Personal Branding: Why It’s Important to Create Your Own Online Presence

A row of Mac computers lines the wall, the ethereal glow of LED displays brightening the faces of those beside you, each set of eyes staring intently at their work, clicking and dragging the cursor across the screen as the clock ticks on.

You think about how much you’ve completed and how much left to do, hours of work and hours to go. You tell yourself it’s time for a break and stand up to stretch your legs. Your eyes glance up at the clock on the wall: it’s four in the morning.

Nights like these are all-too-regular occurrences for Jon Marzette, a graphic design student at the University of Kansas. In his fourth year at KU, Marzette spends anywhere from one to three nights in the design studio working on coursework for his classes. Not just evenings, entire nights.

“There are some weeks where I only sleep half of the nights,” Marzette said. “I’ll be in studio from eight or nine at night until seven the next morning. Even then, I only go home because the parking department comes around and I have to take my car home.”

Putting in the Time

Marzette works hard at his assignments because he knows once he graduates it will be his foot in the door at a new job. With the continued emphasis by businesses and corporations on personal branding, that is, the exemplification of yourself in a positive and engaging way that demonstrates your qualities and abilities, it’s become necessary for students and young professionals to spend more time on every aspect of their work.

A study conducted by showed that 45 percent of employers use social networks to check in on and screen potential employees. And­­­ that was in 2009. Given the growth of social networks over the last three years, it’s not hard to believe that this number has, and will continue to go up.

Even CNN has done articles over the importance of online presence and personal branding, explaining “the vast majority of recruiters and companies will Google potential candidates or look them up on LinkedIn before initiating contact.”

Dan Martell, co-founder of Flowtown and founder of, said that one of the most important characteristics of any applicant is that they have a particular area in which they’re dedicated.

“Pick a specific topic in your studies and write about it,” Martell said. “Talk about it, share information on it. Companies are looking for someone who didn’t wait until they graduated to get experience in that field.”

Making it Count

Recent KU graduate Alex Berryman can attest to the importance of what Martell talks about, and understands the benefits of maintaining a positive online presence.

“It’s so much more than just posting stuff online for your friends to see,” said Berryman, who graduated last December from KU’s school of journalism. “I waited too long to get involved online, and assumed that my paper resume would get me the job.”

This is a realization that many students are having, not just Berryman. The importance of personal branding is only increasing, and without the use of social networks and digital marketing, many graduates are likely to get left behind.

“I just wish there were some way to go back and get it right,” Berryman said. “If I could, I would have tweeted and posted about all the things I found interesting and all the work I did while I was in school. Now it’s just hard to compete.”

The Atlantic published an article this week based on a study performed by the Associated Press, who worked in conjunction with various universities, that showed that “about 1.5 million, or 53.6 percent, of bachelor’s degree-holders under the age of 25 last year were jobless or underemployed, the highest share in at least 11 years,” which seems to stress the importance of getting the “personal brand” ball rolling early, much like Martell and Berryman suggest.

Things to Consider

Dylan Conklin, Interactive Coordinator at Chesapeake Energy, said that having a polished and concise image of yourself and your “brand” is an extremely important aspect of young professionals and college graduates looking for work. Conklin also said that it’s important to keep your head while creating your brand, and not to get over-zealous.

“Graduating students have a reputation in the workplace as being ‘entitled,’” Conklin said. “Yes, they are educated, but they need not act as if they know as much or more as their potential employers. Employers are looking to be impressed by a candidate and a clear, concise and honest summary of that person, when presented beautifully, will find its way to the top of the stack of resumes.”

So what keeps a young graduate from seeming too confident? Conklin offered up a few golden pieces of advice to keep in mind while creating a brand:

“Be concise, clear and appear hungry; professionalism above all else. Keep in mind that many hiring managers have a nephew your age who knows everything you do, and the reason he or se doesn’t hire their nephew is because they need someone with a professional attitude, not a punk kid.”

Ten years ago companies like LinkedIn didn’t even exist. Facebook, Twitter and other social networks hadn’t been created yet, and most individuals relied upon in-person interviews to land their jobs, but now everything is different. Don’t get left behind in a world that is rapidly becoming more and more integrated. The importance of creating a personal brand is something that everyone can benefit from; the key is setting your self apart.

One Recent Graduate’s Perspective


Narrator: Alex Berryman, who graduated in December from the University of Kansas’ school of journalism, understands the importance of creating and maintaining an online presence, or personal brand, and offers a unique perspective to current students and other recent graduates.

Berryman: So much emphasis is put on the now, and what you’re doing. I mean, educational wise; pay attention to your classes. People want to see that you’re doing something now, before you get done with college. My fallback, or setback, has been that I didn’t do much.

