It’s well documented that social media has revolutionized how we communicate in our personal and professional lives. For professionals, being active on social networks has become an expectation.
Universities and employers are increasingly using social networks like LinkedIn as part of “cyber-vetting” during the application process. It’s important to have a presence on major social networks, but because you’re expected to have these profiles as a baseline, having them is no longer enough to make you stand out. Here are three reasons why social media is not enough to build your personal brand online:
Social Networks Are Not Available Everywhere
According to a 2012 study, 26% of U.S. companies block or restrict access to social media sites. Another study reports that an astounding 59% of companies worldwide block social media sites. There is also growing number of countries that ban social media sites altogether (for more, search the web for “countries that ban social media”). What does this mean for you? Potential employers or clients may not be able to access your social profiles, and if that is your only presence on the Web, they won’t be able to find you at all.
Everyone’s Packaging Is The Same
Marketers know that packaging design is an important component of branding. Packaging communicates a product’s value and differentiating features to the market. If you think about your own shopping habits, you can probably recall at least one time when you passed up on a product in favor of a competing product with a more interesting box.
The same logic applies when schools, companies, and potential clients are evaluating candidates. Social networks typically don’t give you much control over the “packaging” of your profile, such as your colors, fonts, or arrangement of content, which leaves you with something that looks almost identical to everyone else’s and a missed opportunity to stand out.
It’s Not Only About You
Social networks make some of their money by selling ads in the space that appears next to user content. As much as two thirds of your profile page (and sometimes more, depending on the site) is dedicated to ad space or other profiles. This “other” content competes for the attention of the person viewing your page and often draws them to other places, which can include the profiles of other potential applicants or vendors.
What You Can Do
Traditionally, authors, athletes, politicians, and other prominent public figures have created websites as an end destination for all their self-promotional efforts, from paid ad campaigns to social media activity. These websites allow visitors to learn more about the person in a way that makes sense for them and on their schedule. Because of the cost and difficulty involved in setting up a high-quality website, it is a tool that has typically been reserved for affluent public personalities.
In recent years, however, new technology has taken the historically difficult task of creating a website and made it accessible to everyone. Several tools exist that allow you to set up attractive websites, control the placement and display of your content, and even create a community with a blog. It has never been easier or less expensive to create the online “home” that every brand needs.
Social media is a powerful networking tool, but we are long past the days when it can be used to help you stand out in a meaningful way. Professionals should explore investing in a personal website to stand out and get ahead in their careers.