Your Digital Brand

| By TMA World


Branding is critical to the success of any business, but it is just as important to success at the personal level.

Our personal brand is a major influence on our perceived performance and future career development.  An attractive and solid brand identity increases your chances of:

• Being selected for the most rewarding assignments
• Gaining greater recognition for your expertise
• Building trusting and productive relationships
• Developing influence in your workplace

Personal branding is about defining and communicating the value we bring to our organizations through our interactions with others, e.g. colleagues, customers, and partners.  In a borderless, networked world our interactions are increasingly digital, i.e. conducted with people we may never meet via communication and collaboration technologies.  More than ever we need to look at our personal brand through a digital lens. 

Our digital brands are made up of perceptions about our ability to achieve business goals in our technologically-mediated relationships.  We have a personal digital brand whether we have chosen to create one or not; our intentional and unintentional actions in digital media communicate powerful messages about who we are, how we feel, our credibility, and our trustworthiness.  

Creating a personal digital brand is not about flooding social media in the workplace with self-promotional messages directed at our managers and colleagues.  It is a thoughtfully considered process aimed at answering the following question:
What is the experience of value I want others to have when working with me via technology?

If the experience of value I intend is not the same as the experience perceived by others, then I have a digital brand problem.  Not every colleague, customer, or partner will have exactly the same perception of our digital brand, but there should be a significant level of consistency.

In building and maintaining our digital brand we need to manage perceptions around three overlapping capabilities that create value for us – demonstrating digital literacy, digital presence, and digital fluency.

The phases in the brand development process overlap because there is no strictly defined border between them.  As confidence and competence grows in using the tools, we are better able to demonstrate our engagement and value to our different teams and networks.  As we apply the tools in different work contexts we are able to be smarter in applying the tools to achieve best results.  

Digital Literacy (DL)
DL signifies our level of competence in using the individual digital tools available to us in our workplace, e.g. email, instant messaging, tele- and video-conferencing, interactive web-meetings, wikis, blogging and micro-blogging, podcasting, and social networking?  Having no clear understanding of each tool’s designed purpose and benefits, and having only a minimal skill level for using them, means your digital brand will lack basic credibility.  The rapid change in technologies for the workplace means that maintaining digital literacy is an ongoing process.

Digital Presence (DP)
Competence in using the available tools is not enough to build your digital brand.  You also need to use the tools to build a digital presence and identity. When you are ‘present’ to others, they feel they know who you are, and that you are actively involved and committed, and can add value. 
Presence has two main ingredients: the quantity and quality of interactions.
Quantity refers to the number of interactions you have with others in the digital space.  How often do you email, instant message, post to social media, blog, podcast, and attend virtual meetings.  Too many interactions and the likelihood is you will be seen as too controlling or a pest; too few and you will be seen as distant or disengaged.  The challenge is to find an optimal level of contact; that can change depending on familiarity with individuals and groups and the challenges they face.
Quality refers to the nature of your interactions.  How well can you connect/resonate with others?  You want to be perceived in a certain way, e.g. as a professional, a subject-matter expert, a collaborator, as someone who shares knowledge, as someone who brings value, as someone who is emotionally intelligent.  That’s what you want, but your digital colleagues, customers and partners determine the quality of your online presence.  They do this by assessing your everyday emotional presence and actions, e.g. collaborating, communicating clearly, delivering on promises, contributing a fair share of the work, running efficient virtual meetings, working virtually across cultures.  

Digital Fluency (DF)
DF signifies your ability to utilize the available set of technologies strategically and tactically.  Implicit in ‘strategic’ is high-level planning to achieve one or more business goals under specific conditions, e.g. collaborating across multiple time zones and cultures.  Supporting the strategic plan would be a tactical plan that identifies the most appropriate tools and systems – and their usage – to best meet the goal(s).  Tactical plans might change as the conditions change, e.g. project goals are shifted, or the number of time zones/participants to be factored in is increased or reduced.

Digital fluency is important because our communication and collaboration tools are not general-purpose.  Each one has specific capabilities and limitations, and each one has technology effects, i.e. each one influences the nature of our work interactions differently.  Some technologies promote relationship and trust building while others are best at exchanging information.  Choice of technology – or technology mix – can determine whether a goal is met or not. 

Part of digital fluency is also understanding the contexts in which technologies are to be used.  If a virtual team, for example, is widely distributed across time zones, a reliance on synchronous (real-time) technologies is likely to have a negative impact on the team.  A greater reliance on asynchronous (delayed-time) tools is more likely to be more conducive.

If there are gaps in how you and others perceive your capabilities, you have a digital brand problem.

In conclusion, your digital brand is comprised of an amalgam of perceptions generated among your digital colleagues, customers, and partners.  You have responsibility for and control over the input into your brand (your Digital Literacy, Digital Presence, and Digital Fluency), but ultimately your brand is defined by others.
In terms of the three capabilities, where do you see your current digital brand strengths and weaknesses? 

Digital Literacy

Weak                         OK                                  Strong       

Digil Presence

Weak                         OK                                  Strong       

Digital Fluency

Weak                         OK                                 Strong       



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