Publicizing yourself on the web

This post is Day #12 in a series called Personal Branding for Software Developers.

For the final article in this series I want to talk about how you can go about getting some publicity for yourself as a developer and for your site. This notoriety can come in handy as you develop your personal brand and start to bring together all the pieces of your social networking strategy.

Throughout this series I have talked about many different ways to develop a personal brand and how to promote yourself through various social media outlets. However, as I discussed in my previous article I mentioned the need to have a uniform look to the information you present on these sites.

This idea is called Identity Consolidation and in this linked article I talk about using the HTML attribute tag of “rel=me”. When you reference your profile on another site from a site you already own then this attribute tells the search engine that you are the same person and it should link the two together. This way you have connected your profiles and in doing so the search engine can confidently say this is the same person. This can come in handy when you have a common name. Refer to the article above on how to implement this.

As part of the identity consolidation process you want to take an active role in managing your presence on the web. A good plan of action is to Google yourself every month or two to make sure that your information is correct.

Another way to promote yourself, and your blog especially, is to use the webmaster publishing tools provided for website publishers by Google and Bing.

These SEO tools allow you to submit sitemaps of your sites so that they can be indexed by their search engine crawlers. Note though that you need to have accounts with both Google and Microsoft to be able to use these tools. As well, you need to have access to the HTML of the sites you wish to index as you need to place code snippets on there.

A site that ranks highly in Google page rank technology is Technorati and thus it is a good idea to create an account with them as well. I suggest you use your full name so that you can use this as another outlet to publicize yourself. When you create your profile you can add links to your Twitter, Google+ and Facebook profiles, as well as add a biography. The best feature though is that Technorati allows you to claim a blog. To do this you will need to place a piece of code on your site so that Technorati can assign the blog to you. Once the claim process is complete your site will be listed in their directories and your posts can be read by their legions of readers. A complete profile will look something like mine.

UPDATE: Technorati discontinued their blog directory in 2014. See this link for more information.

As well, think of other sites where you have a public profile that you can leverage. Do you have accounts at Meetup, GitHub, CodePlex or Stack Overflow that you could flesh out? A lot of these sites allow you to add your Twitter handle and other social media sites to your profile. If you are an active user you may gain new Twitter followers because of your work there. The latter three sites are very important for programmers as they allow us to build a portfolio of work for all future job interviews. They demonstrate that we are passionate about our work and are willing to share it in an open-source way.

This completes my series on personal branding thru social networking for software developers. I thank you for reading the articles and I hope they can help you on your way to developing an extraordinary personal brand.

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Establish a uniform look for all your social media profiles

This post is Day #11 in a series called Personal Branding for Software Developers.

In this article I want to touch on a couple of simple things you can do when you are creating your social networking profiles. Specifically, to make sure all of the information that you share across all your sites is the same everywhere. You need to do this to avoid confusion and to create a unified web presence.

I have touched on the idea in past articles that whatever I wrote about myself on my various social networking profiles I always wrote in a text editor. This was done because it allowed me to compose in a familiar environment and I could use the various review tools to make sure everything was correct. I also did this because whatever I wrote I then set aside for a day or two. After this length of time mistakes would jump out at me and any missing information I needed to add could be done easily. Only once I was happy with my composition did I post it.

However, this format also served me well when I created my biography. Most social networking sites have areas where you can insert biographical information about yourself. This is generally in paragraph form but you can also use point form as well. By composing one biography well, you can then insert the same information – or shortened versions of it if space is at a premium – on every site where you have a profile. By doing so you are creating a uniform look for yourself.

This does not just apply to the biography but also to your headline. My current LinkedIn headline reads: “Senior Software Developer at Alvarnet Corporation | .NET Consultant | Web Developer | Windows Phone 7 Apps Maker.” I spent some time on composing that so I could include all of the keywords important to me. I have since used the same headline – or versions of it – on all my other social media profiles.

