Protecting Your Personal Brand Online: Important Things You Need to Know

Protecting your personal online brand

Gone are the days when business owners and corporations are the only entities faced with protecting their online brands. That’s a truth that can’t be disputed. Individuals now need to protect their personal brand.

Of course, it’s easy to imagine that, since you don’t own a business, there’s no brand to protect. However, instead of imagining, first try to understand what a personal brand and brand security mean. How their absences can affect his or her personal life.

Personal Online Brand

Your personal online brand is your public image online. That is, what you represent online. How people perceive you online. It’s your online visibility. Your online authenticity. Your online authority. It’s that name you use across all online channels. It’s the opinion you share on various web platforms.

Online Brand Security

Online brand security, on the other hand, is all about protecting that image. It’s all about plugging all holes via which an unauthorised person can leverage or hijack your brand (or some aspects of it) as their own. Usually, such a person would be looking to achieve a dubious goal with your brand. Perhaps, one that profits them, harms your online reputation or presence, or even hurts you as a person.

Therefore, while you may not have a corporate brand to protect, there are still your online handle and image. If you think nobody could be interested in stealing them, then think again. The threats to a brand can come in many forms:

  • As a desperate corporate competitor looking for an edge over you.
  • A cyber squatter.
  • A scammer.
  • Even as a spammer.
  • It could even be someone that answers the same name as you trying to establish their own online brand. This can be especially damaging if the person posts ideas that go against your values.
  • Or as your abuse of the internet. For instance, what you post on social media today can hurt you tomorrow.

There are many other possibilities. And if one doesn’t poke a hole in your online image, another might.

Why Do You Need Personal Online Brand Security?

  • About 48% of recruiters check their prospective employees’ personal websites before deciding whether to hire or not.
  • Even if you have no need for a personal online brand today, chances are that the need will arise in the future. For instance, an aspiring writer could become a popular professional author tomorrow. It’s only reasonable to secure your name across all channels from the onset.
  • About 63% of recruiters use social media to learn more about prospective employees.
  • Secure your online name against cyber squatters.
  • Protect yourself from scammers.
  • Protect yourself from competitors.
  • About 8% of companies have laid off an employee because the employee abused social media

Hence, if your personal online brand is compromised, so might your chances at some great online and offline business or employment opportunities.

How to Protect Your Personal Brand Online

Secure Your Domain Name

Since you are looking to secure your personal brand, it’s ideal to choose a domain name that is closely related to your legal name. If possible, use your legal name. Thus, if your name is John Lock, then use JohnLock.com or something close to that.

Depending on your resources, it’s also ideal to register variations of the name or the same name under top domain extensions. Example, [dot]net, [dot]co.uk, and [dot]org. This will tightly distinguish and protect your personal brand from other people answering the same name.

You can also register free subdomains with WordPress and Blogger. It doesn’t matter that you might not use them. This will help prevent someone else from stealing your identity there.

Build a Personal Website or Blog

There are many reasons you need a personal website or blog as a way of protecting your personal brand online. Here are the major ones.

  • It’s a way to build your authority online. When you run a personal blog, and share original, compelling content—your expertise and experiences—you create awareness about yourself, people get to know you, and with time you could become established as an influencer.
  • You offer yourself a better chance at landing business and employment opportunities.
  • You increase your visibility on search engines and put your name out there. Hence, when people, an employer or a potential business associate, google your name, you site appears. This can be especially beneficial when there are many other people online answering the same name as you.

Secure Your Social Media Handles

Be sure to register your social media accounts using your legal name or something close to that as your username. It’s recommended that you use the same username across all channels. That’s including in your domain name. If you have multiple domain names, one of them should reflect your social media username.

Social media sites like Facebook and LinkedIn may allow you to answer the same profile name as another user. But then your username must be unique. And that’s what you should focus on securing. To simultaneously check for the availability of your legal or chosen name as a username on multiple social media sites, use this tool.

If there are social media platforms you don’t want to use, you can prevent someone else from registering your username. Simply create accounts on the sites for the sake of locking the username down.

Interconnect Everything

A very important way to establish and protect your personal brand online is by interconnecting all your online accounts. For instance, connecting all your domains to your website and connecting your social media accounts to your website and vice versa. That way, people can find your website via your social media profiles. Or your social media pages via your website. It’s a powerful way of showing your authenticity.

Select the Domain Privacy Option

When you register a domain, your personal information (that is, your phone number, address, email address, fax…) is publicly listed on the WHOIS directory. Other info like your domain registration and expiry dates is also listed publicly. This means that anybody can easily find your personal info by running a search for your domain name on the directory.

This exposes you to many security issues:

  • Scammers and spammers looking to take advantage of you and your personal brand.
  • You become vulnerable to identity theft.
  • Domain hijackers looking to take over your domain name.
  • It becomes easy for stalkers to find your personal information.

To protect your identity, simply elect the domain privacy option. That way, your registrar will have dummy domain registration info, instead of your true personal details, published on the WHOIS directory.

