are. Marketing is what you say. Branding is your identity. Marketing is your activity. So, start with branding first. Marketing, or getting your message out, comes later.