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By Sheila Bacon,

Every company and most people have a reputation. Everyone you meet will form an opinion about your company, even if they have not done business with you yet. The challenge is to manage your reputation so that the opinion that people have of you is positive. This is what creates a brand.

For example brands have a number of strategic functions, enabling you to:

Differentiate yourself from your competition
Position your focused message in the hearts and minds of your target customers
Persist and be consistent in your marketing efforts
Customize your services to reflect your personal brand
Deliver your message clearly and quickly
Project credibility
Strike an emotional chord
Create strong user loyalty
Below I have outlined ten key trends for sustaining personal and business branding and would welcome your comments.

Access to web and social media content will continue to shape opinions about you or your company’s brand.
“Activeworking” –Building connections and lists that count
Every ONE has a website– get online visibility now
Morning Coffee &
Reputation Management– an every day ritual
Brand building is about DIALOGUES
Transparency will out you
Niches will be inevitable and very important
The power/value of information will increase substantially
Video & Social Mobility: Closing the gap between knowing someone and actually meeting them.
You will be judged by your voice, not just your resume

1. Access to web and social media content will continue to shape opinions about you or your company’s brand. Since content is made freely available across the web, you need to be in the right mix. The more people that know about your brand (free content) the better chance you have to build a relationship with them.  Make time now to use the platforms that are free currently.

2. It’s about using the web to build lists and ‘connections” (what I call “Activeworking”) We see companies of all sizes are developing and building upon their lists, including email and blog subscribers, Linked in contacts, Twitter followers, Facebook fans, etc.  More businesses are viewing social media and email as an important way to build lists of people interested in their products and services and then to convert them over time.  It is important that you get a business process in place to participate.

3. A saturated web– Everyone is a website! Most businesses have websites, but the world is forcing every single person to have their own website! Wow.  A lot of business owners have ignored their own personal brands in the past because they feel that their brand might conflict with their company’s brand. In the future, perhaps everyone in every company and anyone with a pulse will have a website. In fact, there are over 1.3 billion internet users, with 200 million websites.  We expect that there will be a 30,000 fold increase in websites over the next decade.  There are incredible disadvantages to ignoring the explosions of websites and blogs, such as lack of online visibility, so get prepared.

4. I’ll have “Morning Coffee and Reputation” — your everyday ritutal. With more and more consumers making decisions based on what they find online, people and business owners are going to have to set time aside every single day (not every week or month) to review comments said about their brands and make decisions about what to do/ not do using social media and branding. Best practice to review online brand mentions using a variety of tools, such as Google.com/alerts, search.twitter.com and backtype.com.

5. It’s about DIALOGUE – just reviewing comments isn’t going to be good enough. Brands will be forced to react to brand mentions in order to prevent negative word of mouth.  The ability to carry on a dialogue is a very important skill. There will be victims and there will be winners.  Those that invest more time protecting their online identities will succeed.

6. Transparency will out you. The truth about you and your company is going to come whether you like it or not. Why?  Because search engines are starting to blend with social networks and status updates are being made visible and accessible just about everywhere on the web. The “real-time web” makes search engines more relevant to the end user. This poses incredible opportunities but also some threats that you will have to be aware of.  Every single time you publish a tweet, it will appear in Google and other search engines and, with your permission, it can appear on LinkedIn, Facebook, and other places like Brazen Careerist and Ning networks.  If consumers start trashing a brand (such as yours), it might make the first page of your Google search results and damage your brand.   Be prepared with a good plan of management should this occur.

7. Niches are inevitable. Face it, not everyone will be able to become mega brands. Those that have the best content and dialogue will float to the top. It will be much harder to compete with big brands, which means the focus will be on niches and “hyper-niches.”  People will have to really narrow down their market in order to stand out and succeed.  So check out those keywords and spend some time defining who you are and what you stand for.

8. The power/value of information will increase substantially.  This sounds so simple.  But, if you aren’t in tune with what’s going on in your industry and with the latest technology developments, you are set to lose out.  Have you set up Google alerts? Are you reading at least 20 articles or blog posts each day?  If not, then you better start because you’re competitors are and they are forming relationships with the media and bloggers as we speak.  The business world is moving fast and if you can’t keep up, then you may be out of business.

9. Video & Social Mobility:  Closing the gap between knowing someone and actually meeting them. The number of people viewing video is growing big time and so is mobility (viewing video with a tiny screen).  Almost 75% of you use video now.  So In business, this is called building trust and a connection with your audience.  Text and audio doesn’t have that type of impact, which is why video will continue to be a huge. The numbers project that over 600 million mobile users will be using social networks by 2012, which means that businesses will have to start making their websites mobile friendly.  It also means that a lot of branding will be viewed and spread from one mobile device to the next.

10. You will be judged on your voice, not just your resume. Most people judge others by their resume.  A resume is an account of what you’ve accomplished in the past and an attempt to show a prospective customer what you’re capable of in the future. Sorry to say that a resume won’t be powerful enough to build your brand in the future. In addition to all that work experience and all of that credibility you’ve built up, your online conversations will be just as valuable.  If you don’t blog or comment on blogs or at least update your status on social networks, then you won’t be perceived as a valuable contributor.

Please let me know your thoughts?  Thanks!