Finally, never stop researching more ways to build and secure your brand online. Because as the years go by, new threats will sprout. And you want to be ready for them. Leave nothing to chance.

How to Design and Develop a Great Brand Identity

Last time, we talked about what brand identity is and isn’t. You can read the post here.

Talking about brand identity without mentioning ‘design’ is like talking about a building without including its foundation. This doesn’t mean that brand identity ends in design. As a matter of fact, it doesn’t.

The job of a great brand identity is to shape a business or product into a persona consumers agree with. Therefore, a brand identity has to engage all five senses when possible in order to create the perfect impression and incite the right feeling.

  • Sound? Think of the sound that plays you turn on your Windows computer. When you hear that sound coming from another room, it makes you think of Microsoft windows even without you seeing the origin of the sound. That’s branding.
  • Smell? When last did someone pass you by and the person’s scent made you think of a perfume brand or even a friend that wears the same perfume? That’s branding. Another example, one petrol station mini-mart increase coffee sales by 300% by pumping the smell of coffee near its gas pumps. That’s branding.
  • Taste? Pick any three wine brands with the same ingredients and taste them. Why do you think they taste different?
  • Touch? Have you ever bought a coat, a dress, or even a duvet because of house it feels when you touch it?
  • Sight? This is where design comes in. In the case of a wine business, design as a branding tool can range from the wine label and the shape of the bottle to the wine company’s website and logo?

Any of the above mentioned senses can be factored in when developing your brand identity, depending on what your business is about. However, design is the most popularly used branding tool because of its versatility. And we are going to focus on that.

Developing Your Brand Design

To develop your brand design, you need to start with the basics. When you get seamingly tiny aspects of design like fonts and colours right, every other thing falls in place.

Typography

This is the font (or set of fonts) you select for your branding materials. Typically, you can choose from four main typography categories. Check below.

Serif Fonts. These are fonts like Garamond and Time New Roman. They seem a bit old school and traditional, but they are the perfect fonts to use when you are looking to incite trust.

Sans Serif Fonts. These are fonts like Franklin Gothic and Helvetica. Unlike Serif Fonts, the letters have smooth edges and are ideal if you are looking to give your brand a more modern and sleek feel.

Script Typography. This category imitates cursive handwriting and include fonts like Pacifico and Allura. They make for a more feminine or luxurious feel in designs.

Display Fonts. These fonts are perfect when you are looking to make a bold statement–something not easily forgotten. Metallica’s lightning bolt font is a great example of display font.

Now that we have acquainted you with the four main categories of typography, be mindful as you choose one, as whichever typography you go with will go a long way in determining how people perceive your brand.

Colour Palette

Next on the list of design attributes you need to worry about as you develop your brand identity is colour palette.

Believe it or not, colours are just ordinary. Each colour, depending on your culture or side of the world, denotes something. This means that when people see a certain colour, certain image, feeling, thought etc comes to mind. For starters, let’s take a look at the most common colours, what they denote, and how you can use that knowledge to your advantage as you develop your brand identity.

  • Black can be incorporated in your designs to give your brand a modern touch or a tinge of sophistication.
  • Brown: when you are looking to stand out from the crowd, this could be the colour to use, if only because it’s rarely used in branding. Brown may also be used to convey masculinity or ruggedness.
  • Pink. This is the mother of gender stereotypes. In most cultures, it is associated with femininity. If your target audience is women, this can be an ideal colour to incorporate in your branding designs.
  • Purple: This colour is often used to portray royalty. Thus, it might work for you when you are looking to give your brand a luxurious feel.
  • Blue: this is a colour that appeals to most people. It’s easily accepted by both genders. Perfect for when you are looking to appeal to a wide demographic, it can make your brand seem more trustworthy and stable.
  • Green calls to mind ‘money’ and ‘nature’ in most cultures. If your brand has to do with wealth or eco-friendly products, this might be the perfect colour to use.
  • Orange: This is often used to denote friendliness and playfulness. Use it when your brand is looking to exude those feelings.
  • Yellow makes most people think of sunshine. It’s the colour of happiness and cheerfulness. It can be the ideal colour to use when you want to portray your brand as fun, affordable, and accessible.
  • Red. This is the colour of excitement and passion. Do you want a youthful or loud brand identity? Red might be the perfect choice.

Shapes & Lines

Just like colours, shapes can incite various reactions in people. For instance, a person’s reaction to circle will most likely be entirely different from their reaction when they see a triangle. By researching the various reactions surrounding certain shapes, you can integrate a shape in your design to inspire a designed reaction with your brand.

  • Round shapes, for instance, often inspire feelings of love and unity.
  • Straight edged shapes like squares and triangles, on the other hand, can inspire a feeling of trustworthiness and stability, since they generally denote efficiency and strength.
  • Straight Lines too have their own connotations. While horizontal line can convey peace and calm, vertical lines often depict strength and masculinity. So pay attention to them as you develop your brand identity.