Berryman: I didn’t really see how that would benefit me when I was, um, when I was in college. But now, looking back on it, I wish I’d been able to put on my resume, “member of the ad club,” or, “member of ‘whatever’ club.” And, yeah, get involved. Do anything, even if you don’t like it too much. You can talk about it, you learn from everything.

Berryman: I don’t know how to tell someone, you know, to look ahead and prepare for what’s going to come, like, in terms of what you don’t need to pay attention to right now that’s so popular that’s going to be gone here pretty soon. It’s pretty scary.

Berryman: So it’s kind of hard for me to keep my head up by now, not having a job four months later, but you just gotta find little things about yourself that are good for everything, and if you stay positive about it people will catch up on it.

Looking for more help?

Looking for ways to get started with your personal brand? Below is a link to a photo album consisting of a few key sites that you can use to help get the ball rolling.

View the full set here.

LinkedIn is one of the most professional networking tools any young graduate or college student can have. LinkedIn puts you in touch with employers, giving you the opportunity to search for and apply to various jobs and internships around the world.

CISPA Hits Opposition, Google’s Theivery, and The Hardest Working Man on the Internet.

+ CISPA, the most recent anti-piracy bill being proposed by congress, has been targeted by the White House this week, who threatens to veto the bill outright as it stands. (via Politico)

+ Republican GOP candidate Ron Paul has also spoken out against CISPA, giving his input on the bill last week in a radio interview. LossofPrivacy has the video embedded here.

+ Google Drive, the latest innovation from Google, which allows users at least five gigabytes of storage space on their online data storage drive, has stipulations that mean anything you put on your drive becomes theirs. (via Cnet)

+ In a highly controversial move, The University of Florida has cut their Computer Science Deptartment’s budget completely, allocated the saved money to other areas within the school, including athletics. Forbes has the full story here.

+ Justin Knapp, a name that most people would never remember, has just passed the 1 million mark on Wikipedia for article edits. Some are calling him “the most hard-working man on the internet.” (via engadget)

T-Mobile’s Super Network, Anonymous Hits the Big-Time, and More Mac Sicknesses

+ Cory Doctorow, notable journalist and online presence, suggests the war over copyright laws is just a precursor to the much bigger issue over computation and technology usage as a whole. The video is here, via the Guardian.

+ PCWorld’s annual study of wireless networks has yielded some interesting data, showing that T-Mobile has the fasted 3G speeds while AT&T claims the crown of fasted 4G speeds.

+ Internet hacktivist group Anonymous, whom I have covered previously, were named among Time Magazine’s Top 100 Most Influential People in the World list.

+ Nick Merril’s privacy-protecting ISP, which I covered last week, raised over $43,000 in just one day. As of today, Merril’s project has raised almost $60,000, and still has over 50 days left to reach the goal of $1 million. (via CNet)

+ Two more trojan viruses targeted at Mac computers have been discovered, raising threat levels to Mac users around the globe. Although ComputerWorld reports that these viruses aren’t necessarily malicious, the question still stands: how long before our precious computers get sick?

Where Are My Friends? A Look Into the College Student’s Social Network

As Sean Derry takes a break from his engineering homework and thumbs through the digital pages of his iPhone, he cracks a smile and begins typing away at the screen.

“It’s my sister,” he says. “She just sent me the funniest picture on my Facebook page.”

Sean is just one of the millions of social media users around the world, but somehow his interaction feels so personal. With usership of networking sites like Facebook and Twitter continuing to rise, it won’t be long before the entire world, and everyone in it, is just a click away.

Over the last 15 years the world has seen one of the greatest and most inexplicable movements of all time. Topics that once might have taken someone hours to research and learn about now are just seconds from their grasp. Friends that we would only see every so often are now accessible 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and it’s all thanks to the Internet and social networks.

“My sister lives in Olathe,” Derry says, “and I don’t get to see her all that often. I’m so busy with school and work that it’s hard for me to find time to go back home and see my family.”

Social networks have entered the picture over the last few years in such a big way that no one could have ever anticipated. Facebook now boasts over 845 million users, and only 157 million of those users are from the United States. In a survey I conducted based on students from the University of Kansas, 87% said that their primary use of social networks was to connect with friends and family.

I decided to create and distribute this survey to students at KU because, as with my last survey, I felt like I wanted to know how the people directly around me are using social networks. I want to know how the girl that spends every class period on Facebook is using it that often, and why there are some people I can only find on Tumblr, and nowhere else.

