Q&A with Viveka von Rosen: How Personal Branding Protects Reputation

Viveka von RosenTwitter bird social media iconViveka von Rosen is a LinkedIn expert who has written several books on LinkedIn marketing. She helps clients build their personal brand using LinkedIn.

How did you become an expert in personal branding and a Forbes Top 20 Most Influential Social Media Expert?

I really didn’t plan out my path in great detail to get to where I am today. Sometimes I even say it was just luck and timing. I was one of the few female speakers/trainers on LinkedIn in 2006 when I first got onto the platform. That led to a book deal writing about LinkedIn marketing, and then other books after that. I wrote a book on creating your personal brand on LinkedIn, which helped clients find me and helped market my business of helping clients with branding.

It turned out that LinkedIn has become very important for all professionals as a marketing and personal branding tool, and I have been able to make a great career of helping people make the most of it for their professional lives.

What goes into building a personal brand?

It’s important to know your audience—so many brands get diluted because they try to do too much for too many people—and also to know how you serve them best. Then, it’s doing what you do best with confidence in your brand and who you are. There are a lot of people who are extremely talented, but they hold back from speaking proudly about what they do out of humility or maybe a cultural norm that cautions against talking yourself up. If they can’t overcome that and articulate what they do—not in a bragging kind of way, but just to explain their skills and experience accurately and well—they won’t get the kind of response they want or need. Confidence is very important.

Obviously, I’m focused on LinkedIn, but this applies just as much to Facebook, to Twitter or to any social media page or website you use to define and market your brand.

How does personal branding help with sales enablement?

Part of personal branding is positioning yourself as a thought leader, or if you don’t produce content through speaking or writing, then at least as a trusted adviser. Before the internet and content marketing, people liked getting calls from salespeople because it was their only source of information. Now, the modern buyer is sourcing their own information, and often salespeople just come across as pushy and annoying.

Salespeople can still make a concerted effort to position themselves as a source of information, as someone who is helpful and useful, and someone will help you figure out the solution to your problem and not just sell you stuff. What you don’t want to do is get on LinkedIn, start connecting with people, and then right away try to sell them something. You wouldn’t do that in real life, so you don’t want to do that on LinkedIn either.

How is LinkedIn helpful for personal branding?

The key on LinkedIn is to share content. The average buyer makes a purchase after seeing five to eight pieces of content from the brand or the salesperson that gives them helpful, useful information that addresses a problem the buyer has. If you’re not putting out content, you won’t be seen as an expert and your product won’t be looked at as a solution, even if it is one.

What is social selling and how does it work?

Social selling is all about getting the right information in front of the right people at the right time. The key to doing this is to constantly, consistently share that helpful information. I think where people drop the ball with social selling is that they don’t take into account the modern buyer’s journey. That journey has many levels, I think, even beyond the three that are often talked about: Awareness, consideration and purchase.

We need to feed our network the right information at the right time to build awareness, to help them make decisions in the consideration phase, then answer the questions they need answered to make a purchase. There can be too much focus on brand awareness, especially from the marketing team, and it has to go deeper than just awareness to address that customer journey.

How important is a positive online customer experience to personal branding?

On LinkedIn you have skills and endorsements, which are not that difficult to get. Recommendations take more work but are very important to the credibility of your brand. To some extent, it’s a numbers game until you reach critical mass. Another benefit to having recommendations, though, is that they will often contain keywords that will make your profile more visible to prospects.

The most important thing about getting endorsements and recommendations is that they can be used to establish a relationship and further your network. When LinkedIn is your marketing tool or apparatus for your personal brand, it’s there that customer experience will come into play. It’s key that what customers and prospects see there is positive.

How much of a factor is a negative online reputation to a brand that is struggling with sales?

Just as an example, I look at Uber and the trouble it is having right now with its reputation. The company has been a leader. It was there before Lyft, and it was the first to provide a very needed service; but a few negative things have really brought it to the point that I don’t know if it will be able to recover.

In this sense, creating your own brand is powerful because the social statuses that you share and the profiles that you have can push down negative reviews with positive content. It takes time, but it can be done. I’ve worked with clients in that situation where a negative rating was all you could see when you searched them online, and we were able to build out their profiles and add content so that the negative content eventually dropped down far enough in the searches that most people wouldn’t be able to find it anymore.

Pushing down negative content shouldn’t necessarily be the main goal of creating your own content; you should be doing that to define and market your brand. But it can be a useful byproduct of creating your brand if there is negative information out there about you or your products.

The bottom line in reputation is really to do unto others only what you would want them to do to you. Treat others the way you want to be treated. In many cases, a slug is always going to be a slug. It will leave a slime trail behind it, and it will be very apparent to everyone.

You may get a troll here and there who leaves a negative review because they are a troll, and that is also very apparent. Negative reviews that are coming from a genuine place of disappointment or from something going wrong can often be made right with a sincere response that shows you want to fix the problem. Being genuine can protect your reputation, if you also follow sound principles in reputation management.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

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