Image is everything, even online

If you’re like many Canadians, chances are you have more than one e-mail address and at least one of your online identities contains a fun or cute word. But if you’re gunning for a promotion or applying for a new job, it may be time to switch from “bon bon girl” to something more reflective of your career aspirations.

“Everyone is an individual brand — the ‘you’ brand,” says Mitch Joel, president of Twist Image, a Montreal-based digital marketing agency. “If managed incorrectly, this can have negative consequences when it comes to getting a job, advancing your career or maintaining a positive reputation.”

He’s responding to the results of an MSN Canada/Ipsos-Reid survey that found four of 10 Canadians don’t know how to use the Internet to promote themselves or their careers. The survey raised several red flags, says Joel, who adds that the lines between your online persona and real life brand are blurring.

Creating a carefully-polished online image begins with your e-mail address. According to the survey, 80% of Canadians describe one of their online identities as “personal” — a variation of their name, a nickname or personality trait. One quarter use a fun word that reflects an image or hobby. But what happens when “bon bon girl” grows up? “I push everyone to use their own name in their address,” Joel says.

The survey found 67% of e-mail users have more than one e-mail address. To protect your privacy but still be visible, Joel recommends using consistent personal information in all online activities, such as the same photo and same e-mail alias for all your accounts. The idea: to become recognizable across many channels.

But don’t stop there. You should also regularly Google your name. If you find an unprofessional or unflattering YouTube clip of yourself, chances are the human resources professional checking out potential job candidates will find it, too. Polish your image or delete inappropriate information. “People search you just like you search them,” Joel says.

The one quarter of Canadians who have already used the Internet to promote themselves for personal or professional gain are the smart ones, Joel believes. Security must always be top of mind, but it shouldn’t overshadow your digital image.

Take your online brand one step further by actively searching for environments where you can thrive. “Even within Facebook, there are segments and niches that reflect interests like geography and marketing,” Joel says. “Make sure you’re well connected.”

Online Strategies

Develop a strong online brand with the following strategies from Mitch Joel of Twist Image:

  • The majority of Canadians (85%) avoid putting personal information about themselves on the Internet to protect their privacy and reputation. But if you’re not online, you’re not proactively promoting your personal brand.
  • Fewer than 5% of Canadians would change their e-mail alias if they could get their first request. Reconsider this. Own an e-mail alias featuring your name, rather than a vague variation, and use that ID in all your e-mail accounts.