In our digital world, social media touches more than just our personal lives—it has become a forum to build a personal brand that can advance our career and business goals. Doing this takes some effort, but the results are worth the investment.

Building a personal brand isn’t about showing off or becoming “internet famous.” Getting the most out of social networking is about making sure that prospective clients, new colleagues and employees see you with your best foot forward. How do you do that? We can help.

Our Director of Social Programs Rebecca Mayville put together an easy-to-follow guide on how to create a social media presence for professionals. Her eBook, Leadership That Gets Noticed, is now available to download for free.

Why should you develop your personal brand?

Who is telling your story online? If you’re not taking control of your professional profile on social media, you’re letting other people tell your story. Whether you’ve been quoted or mentioned in articles, you’ve been tagged in photos on Facebook or you have a virtually empty LinkedIn page, those search results say something about you. And it’s probably not what you’d say about yourself.

Owning and building a personal brand is important for executives and research proves this. CEOs with a social media presence drive engagement and trust for themselves and their companies. And half of consumers believe that CEOs who don’t use social media will be out of touch with their customers.

How to define your personal brand

The foundation of a great personal brand starts with identifying who you are and what you stand for. As a first step, create a personal brand statement that helps you identify your values and determine how you want people to see and engage with you.

Use this statement to help define what you stand for. Choose traits that not only describe you but that overlap with the interests of the people you want to connect with.

How to put your personal brand into action

Your LinkedIn profile background or banner image, profile photo, headline and bio should reflect your brand statement and values. The background banner image in particular is not something many people change, but it’s the perfect place to highlight social proof or achievements. LinkedIn is all about branding. With the right messaging, you can create a better impression.

Research shows that just having a profile picture makes your profile 14 times more likely to be viewed by others and a smile – showing teeth – makes you appear more likeable, competent and influential. This may sound obvious, but your photo should give visitors a clear idea of what you’d look like if they met you personally or on a conference call tomorrow.

Instead of using your current job title as your headline, like everyone else, use those 120 characters wisely and creatively. Are you a Vice President or a Digital Transformation Champion? Your headline can describe what you do and display your values rather than repeat what’s on your business card.

Finally, your “About” section shouldn’t be a long explanation of all your work experience. That’s all listed below. Take this opportunity to connect with your network about what fuels you and what your life experiences have taught you.

Our Leadership That Gets Noticed eBook provides a detailed, step-by-step guide to creating a personal brand that aligns with your values and tells the story you want to tell. Plus, it outlines the best strategy for identifying your goals and sharing content moving forward.

This is the first of a series of guidebooks on how to get the most out of social media with Mercer-MacKay. Stay tuned for more and download Leadership That Gets Noticed now.