Sunday, October 23, 2011

Personal Branding: Bringing it all together – tools to aggregate information

If you’ve been following my other posts regarding creating a professional online presence and your own personal brand through social networking, you probably have a number of accounts and profiles. You don’t want to spend all of your time checking and posting information to all of your different social networking sites separately, so I’ll share with you several interesting and fun (and did I mention free?) web or desktop tools that will make your online life easier!

In a previous post I gave you information on how to find scholarships using Twitter ( ). You should also search the Web, using different search engines, including  Bing ( ); you will come across sites that have frequently updated information. Instead of bookmarking the site and checking it regularly, it’s a good idea to set up RSS feeds. They can keep you up to date with the latest news, sports results, weather, music, or what your friends are doing (Twitter or blogs, for example), by bringing the information to you. If you need more information about what RSS feeds are, and how to set them up using a feed reader or news aggregator, here’s a helpful YouTube video to get you started:

RSS in Plain English:

Twitter can be an important part of your social media life. You might have more than one profile or account, with many people and organizations that you follow and watch, a frequent need to do searches of topics (scholarships!), and of course, your own microblogging activities. Twitter itself is pretty limited, but there are free desktop applications you can download and use. There are a number worth checking out (do a search for "social media tools"); here are a couple of my favorites:

TweetDeck lets you manage all of your Twitter accounts, stay in contact with Facebook and more. I have Facebook in one column, my personal Twitter account in another, my Scholarship Twitter account in yet another. There is a refresh button, but the updates come in automatically. You also have the option of having alerts pop up (much like messenger). You can check on the local trends – what your friends are talking about – and see your favorites (much like bookmarks or favorites). It’s easy to Tweet to multiple accounts, and it will sync with your iPhone if you have one. Check out the tabs at the top of the Tweetdeck website:  ( )

Seesmic is very similar to TweetDeck, and is undergoing new updates regularly, so by the time you read this blog and try it out, it will have even more capabilities. Seesmic makes it easy to reply to Facebook and Twitter, sharing text, links, photos and videos all in one screen. There are plenty of options: cell phone, desktop, web, and more: ( )

Another one – PageFlakes ( ). As soon as you set up your account, there is a default tab (page) that brings in default information such as the local weather, national news, video options, music options, and so on. You can create more tabs/pages for different content. On my second tab I have my RSS feeds to the blogs I follow, along with Facebook and my Twitter accounts. On the third tab I have specific Google searches as RSS feeds (you can search for “Scholarships for International Students” and use it as an RSS feed). I always keep my browser open, with the PageFlakes site available 24/hours a day for instant access to all the information I need.

There are so many other Web and desktop tools and applications available – find something that works for you! And if you find or use something that you really like – please share the information by leaving a comment below. (Thanks!)

Very shortly the prime time for applying for scholarships for next spring and next year will be here! My next series of posts will get you ready, and hopefully very competitive – so “RSS” this blog site! ; )

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Personal Branding: LinkedIn

LinkedIn is a more professional social networking site that is career-focused and enables users to exchange knowledge, ideas, and opportunities with trusted contacts. LinkedIn users invite people they know and trust to become "linked in" to them. (Similar to being friends on Facebook.) They are then called “Connections”. Choose connections wisely. You'll also want to choose your network carefully; only add people you actually know – and who know you well enough to give you glowing recommendations. A recruiter may choose to contact one of your connections to ask about you; make sure that person is someone you know and trust, such as family, friends, former teachers, colleagues, and employers. Here’s a short video description of LinkedIn:

A major feature of LinkedIn is its groups, allowing anyone to start a group based on an association or industry topic. For example, there are tens of thousands of academic and corporate groups that enable alumni and employees to stay in touch. LinkedIn members request an invitation to the group and can receive postings by other members via e-mail. It is through these groups that you can find jobs and internships, and make new connections. Watch for future blog posts about how to use LinkedIn to find internships and jobs.

Here’s how to get started:

Go to and create a free account.
  • Create your profile. Your profile is very important, and can increase your visibility online and help build your personal/professional brand. Make sure your profile is complete and detailed – almost like an online resume that includes information such as education, skills, qualifications, employment information and experience, and recommendations.

  • Add a picture. It’s always important to connect a face with your name. A headshot is recommended; but no larger than 80x80 pixels.
    Education. When adding information about your education, don’t forget to add your activities, associations, and any special honors or awards you’ve earned.

  • Professional Summary. When filling out this section, be sure to select an industry (recruiters often use that field to search). If you change your major, or are looking for a job in a different industry later on, make sure you update this information. There is a ‘headline’ feature that will appear at the top of the page when your profile is viewed by others – so be sure to fill in this information.

  • Keywords and skills. Be sure to include keywords and skills that will make it easier for your profile to be found in search results.

  • Contact settings. Contact settings let your connections (and recruiters) know what you are available for. Even if you are not ready for a job yet, it’s beneficial to be flexible here – you never know what opportunities might come along.

  • Links. If you have a web site, blog, or Twitter profile, add the links – it’s a good way to provide more information about you, and your interests. Beyond just linking to my blog sites, I have used the RSS feed to bring my blogs into my profile (this is a good idea of your blog is professional in nature, rather than personal – more information about blogging in a future blog!).