As well, I have used the same name – Ken, not Kenneth or Kenny – and the same photo across all of my sites as well. Again, a uniform look means when people see me on one site they know I am the same person from the other sites. My name is pretty unique so people can identify me easily enough but if you are a John Smith or some other common name your uniform look becomes even more important. Using the same headline reassures people that this John Smith is the SharePoint expert I am looking for and not a different one.

A uniform look means you can control the information people learn about you and you create a unified web presence in your social networking circles.

Expanding your personal network

This post is Day #10 in a series called Personal Branding for Software Developers.

In my last article I talked about speaking at conferences as a way to do social networking without the aid of digital tools. In this one I want to expand on that and touch on the subject of personal networking.

Before social media all networking was done face to face. The advent of the Chamber of Commerce was to help business owners meet other business owners so they could network to develop connections. These people could form friendships through their mutual associations. These personal networks could then be drawn upon when people needed help in various areas.

Business owners still do face-to-face networking although not as much these days. While some groups still put on breakfast meetings or lunches, a lot of people have put their efforts into online communities.

For software developers I still think there is a benefit to having a personal network that you can meet in person. These people can eventually become online friends but the people you meet in person are generally more likely to go the extra mile for you online if they have known you in person first.

One way to meet other developers and to create your in-person network is to attend user group meetings. If you live in a large enough city or close to one you can generally find a user group that deals with your software language or interest. Meetup.com is an excellent resource to find user groups in your area. You can also ramp up your networking by volunteering with a group. As a last resort if you cannot find a group then you can always start one. Taking the lead shows initiative on your resume and it is a guaranteed way to meet all kinds of people since you are the face of the group.

Another way to network in person is to attend IT-related functions in your city. Some business or technology groups will sometimes have technology forums so that local businesses can showcase what they are working on. There might also be conferences going in in your immediate area. If you also have a college or university nearby that offers degrees in IT they are also an excellent resource as they sometimes offer free lectures and functions.

A final way to network with others is to attain an MVP credential from various software companies like Microsoft or Telerik. These companies’ recognize active users in their communities. These could be people who give lectures or who help solve problems on their forums. By being active in this way you are developing a following as someone who knows about the product and who is willing to help. Additional personal networking also occurs as these companies have yearly conferences where all the MVPs attend in person so they can meet and learn about new technologies.

In conclusion you can see that personal networking also plays a part in developing your personal brand. By meeting people in person and then continuing the conversation online you are developing a stable personal network that can be used for years to come.

The many benefits of speaking at conferences

This post is Day #9 in a series called Personal Branding for Software Developers.

Up until this point my articles in this series have focused on using digital social networking tools to help you build your personal brand. However, the next two articles will focus on the more traditional face-to-face social networking that was prevalent before the advent of computers and the internet. I am talking specifically about conferences and personal networking.

I am sure many readers have attended conferences in the past. They could be general IT conferences or ones specific to software developers. Generally most people tend to stick with whom they came with. They go to the same presentations, eat together and don’t mingle too much with the other attendees. However, conferences are an excellent way to get your brand out there. You just need to be in front of the audience and not within it.

Speaking at conferences is an ideal way to further your personal brand. You gain exposure as an expert in your field to many people at once. You have an audience that you can connect with and many of these people will only be hearing of you for the first time. If you make an impact on them the likelihood is that these people will tweet or blog about your presentation.

Any publicity you gain from people talking about you is excellent. It means you will gain new followers on Twitter and your blog. This will only increase your visibility and further establish yourself as an expert in your field. This could mean that you are asked to speak at more conferences. As your profile grows you could find yourself authoring books. It is also an excellent way to gain more business. It could even lead to a promotion or a new job.

Some people will only want to travel to conferences if it is paid for by their employer. While some conferences will reimburse expenses for speakers most will not and instead provide speakers free entry into the conference. So you must determine if the expense is worth it to you. At larger IT conferences the exposure in free advertising you gain as a speaker can be worth more than the cost of your travel expenses.

