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Personal Branding 101

How to stop broadcasting all your updates on Linkedin

Linkedin is a great resource for professional networking, information gathering and sharing, and discovering volunteer, work, and other opportunities. It also does a fairly good job of keeping us in the know about what's going with others with whom we're connected through email updates as well as their homepage. Usually, when I see an update that one of my friends or former colleagues has received a new promotion, job, or is now seeking new opportunities, I reach out via email or a phone call and congratulate them and/or see how I might be of assistance.

However, there are many reasons you might not want your information being broadcasted every time you make an update. Perhaps, you're trying to update your profile to prepare for new opportunities. Maybe you're simply updating your profile in stages and don't want to show up in multiple emails as you make periodic updates. It might be something altogether different. Recently a friend simply changed the title of her current job to better describe what she does and I received an email telling me I should congratulate her on her new position. More than a few people have said, "Thanks, but I didn't know Linkedin sent out a message. I didn't want anybody to know. Thanks for letting me know you saw it. Do you know how I can stop that from happening?"

By default, Linkedin broadcasts your updates. However, there in a few steps you can change your preferences to stop that from happening. After being asked more than a few times, I thought I'd put together this brief tutorial complete with screenshots. I hope this is helpful for you. I've highlighted the click points in yellow.

Step 1: Login to Linkedin and then hover your mouse over your profile icon in the top left of the page.

Step 2: Click on "Privacy and Settings" from the drop down menu.

Step 3: Click on "Turn on/off your activity broadcasts."

Step 4: Uncheck the box and save changes. 

That's it. I hope that was helpful. Let me know if you have any questions at @michaelbmaine on Twitter.

Personal Branding 101 Lesson 2: You don't own your brand

A brand is not a tangible thing. It can be valued, but cannot be owned. A brand is the collective sentiment felt about you or your product. Since we’re talking about personal branding, we're talking about you. When somebody conjures up your name, what comes to mind? Are you reliable, trustworthy, fun, exciting, honest, hard-working, respectful, etc.? At its core, branding is fairly simple—its’ setting an expectation or set of expectations and then either failing to meet, meeting, or exceeding those expectations. Strong brands are strong because we know what to expect from them. Stronger brands are stronger because they exceed your expectations. Participating in their brand says something about us and our tribes. There’s a reason for the saying, “You're only as good as the company you keep.”

Zappos is commonly referred to as the gold start of customer service. They have a brand that is centered around providing a superior experience for the people who choose their business. We can spend money on all sorts of design (and we should), but word of mouth will make or break your brand. Trust is paramount. Don’t try to ‘create a brand’ based on what you think people want. Instead, it will be well worth your time to more fully and deeply understand who you are at the core of your being, learn your strengths, passions, values, and talents, and then work on contributing to the world around you.

In an article that appeared in AdAge, executive vice president of Nielsen Online Digital Strategic Services Pete Blackshaw writes:

Zappos is a game changer, and it found value -- and ferocious word-of-mouth and brand advocacy -- in a place most of us leave for dead and certainly don't consider even close to being a media channel: customer service. They took this "cost center" input and turned it into an unassailable asset, fortified by the founder-CEO's sometimes "cult-like" (arguably irrational, by the typical marketing book) obsession with serving the consumer at all costs. It wasn't flaky. He approached this with focus, discipline, real incentives and an obsession over a "different" set of numbers. (Is Customer Service a Media Channel? Ask Zappos, 2009)


Your goal for your first assignment is to begin collecting information from which you will learn what your brand really is. The reason this assignment is first is because it might take some time to get the responses you need in order to move forward with what you uncover in the next lesson.

  1. Make a list of ten people. This list should include some people you know well and some you don't. If you can, include family, friends, colleagues, and acquaintances. Try to include both people you are in communication with currently as well as the past. Former partners can be good for this as well.
  2. Make a brief note, email, tweet, Facebook post, or phone call to the people in your list and ask them know you are working on personal or professional development and would appreciate their help and feedback about who you are.

A few examples of notes are:

  1. Dear [insert name here], I am working on better understanding my gifts and talents in the world. Could you please describe me in three words, I would really appreciate it.  Thanks.
  2. Dear [insert name here], if you had to describe me in three words what would they be?
  3. Dear [insert name here], could you describe a time when you felt we were most connected?
  4. Dear [insert name here], could you describe a time you felt I was most me?

Personal Branding 101 Lesson 1: What is personal branding?

Personal branding means different things to different people. When I first set out to build a set of personal branding resources I thought people might find beneficial, I asked a lot of people where they needed guidance, what their goals were, and where their passions lie. Because of the misunderstandings around the term “branding” and the negative connotations associated with those misunderstandings (as well as how it’s been perpetuated through businesses and individuals who abuse it), I found it difficult to use the term. However, personal branding is the term that describes the process through which you build a truthful reputation. The most commonly accepted definition of personal branding is the one put forth by Dan Schawbel, who says:

“Personal branding describes the process by which individuals and entrepreneurs differentiate themselves and stand out from a crowd by identifying and articulating their unique value proposition, whether professional or personal, and then leveraging it across platforms with a consistent message and image to achieve a specific goal. In this way, individuals can enhance their recognition as experts in their field, establish reputation and credibility, advance their careers, and build self-confidence.”

Maybe you’re looking to better understand your strengths and/or values. Perhaps you’re looking to make a transition in your career or are interested in learning how to use traditional and/or social media. Whatever brought you here, I sincerely hope you find real value in reading, watching, listening to, and participating in the journey. To make sure we’re on the same page, here is what I think about personal branding and how I will approach using it to form genuine relationships and build a presence based on your essence.

Personal Branding Is NOT…

  • Shameless ego-stroking and self-promoting
  • A buzz word
  • A logo, tagline, and/or elevator pitch

Why Does Personal Branding Matter?

  • 5 out 6 adults in North America are considering changing jobs
  • You can expect to have 10 jobs in your lifetime—we no longer identify primarily with our job or company, so we need to know ourselves
  • The workforce is not secure—you can’t rely on a company to always take care of you
  • You are more empowered to positively affect you and the people around you
  • We are increasingly concerned with spending time with people and doing things we love

You Do NOT own your brand?

  • Your brand is the collective sentiment held by people who know you or know of you.
  • You have the power to help control that sentiment by building trust, setting proper expectations, and continually exceeding those expectations

Three C’s of Personal Branding

  • Clarity
  • Consistency
  • Constancy

Throughout these lessons, feel free to contact me, ask me questions, correct me, or otherwise engage. I'll do my best to provide the honest information that will provide the most value to you. But please let me know if there is anyway I can provide a better service. I respond most quickly on Twitter at @michaelbmaine.