What I Learned About Personal Branding at #NASPA12

At the NASPA Annual Conference 2012 a lot of the sessions got me thinking about personal brand and professional networking. Conferences are always great for professional development and growing your skill set, meeting new people, and creating connections (personal and work-related) – all things that can help you in your career.

There are, however, some things to keep in mind as you jump into the social sphere and put yourself – including your personality, opinions, and online demeanor – on public display. It’s important to be careful about what you post and how you interact with others on Twitter, Facebook, and other social networks. I’ll get into some of my tips for both students and administrators and what I learned at one particular session below.

Before I get into that, let me tell you about two things that got me really excited about the conference in general. What I found most interesting (and different from previous NASPA conferences that I’ve attended) was the amount of networking and professional development done through sharing on social platforms during the conference. At prior annual conferences, connections were mainly made face-to-face or through email after the conference with maybe a little social networking thrown in.

In 2012, there was an explosion of social networking, especially through Twitter on which attendees or people around the country could follow the #naspa12 hashtag and “listen in” on sessions they couldn’t attend and contribute thoughtfully to the ideas being presented. This sort of thing blows my mind and makes me appreciate the recent advances in technology and the ubiquity of social platforms.

Additionally, I was delightfully surprised at the amount of sessions dedicated to talking about social networks and how that can affect administrators and students. I say delightfully surprised because as the social media coordinator of MyStudentBody and a strong believer in social and professional networking, I believe we should be talking about this and it makes me happy that others do, too.

One session in particular caught my attention because of its interactive setup. It was called “Influencing Student Behavior Through the Idea of Personal Brand” and it talked particularly about a program designed to get high-risk groups on campus, mainly athletes and Greeks, to think about their actions and how it effects them both personally and as a group. The session went through a series of slides depicting brands and talking about how they got to where they are and about setbacks incurred by seemingly small things. They connected those large brands like Apple, Coca-Cola, and Disney to the idea of personal brand.

Ultimately, the message here was that so much goes into creating a positive image for your personal brand that it’s not worth letting one excessive night of drinking and partying or other not-so-positive activities destroy your reputation. It puts things into perspective.

This idea of personal brand can also be applied to social networking and professional development for both students and administrators. You should be careful about the “brand” you’re portraying online through your tweets and status updates. Most of the time, it’s public, unless you’ve locked down your profiles so that only certain people can view your interactions. With that in mind, here are three tips for maintaining a positive personal brand:

  1. Only tweet or post things you’d say to someone or about something face-to-face. Many times people believe that they can’t get in trouble or tarnish their reputation with things they say online because, well, it’s online. So not true. People are watching what you say and how you interact. Always keep in mind the messages you’re putting out to the world because, whether you like it or not, you’re being judged for it and there could be consequences.
  2. But don’t be afraid to show some personality. It’s okay to let your personality shine. We all want to know who you are and what you’re passionate about. That’s how you make connections online. People will be more likely to interact with you if you show some human traits. Don’t just post news articles or retweet everything. Put something personal up every now and then to showcase your interests.
  3. Remember that you are connected to your organization or school. Not only does what you post on Twitter and Facebook have an effect on your personal brand, it can negatively affect the brand of your institution or organization. A good rule of thumb is to ask yourself, “Is what I’m about to tweet or post thoughtfully contributing to the conversation?” Try to avoid posting about negative feelings or venting. This usually will come back to bite you, or at least gradually decrease the value of your personal brand.

You may not quite understand it all yet. No one does. But I would definitely recommend getting out there and letting yourself be known on social platforms. Work your way up to it. You don’t have to dive in completely, but you could definitely learn a lot from others and make great connections.

I know for sure that my involvement with social networking at this year’s NASPA annual conference helped me professionally and personally. I learned a TON. If you’d like to chat more about this concept of personal brand or anything social networking, tweet me @tyachilles.

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