Another benefit to speaking at conferences is that you have the opportunity to share your knowledge. You can provide a unique insight into a problem that many people are experiencing. They are coming to your session because of what you have to say. That is nice feeling to have. As well, by speaking it is reinforcing your knowledge of the subject since there is no way to learn something than to teach it to others.

After you have made your presentation you can still gain exposure from it using two social media tools. You can share your slide deck on SlideShare – a free service where people can view and download PowerPoint slide presentations. This is another online tool that can help build your personal brand since you could promote your SlideShare profile along with your other social media sites. And as I mentioned in my talk on LinkedIn you can also add a SlideShare widget to your LinkedIn profile to promote your presentations. A second way to publicize your presentations can be if you decide to videotape them and then upload them to YouTube so that people can watch them without having attended the conference.

I would encourage everyone to think about presenting at a conference. (A list of upcoming conferences can always be found on Lanyrd.) It will allow you to announce your personal brand to a large audience. It also means as a presenter you are more likely to interact with conference attendees on a more personal level. And this interaction could open new doors for you and your career.

Related Articles:

10 tips on submitting a conference session proposal

Getting the most from your about.me page

This post is Day #8 in a series called Personal Branding for Software Developers.

In my article yesterday on Google+ I mentioned that I liked the site because it allowed me to list all my social media summaries in one spot. While Google+ is new to the world of social networking there is a site that has been around since 2009 that offers the same service.

About.me is a spot where you can create a one page profile to link all your websites and social networking identities. The service has trusted relationships with Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn among others so that when people click on your links they will see your latest updates within your about.me page. They can then navigate to your profile on the specific site if they want to see the rest of your updates.

To sign up for your account visit the site. You can pick your own URL and I highly recommend you use the name you used on all your other accounts as you want to keep your personal brand consistent across all platforms. You also want to use your name as it will be easy to remember by people when you tell them you have an about.me profile. They could easily append your name to the end of the site URL to find you.

Once your site is created you can then add content. The nice thing is that about.me is as much visual as it is content based. The background of your page can be any large image. People generally list images of themselves as their background. However you can use some graphic or general scenic shot if you desire. My site uses a shot of me atop Diamond Head in Oahu, Hawaii.

Next you want to add your biography. You want to give a general sense of who you are so that when people come to this site they have a brief introduction to you. As well, both the picture and the biography also offer the visitor the reassurance they are on the right page. If you have passed this page URL to someone who you met briefly or have only talked to through email this is especially helpful. It is not a problem with someone with my last name but when you get a name like “John Smith” about.me returns six pages of results.

The last major section to fill out is Services. This is where you can add links to your various online identities. When you click “Add A Service” you can select from a large number sites. This will create a reciprocal link between the two sites and add a logo to your page. When users click the logo they can preview your identity on that site.

When you click “Add A Service” you can also choose “Add A URL”. This will allow you to add a link to a website that is not listed as a service. This is an excellent way to link to personal websites and other developer sites
like GitHub, Stack Overflow and CodePlex that can flesh out your profile.

As you can see about.me is a quick and easy way to create a one-page personalized website. You can share this link and a visitor has a page where they can see your picture, get a quick bio and then select a link to any of your social media sites. It essentially acts as a clearing house for all your identities on the web.

Using Google+ as a placeholder service

This post is Day #7 in a series called Personal Branding for Software Developers.

Google+ or Google Plus or G+ was launched in the fall of 2011 as an attempt to rival the hold that Facebook has over users. The premise is the same as Facebook in that it will allow you to create a profile and then link that profile to other Google+ users. You can then use these networks to share information and keep abreast of what other people are doing.

Google+ has gained a fast following in the short time it has been active. It already has over 90 million users but lags behind the over 800 million users of Facebook. However, the launch of Google+ brought some innovations that Facebook has scrambled to replicate. This includes the idea of “Circles” which allows you to categorize people and only post updates to these people. As we saw in my previous article on Facebook I made the decision to separate my Facebook account from my Twitter and LinkedIn accounts so that I could keep my private and professional lives separate. Conceivably with Google+ you would not have to do that.

