If you have an online presence, you have a personal brand. Just like a corporate brand, every status update, tweet, blog post and photo you share becomes a part of your cumulative image. Anyone who views your social profiles — be it a colleague, an employer or a potential business partner — can form an opinion about you based on what's there. That's why so many of today's professionals invest time in building and curating an authentic presence that highlights their best qualities.
"Social and mobile technologies continue to reshape how we interact, communicate and glean insights," said Seeta Hariharan, general manager and group head of TCS Digital Software & Solutions Group. "These same technologies provide an opportunity for you to shape your message and take ownership of how people, customers and businesses perceive you."
For women in particular, a strong personal brand can open the door to new business and career opportunities. Smart female professionals know that closing the gender gap in the workplace begins with supporting your female colleagues, and putting yourself out there is the best way to make important networking connections with other women in business, said Gabrielle Wood, Ph.D. and adjunct faculty member at Kaplan University.
"As female leaders climb the ladder, they often find themselves among a few women in upper-management positions," Kaplan said. "Personal branding provides an opportunity for them to gain support by connecting with other female leaders."
"Women in business, and particularly women in tech, have become incredibly influential allies," added Lori Wright, chief marketing officer of BlueJeans video communication platform. "Women professionals have more opportunities than ever before, and a strong network can open up opportunities in areas you may never imagine alone."
Mou Mukherjee, director of marketing at Aruba S.p.A.'s .Cloud top-level domain registrar, noted that women in business can learn a lot from each other. Sharing your own experience through personal branding can help you find mentors and other female professionals who can play a vital role in your life, she said.
"Women can be your biggest advocates because they have overcome challenges themselves," Mukherjee told Business News Daily. "There are some common issues that women may face in their careers; however, each will take a slightly different path, and I think there's a lot to be learned in those nuances of female character." [See Related Story: 6 Challenges Women Entrepreneurs Face (and How to Overcome Them)]
Whether they're just starting their careers or looking to advance, here are a few important things for women in business to keep in mind when they're building their personal brands.
Let others know where you stand
Who you are and what you value are important parts of your personal brand, Kaplan said. She said that you should share your ideas, advice and opinions on professional subjects via social media. This allows readers to get to know your strengths, where you stand and what to expect from you, she said.
"This can pique the interest of others in your talents, leading to invitations to engage in professional activities that match your interests and competencies," Kaplan said.
Get involved in your community
Whether it's a digital forum or an in-person networking event, devote some time to causes and conversations that matter to you on a personal and professional level, said Hariharan.
"By strengthening your greater network, you can exchange ideas, find a sounding board and sometimes a support system among those who understand the benefits and challenges and can empathize on multiple levels," she said.
Involvement can also mean talking to other women in your industry and asking them for professional advice, said Amy Callahan, co-founder and chief client officer of Collective Bias, a platform that connects brands and consumers through influencer-generated social content.
"Business today operates at light speed, so having connections is a huge asset," Callahan said. "I find people, and women in particular, are happy to share knowledge as long as it's not proprietary information. So not only does your personal brand benefit your organization, but the relationships your brand allows you to build can become critical when looking for that next opportunity."
Project confidence and a sense of belonging
Connie DeWitt, senior vice president of product management at financial software company Adaptive Insights, said women in male-dominated work environments often feel like it's not really "their" culture. This sense of feeling like an outsider can really put a chip in your confidence, but DeWitt emphasized the importance of working past that, and assuring yourself that you do deserve a seat at the table.
"Stop feeling like a fish out of water and just believe it's your water, too," DeWitt said. "It's not just about establishing yourself as a leader and building a strong personal brand, it's about believing that you belong and have truly earned your stripes. That what gives you the confidence to propel your career forward."
Believe in what you're doing
Savvy social media users can spot a disingenuous online presence from a mile away, and if you're pretending to be interested in something when you're not, they'll figure it out. Wright noted that authentic, genuine passion is essential to a credible personal brand.
"You can't fake passion for long, so make sure you believe in what you are doing, whether that is the company you build, or the company you work for," Wright said. "You can pick up a lot of skills in a variety of roles, but the only way to ever achieve your personal greatness is to find the role that piques your passion."
Make your actions count as much as your words
Although your digital profiles are the easiest way for new contacts to learn about you, your personal brand goes beyond what you post online, Mukherjee said. It's also about what you do in your everyday life.
"When it comes to personal brand, people immediately think about writing articles or having a personal website," she told Business News Daily. "While all of this can reinforce and amplify who you are, ultimately, your personal brand is a combination of all your real-life interactions. It's about how you build relationships, how you respond to situations, and the impressions you leave behind."
Looking for more ways to polish your online image? Visit this Business News Daily guide to perfecting your personal brand.