Career Center Blog

October 6, 2010

Trying to get noticed online? How to rise above the digital din


Me 2.0 front cover (6-29).JPGEver since "tweeting" and "personal branding" became household buzzwords, business experts have been beating us over the head with the notion that if we want to attract employers or customers, we have to jump into the social media fray and start marketing ourselves online.

Problem is, now that everyone and their dog has a blog, Twitter account, and Facebook page, experts are saying that using social media sites to market yourself or your business might be a waste of digital breath. According to Forrester Research, 80 percent of web users now visit social media sites, and most Twitter and Facebook users boast dozens if not hundreds of people in their online networks. As a result, there's a lot of white noise on the web that many of us tune out or miss altogether

So how's an ambitious job seeker or entrepreneur supposed to ensure she gets heard above the digital din? I posed this question to personal branding guru Dan Schawbel, author of the book Me 2.0, Revised and Updated Edition: 4 Steps to Building Your Future, just released this week. His top suggestions for standing out from the crowd follow.

Think quality, not quantity. The web is teeming with dime-a-dozen content that doesn't add anything new the topic at hand. Rather than parroting your fellow subject matter experts, try your best to offer new twists to old conversations. "It's all about quality now," Schawbel says. "Instead of writing three average blog posts that each take an hour, spend three hours writing a really amazing post that's going to be shared by thousands of people."

Commit -- then stick with it. A blog or Twitter account that hasn't been updated in three months doesn't necessarily scream, "I'm great with follow-through!" If you can't show clients and hiring managers your ability to stick with something as simple as a Twitter account, Schawbel says, you're better off not to wading into the social media pool at all.

Fine-tune your angle. Which professional description makes you sit up and take notice? Dog Trainer, or Dog Trainer Specializing in Noisy, Aggressive, and Anxious Pets? The more specific your brand or niche, Schawbel says, the more you'll stand out -- both online and in the business world.

Look to the future, not the present. "You have to brand yourself for the job you want, not the job you currently have," Schawbel says. Otherwise, "You're going to keep getting the opportunities you don't want." If you're a hopeful web designer trapped in an administrative assistant's body, don't tweet about your mastery of spreadsheet software -- tweet about all the cool techniques you're learning in the design classes you've been taking.

It's about engagement, not broadcasting. To me, Twitter feels like a ballroom of 1,000 people talking at once, no one really listening to what anyone else is saying. But it's not enough to be one of hundreds of people spouting off ideas at any given moment -- not if you're looking to make meaningful connections anyway. Fortunately, Twitter has this great upside: it cuts through staid business hierarchies like a Ginsu knife, making it simple and not at all weird for, say, a recent MBA grad to send a brief, public message to the CEO of the startup she most admires.

The idea, Schawbel says, is to "become part of their community," whether you engage with your business heroes and prospects on Twitter, on their company blog, or on their Facebook fan page. These days, it's not enough to raise your digital megaphone and shout about your vast accomplishments from the social media rooftops, Schawbel says. To forge meaningful relationships with potential employers, colleagues, and customers, you must interact with them.

Readers, what do you think? Whether you're looking for a new job or new customers, how have you managed to rise above all the white noise on the web? What digital tricks and tools have worked for you?

Michelle Goodman is the author of "My So-Called Freelance Life" and "The Anti 9-to-5 Guide." E-mail Michelle at

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Karen Burns Karen Burns is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl, a career guide based on her 59 jobs over 40 years in 22 cities.

Kristen Fife Kristen Fife is a senior recruiter, career mentor, blogger and resume consultant based in the Seattle area.

Lisa Quast Lisa Quast is a certified career coach, mentor, business consultant, former corporate executive and author based in the Seattle area.

Randy Woods Randy Woods writes about job-search tools, networking techniques and other tips to help you land your dream job.

Former contributors

Matt Youngquist is the president of Career Horizons, a career counseling firm.

Natalie Singer is a Seattle writer, editor and small-business owner.

Michelle Goodman is the author of "My So-Called Freelance Life" and "The Anti 9-to-5 Guide."


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