The new site also offers “hangouts” which allows for group video chatting with up to 10 people at a time. They also have a +1 button where you can recommend websites or specific pages on the internet. This is akin to Facebook’s Like button but instead it follows you around the internet. There are many other features offered by Google+.

An account id is offered free to anyone who has a Google account or a Gmail account. If you already have one of these accounts then your Google+ profile is waiting for you. If not then it will be available once you create your Google account.

The benefit of a Google account is obvious. Because it is so tightly integrated into Google your identity is easily shared with its search engine. Doing a quick search on my name in Google I can see that my Google+ account is the fourth item returned. People can see my account on the first page of search results and get information about me immediately.

This all being said I am not a Google+ user. The reason being is most of the people I know on Facebook have not migrated to using the site. That does not mean I will not use it in future but for now it is an empty placeholder. However, I did fill out my profile on the About page and added links to all my social media identities. The reason being is that when people browse to this page I have a free service where I can aggregate all my links so that people can find my other active sites.

As you can see I believe in using all the social networking sites I can to create my personal brand and to promote it.

Facebook – for personal or professional contacts?

This post is Day #6 in a series called Personal Branding for Software Developers.

Since we touched on LinkedIn yesterday it is only appropriate that we discuss Facebook today. I want to look at some of the pros and cons of using Facebook and how it can impact your professional life if it is not used appropriately.

Facebook is the granddaddy of social networking sites. So unlike my other articles that ran you through the steps of setting up an account with the service I will not do that with Facebook. I figure anyone who wants a Facebook account probably already has one by now.

Where Facebook and LinkedIn differ though is that Facebook is built for your personal life. It contains connections to family, friends as well as some select work colleagues. This is where you generally interact with others as you would in a neighborhood bar. However, these interactions are not always in the most professional manner. So you need to make some decisions as to how you approach Facebook.

We have all heard the stories of how people applying for jobs were rejected because of their Facebook updates. You better believe that recruiters are Googling your name when they are seriously considering adding you to their team. So you need to be smart about you use of Facebook.

According to this article Dorie Clark, a strategy consultant and author, has designated her LinkedIn and Twitter accounts for professional use and her Facebook account for personal use only. This is a policy that I also follow. I want to maintain my Facebook connections to my circle of friends but I am also careful to separate my work and personal lives.

Facebook has taken privacy concerns of its users very strongly. This means you can lock down your Facebook account to only a select few people. For my account I have limited my site to only my friends. This means that they are the only ones who can see my info. I have also removed myself from showing up in Google searches. So in effect I am invisible to everyone except the people I know.

Some people have also abandoned Facebook all together in favour of LinkedIn. I would not go this far as Facebook can still have a place in your professional life. Although I am not exposing my Facebook data to the world the people I am connected to in Facebook still act as a network for me. These people are an excellent resource for any current or future job search. I could easily post a message that I am looking for work and if they cannot help me perhaps they have people in their networks that could.

The above is just my opinion about Facebook. If you decide you still want to use it as an active tool in your personal branding toolbox then maximize its effectiveness. Here are some of the things you might want to consider doing:

  1. Set your Vanity URL like we did in LinkedIn.
  2. Use a professional picture for your headshot. This picture should be the same one you used for LinkedIn. I will talk at a later stage in the series about the importance of having a uniform look across all your sites.
  3. Fill out your education and work information. You want to establish your career details here so that you can make yourself stand out.
  4. Add links to your Twitter account and your blog. Again, you want to create reciprocal links between your sites. You can also consider adding an RSS feed from your professional blog/website to your Facebook profile so people can see what you are up to.
  5. Create poignant status updates that reflect any changes in your work situation. You can also post links to interesting articles that relate to your industry. Remember: you are trying to establish yourself as someone who is in the know. It also demonstrates that you can bring value to your network.

Whatever route you take in regards to Facebook you need to think about what is best for your personal brand. If you want to close off Facebook to only your friends or if you want to brand with it just be sure you are fully committed to one choice or another.