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Me 2.0: Branding yourself online

By Mark Tutton, CNN
Personal branding means marketing yourself and your skills to potential employers.
Personal branding means marketing yourself and your skills to potential employers.
  • The Internet is making personal branding accessible to everyone
  • Personal branding means promoting your own skills and strengths
  • Blogging and social networks are ways of reaching your target audience

London, England (CNN) -- The concept of personal branding has been around for more than a decade, but the Internet and social networking have made it easier than ever to sell brand "you."

The basic idea of personal branding is to promote yourself as having certain values, skills or expertise -- your brand -- so that if someone needs that expertise, they'll come to you first.

While many people are still uncomfortable with the idea of marketing themselves as a commodity, others see it as part of the changing world of work.

Professor David James is director of the school of growth, innovation and enterprise at Henley School of Business, in England. He told CNN, "We're in an age when corporate businesses don't care for you as an individual any more -- you're just an employee number.

"They will outsource you, insource you, relocate you, and delocate you in whatever way they think suitable. Therefore you have to look after number one, and personal branding is really important."

So how do you go about creating your personal brand? James says the first step is to be clear about your strengths and your core values. Your brand identity needs to be a clear message of who you are and what you have to offer.

Next, give yourself a short and long-term plan of where you want to be, what job you want to have, and how you want people to perceive you.

Think about the people who can help get you where you want to be -- they are your target audience. In the same way that a conventional brand markets itself to a certain demographic, you need to advertise your brand to your target audience.

We're in an age when corporate businesses don't care for you as an individual any more -- you're just an employee number.
--Professor David James

"If you have a view that others want to hear, think about where your target audience goes for information and what media they consume, and then get your message to them," James told CNN.

The Internet has made it easier than ever to reach out to your target audience. Blogging and social networking are powerful and readily accessible ways to promote yourself.

Dan Schawbel is the author of "Me 2.0," a book about personal branding. He says blogging has been crucial to building his own personal brand.

"Blogging is extremely important, but it's very hard to be successful now because there are so many blogs," he told CNN.

"To stand out you have to figure out your niche by doing research online and finding somewhere in the marketplace that isn't completely saturated."

As for the content of your blog, that depends on what you want to be known for, but Schawbel says you should be passionate about your subject matter and have expertise in the area, or no one will want to read what you have to say.

The next stage is to get a high search-engine ranking for the area you've made your niche, so that whenever anyone searches the Internet for that subject, your name comes up.

To that end, name your blog with your own name and your specialist area. Join in conversations about your subject on other blogs, always using your full name -- your brand name.

Write articles for other Web sites and join social networks like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, using them to build useful contacts and reflect your brand.

If all that strikes you as simply blowing your own trumpet, then you'd be right.

"In a sense, it is shameless self publicity," James told CNN.

"My parents said to me, 'if you work hard enough the world will recognize what you do,' but we know that doesn't work.

"I tell my children, 'If you work hard enough to make yourself good at what you do, then you have to tell people about it.' Take command of the situation, know what you're good at and shout it from the rafters."