Designing Your Brand Identity

Now that you understand the foundation of your design, it’s time to choose your design assets and then work with a designer to bring them and your brand identity to life. Of course, the design assets you select should be dependent on the nature of your business. Below are the most commonly used design assets:

Your Logo

This is a must have design asset for every business. You should aim for a logo that achieve the following:

  • Make a memorable impression on your prospects.
  • Conform with your industry’s standards.
  • Favour a classic feel over a trendy one, as you don’t want a logo that could go out of fashion in a few months.
  • Is simple, uncluttered, and neat. In order words, visually appealing.
  • Clearly conveys your identity and value as a business.
  • Comes in various formats (JPEG, PNG, etc) and multiple sizes
  • Has a black and white version

Learn more about designing a great logo. https://99designs.com/blog/tips/how-to-design-logo/

Your Website

This is another vital design asset worth making part of your brand identity, especially in this digital age. This is where consumers find information about your business online. If you run an online business or sell digital products, not having a website or at least a landing page is like trying to fill a gallon without a funnel. You will end up missing out leads that could propel your business to success.

Learn more about building a website.

Your Product Packaging

Whether you sell products or services online or offline, how you present that product to consumers can make or mar its success in the market. They say don’t judge a book by its cover, but unfortunately that’s exactly worth people do. Therefore, never neglect your product packaging. Ensure that the designer you use gets it right.

Business Cards

This might sound a bit old fashioned, but trust me business cards are still in vogue. The best part is that you can reinforce your branding and the message you want to get across to consumers by having a stock up of business cards to give out. Who knows. A long lost customer could come calling simply because you gave them a way to reach you–a business card.

Remember to keep the design of your business card simple. The card should also have your logo and important contact details.

Your Email Design

If a website or landing page design number in your list of design assets, then so should an email design. Email marketing can become a means of reaching out to your customers once in a while to promote both old and new products or even educate about your company. While you are at it, remember that a simple design is better than a cluttered one. Also, stunning images can go a long way.

Your Branding Style Guide

This is a document that shows your design assets and how to use them. It can serve as a blueprint for your brand identity to ensure that future designs conforms to your original brand identity and inspires the desired perception among your prospects.

Now that You have learnt the most basic aspects of creating design assets for your brand identity, it’s time to reach out to a designer and give your business the best brand identity it can get.

What Brand Identity Is and Isn’t

What brand identity is and isn't - Macaulay Gidado

Before we dive into the topic brand identity, let’s try a more familiar question: what makes up your public image?

A typical answer can entail a host of things, from your sense of fashion to how you behave in public. These all come together to make up your public image or personal identity.

Brand Identity is similar, although it involves more conscious decisions. It’s simply the marketing elements and practices that shape your business’ public image (your brand).

Before we go forward, it’s worth noting that ‘brand identity’ isn’t the same thing as ‘brand’, as is obvious above. Neither is it the same thing as ‘branding’. The three terms are very different even though they are often interchangeably misused.

Let me explain.

  • Your brand is your business’ public image. That is, how people perceive your business. Sometimes, perception can be false. Kind of like how some celebrities drive very flashy cars, even though they are dead broke. Thus, a brand is sometimes not how a business looks on the inside. It’s simply how it looks on the outside. It’s simply a public image.
  • Brand Identity, on the other hand, is that selection of elements that make up your brand (your desired public image). For instance, take the James Bond character as a brand. Some of the brand elements that make up that brand would thus be: a dark fitting tuxedo, a pair of shiny Oxfords, a clean-shaven face, a Rolex watch, a fast sophisticated car, and a healthy dose of confidence.
  • And finally Branding is all about actively promoting a business or a particular product through advertising and distinctive design. Branding is simply where your brand identity and marketing meet.

Why do entrepreneurs have to worry about brand identity?

Well, I will tell you why. It’s all about perception. You are either in control of how people perceive your business or you are not. Brand identity helps you be in control.

How to Develop a Brand Identity that Works

The foundation of brand identity resides in design as found in elements like your logo, the packaging of your product, your business website, your paid media, and so on. But before you jump into design assets, you need to first reflect on your business. Otherwise, you could end up creating a brand identity that falls apart once your brand is out there in the world.

Look Within

Lots of brands out there are false public images. You don’t want to be one of them as you would be setting yourself up for failure in the future.

Therefore, in trying to develop your brand identity, look within. Ask yourself these questions:

  • What’s my mission? That is, why did you start your business?
  • What’s my values? What beliefs and values do you as a company identify with?
  • How is your company any different from other companies in your niche?
  • Is your company special? How?
  • In three words, how would you want people to describe your business?
  • If your business had a voice, what would it say and how would it say it?

Answer these questions and the picture of the public image you are trying to build for your business will become much clearer to you. Now, let’s do something else.

You As an Outsider

Remember we defined ‘brand’ as how people perceive a particular business. I want you to think of yourself as one of those people–you know, as a potential consumer.

Now, be honest. As an outsider, what do you think of the business you are trying to build? The image you have in your head, is it a good one? Does it match the public image you desire for your company?

Don’t panic if it doesn’t. It just means you have work to do.

Check back next week to learn how to shape your brand through design.