Building your professional brand online
When it comes to building your professional brand, there is a broad range of free online platforms that you can put to good use. Here is a quick a look at just a few of them…
LinkedIn Answers and Groups
It's the most obvious example, but still worth exploring a little. LinkedIn is the world's largest social network aimed specifically at professionals, with over one million Australian members. LinkedIn is becoming an increasingly popular vehicle for virtual network building, but it's not just a place to connect with people you met offline, at a conference or industry event.
Once you have your LinkedIn profile set up, you can get involved in LinkedIn Answers, which enables you to help fellow members with their questions. This could be anything from recommending a particular service provider to throwing in your two cents worth on a trending topic in your industry. Answer a bunch of these questions and you can earn expert status, plus every answer you post pops up on your profile and is visible to your network.
LinkedIn Groups, of which there are now 700,000 worldwide, offer similar opportunities to make new contacts and establish your authority in a given topic area. With so many already listed, there's a good chance that there will be existing groups you can join. Once you're in you can start new discussions or contribute to those posted by your fellow members.
Launched by two former Facebook employees, Quora has witnessed rapid growth over the past 12 months and is said to be planning a funding round that will give it a suitably whopping valuation (perhaps upwards of $1 billion).
The concept is pretty simple. You create a profile with your real name, photo and bio. Once you're set up, you can post questions on your chosen topics and answer questions posted by the rest of the 'Quommunity'. Answers get voted up and down and edited to improve and update them.
Similar to LinkedIn answers, regular providers of high-quality responses on particular subjects can become experts. If your industry is web-facing, you're likely to recognise some of the existing experts. If you look at "SEO" for example, Rand Fishkin of SEOMoz, Mashable founder Pete Cashmore and Portent CEO and blogger Ian Lurie are among the top 'answerers'.
Blogging and article submission
A good answer to a question is a great piece of original content, but you don't have to wait to be asked to show the world what an expert you are in your chosen field. Setting up a blog has never been easier and if you've got the knowledge and have a decent grasp of the English language you can share your skills and experience with the online community.
As anyone who knows a little about developing a good content marketing strategy will tell you, attracting readers to a brand new blog can take some time, especially if there's a lot of competition in your chosen topic area. An alternative to writing on your own domain is to get your content published on an existing website or blog.
There are various general directories that will take articles and display them with other similar pieces of work. Most also provide a customisable link back to your site. You might also want to seek out sites specific to your niche and see if you can get published there. A lot of blogs and news sites take free submissions. If you find some suitable platforms, the key is to develop a succinct and consistent bio that ideally links back to your site or even your LinkedIn profile.