Manage your personal brand as an entrepreneur

Create your identity

An active, personal brand identity has become a vital enabler for entrepreneurs. Some argue that an established digital reputation is a prerequisite for new business survival in the modern digital age.

Four out of five customers choose not to buy or engage with a business after seeing negative information online. As an entrepreneur, you therefore cannot afford to not maintain a good online reputation.

There’s never been a more critical time in history to proactively manage the reputation of your personal and business brand. Endless amounts of information are easily available at the fingertips of consumers, the economy has never been more transparent, and it’s never been easier for consumers to share their experiences with brands, products and executives.

Entrepreneurs who aren’t taking an aggressive approach to managing their reputation online could be setting themselves up for costly problems.

But don’t write your business failure post-mortem yet if you are not actively managing your online reputation. It’s never too late to construct an online persona and with all the bells and whistles to make it even more reputable.

That’s the wonderful thing about the digital world. In a single day you can create a dynamic online presence and work your way towards creating a favourable online reputation.

Social tools for your personal brand

While there are many ways to establish a reputable online presence, the first step is to make use of social media channels available to you. Now is not the time to be facetious about networking because you’re new to it. This is, coincidentally, a mistake many entrepreneurs make before they realise just how relevant networking has become.

Currently there’s an abundance of prominent social network platforms to choose from. You would be well advised to not spread yourself too thin, so start small. Initially, two will suffice, but be sure to go full tilt with them once established.

An important note to consider is that using social media without a strategy will get you nowhere. You need to plan well and always place quality before quantity. Keep a calendar to structure your posts and research target markets.

Once you’ve established an online identity for yourself, you can now focus on creating an online identity for your business. It will need a digital home and voice such as a website, and thereby become your primary medium to monitor customer experience.

Your website should represent a comprehensive digital extension of your business. Try to approach it as a 24-hour showroom – a space in which your prospective customers will experience all the trimmings of your real-world business.

Just be sure to keep your site active, which is where a blog becomes indispensable, enabling consumers to get to know you as an individual, your business and brand values. It gives them the opportunity for feedback on your products and service, which they will appreciate, and which is also imperative for growth.

Digital reputation management

Although there are numerous online strategies at your fingertips, the following reputation management tips will quickly get you onto the digital fast-track.

  • Be proactive. Take charge of your online reputation.
  • Set up your social accounts. It’s vital that you own your brand name on all the social media platforms, even if you have no immediate plans for posting anything.
  • Manage the online reputation of not just your brand, but also your key people.
  • Focus on your tribe. Centre your attention on your audience and keep it targeted.
  • Keep your content updated. Active social media accounts can be used to rank your brand name.
  • Standardise your messaging.
  • Commit to consistency. In the fast-paced environment that the internet has become, consistency is the key to maintaining a reputation.
  • Turn negative attacks into opportunities. Handle all negative social posts as opportunities rather than problems.
  • Always do what you say you will do.
  • Keep your personal life personal. This is an important one, yet it is also commonly the cause for most branding and reputation disasters we see. What you say and do online is for everyone to see… and once you put it out there, there is no taking it back. If you are going to brand yourself as an expert, you always need to keep it professional.

Many new entrepreneurs choose to go straight into marketing their enterprise online, often without updating their digital identity and reputation first. While this can work, there’s no side-stepping the fact that your personal online reputation remains the main catalyst for business start-up success.

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Jacqueline B Mayer is the founder of Innocomm SA, a full services agency focussed on changing the way businesses communicate in Southern and East Africa. With more than 18 years experience in communication and strategy, Jacqueline has focussed on clients such as Vodacom, Stanbic Bank Tanzania, Coca Cola Tanzania, Vodafone Uganda, Tigo and political candidates in Kenya.