  • Public Profile URL. Make your profile public. Customize your URL so it is easily recognizable as yours … such as

  • Make connections. Connect with other members and build your network – invite family, friends, former teachers and current professors, and employers (past and present). The more connections you have, the more opportunities you have. Just make sure you only connect with people you know – quality is more important than quantity here!

  • Get Recommendations. Ask former and current employers, teachers, and professors for recommendations – as you would for a resume.

  • Groups. Join groups that you are affiliated with (such as the school you are attending, or have graduated from); or groups that interest you – by topic, industry, or interest.
There is plenty of excellent information about LinkedIn on the Web – use a search engine or two and look up information that can help you create a professional LinkedIn profile, or how to use LinkedIn to find information, internships, or jobs.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Personal Branding: Creating Your Twitter Profile

Twitter is a must for college students! – For personal branding, networking, opportunities, and limitless access to information. Recent headlines say that Twitter is transforming business and impacting life in general! So, what is Twitter? Twitter is a free social networking and micro-blogging service that lets you post short text messages on your profile – up to 140 characters. You can follow people or organizations in order to read their updates (or ‘Tweets’), and others can follow you to read your Tweets as well.

To begin, create your free profile at using your name (try to be consistent with the same form of your name that you used to create other social profiles). Fill out your user profile completely, including adding a picture of yourself. Make sure your bio reflects and represents who you are. Before you start posting, think about how you want to brand (or represent) yourself.

Basic information to get you started:

First, you can only post 140 characters, but only use abbreviations when necessary. If you want to post a link to a web site, you might want to shorten the link by using a URL shrinking service such as or You will see posts with “RT” – this is used when someone is re-tweeting something someone has already posted. The “@” sign is used to direct a message to a particular user. For more information on how to effectively use Twitter, check out the following videos on Youtube: Twitter in Plain English: , Twitter Tutorial - Getting Started: 

Beyond keeping connected with family and friends, and creating a personal brand with Twitter, there are definitely other benefits and opportunities.

The current economic situation and poor job market are making it very important to get ahead of the competition through online networking, and using invaluable online tools such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and others. According to some professionals, social media tools will separate you from the pack. It is estimated that 78 per cent of companies now use social media or networking sites to both find and attract people to fill graduate jobs. Four out of five hiring managers Google search a candidate’s name before they decide to bring them in for an interview. Some feel the traditional job boards like and are outdated and may cease to exist in the future. Employers want graduates to research jobs and prepare for interviews more thoroughly than ever – and this is possible through Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and other online social tools.

As an international student, it will be useful for you to follow schools, organizations, and companies that post information regarding studying abroad, scholarships, internships, jobs, travel and volunteer information and opportunities. You can also ask the people you follow for help or advice. Check out this video at Youtube “How to Find and Follow People on Twitter: ; here’s a link to help you find people or organizations to follow:!/who_to_follow/;

And maybe the best thing about Twitter is that it’s fun! You’ll find different ways to use Twitter - connecting with people who share the same interests and ideas can create a special community for you; connecting with people who have different interests and ideas can open your world!

The next post: How to build your personal brand using LinkedIn. (Very professional, huge benefits!)

Monday, October 3, 2011

Personal Branding: Getting started with Facebook

In my previous post, I wrote about the importance of creating a personal brand; in today’s post we get started! Currently one of the top websites, Facebook is one of the first places to start your personal branding campaign. Everyone should have a Facebook strategy and it should be based on your overall life goals. (But certainly balance the professional with the personal - your profile should reflect who you are!)

Most of you may already have a Facebook profile, but make sure you look good when a college or company recruiter looks up your profile – and they will. The Federal Trade Commission (in the U.S.) has decided that companies and universities that research how you spend your personal time and what your passions and hobbies are do not violate your privacy.  In other words, the Internet is fair game.

 Depending on who you are, where you are in your career, what you’re passionate about and an expert in, you’ll want to brand yourself differently. Here’s a quick list of ways to promote YOU on Facebook:

1. Use your real name in all of your online profiles; be consistent in your branding (and be yourself).
2. Add important information about you, focusing on the education and work section. In the contact information field, be sure to list your blog if you have one, any websites you might have and links to your profiles on other social networks. (More information about other networks in my next blog!)
3. Put your picture on your profile – they are a positive addition to your online presence. It’s always better if you can associate the name with a face. In fact, post albums of pictures! (Just be thoughtful about the pictures you post.)
4. You might consider turning tagging settings off for both photos and videos; some pictures you just might not want everyone to find easily.
5. Keep the applications and widgets to a minimum; only those that will represent who you are in a positive light.
6. Join and actively participate in Groups that interest you; or start your own!
7. Regularly update your status – making it a reflection of who you are and what you do.
8. Write informational notes.
9. Share useful links.
10. Comment on your friends’ walls, pictures, videos, notes, and posted items
11. Check -- and frequently recheck -- your privacy settings on social-media accounts like Facebook and Twitter.You may set your entire account to private or grant certain individuals permission to view sections of your profile. You can also make your entire profile public for everyone to see, which could be beneficial to you if you’re looking to become more visible, and have your name come up in searches.
12. Make every effort to find out what's out there about you. Anything that may be taken out of context should be taken down.

Next blog post … How to build your personal brand on Twitter (FUN!!)