What I found quickly showed me that there are varying levels of commitment that people are giving to these sites. Eighty-three percent of students surveyed said that they visit social networking sites three or more times per day, and of that another 55% said they visit these sites from their cell phones. Every interaction has been streamlined into convenience, but why?

Gary Vaynerchuk, a former wine enthusiast turned social marketing expert and successful author, likens our social integration to a small town where users’ habits of checking in on their friends are no different than “the old-timers’ early morning stroll to the diner for pancakes and coffee.”

“Social media allowed us to become more aware of the minutiae in each other’s lives,” Vaynerchuk says, “of what was going on, of what people were thinking and doing, than ever before.”

Solace Naeymi, a junior at KU, said that social networks help her keep in touch with friends who have moved away just as much as it does with her friends here in Lawrence.

“It’s just so easy to log on and see what everyone is up to,” Naeymi said. “I love that all my friends are on there and that we can send each other funny videos and things we’re into.”

Almost every student surveyed at KU said they were a Facebook user, a total 97%. Seventy-seven percent also said they use Twitter and another 36% said they use Tumblr as well. The university has accounts on all major social networks, including Foursquare and Instagram, which was recently acquired by Facebook for $1 billion.

To try and predict the evolution of social networking over the next ten years would be as difficult as it was to do the same in 2002, but people are trying. Even though it’s impossible to tell what the next big Facebook trend will be, or if there will even be one, there is something comforting in knowing that no matter what, we’re all a part of the same big network, and if all else fails, there’s always the USPS.



Spy-Free Internet, CISPA, and Facebook’s New Camera

+ Nicholas Merril, a former operator of a New York based internet provider, is developing a telecommunications network designed to keep users safe from surveillance and the government. Cnet has the full story here.

+ Mobile image sharing platform Instagram was purchased this week by Facebook for $1 billion. The platform plans to integrate with the Facebook website allowing users more opportunities to share their pictures. Read the blog post written by Instragram CEO Kevin Systrom.

+ Just when we thought it couldn’t get worse, legislators on capitol hill have developed a new anti-piracy bill known as CISPA, and TechDirt tells you every reason why you should oppose it.

+ The prominent internet hacktivist group Anonymous has launched a new campaign targeting censorship in China, and vowing to liberate the internet for Chinese people by destroying the censorship blockade known as the Great Firewall of China. (via Zdnet)

+ A new Kickstarter campaign has raised over $1 million in just 28 hours. A few weeks ago I posted a link to an article about how Kickstarter is beginning to surpass other means of grassroots funding, and the Pebble, a new iPhone-friendly watch is a perfect example. (via Yahoo)

The Digital Takeover

It’s no secret that the way young people are obtaining and viewing media is changing, but what I, along with industry experts, want to know is how. I took it upon myself to conduct a survey last week, polling 100 random students at the University of Kansas and asking them my own questions about how and how often they’re interacting with media. Out of a total ten questions, the following five proved to have the most interesting data, which I’ve calculated and developed into the following graphic. Enjoy.

The “Promotion” Bay, Sick Macs, and Google’s Next Big Thing

+ Online torrenting haven The Pirate Bay has launched a new promotion platform to help independent artists gain notoriety, and artists agree that the new strategy is working wonders for their bands. (via TorrentFreak)

+ A new virus has made its way into the software of Mac users everywhere, the first virus to effect mass quantities of Mac users around the world. So far over 600,000 Macs have been breached, with more sure to come. (via CNet)

+ Google’s latest innovation, Project Glass, boasts a new pair of reality-augmenting glasses that users wear in lieu of their Ray Bans. (via The New York Times)

+ A new version of the defunct SOPA and PIPA bills has made its way into Congress, threatening to violate Internet users’ privacy and peace of mind. TechDirt has the story here.

+ Local artists hatched an ingenious plot to use stolen credit cards to purchase their own music from site like iTunes and Amazon, netting almost $800,000 in fraudulent sales. (via BBC)

Goodbye Best Buy, Internet, and Privacy!

+ Electronics giant Best Buy announced this week that they will be closing 50 of their retail locations, and eliminating up to 400 jobs in their corporate headquarters. Is this the beginning of the end for Best Buy? (via Star Tribune)

+ In an analysis over at Short of the Week, they break down the level of originality in Hollywood, or lack thereof, and the web’s effect on what movie-goers are expecting these days.

+ As the issue of user privacy continues to remain prevalent, social networking website Facebook announced this week that they will be taking action against any group or individual that attempts to “legally” demand an individual’s username and password. (via ArsTechnica)

+ Internet hacktivist group Anonymous has released an announcement this week claiming that they will be “taking the internet down” on Saturday, March 31. Their alleged purpose is not to cause harm, but only to raise awareness of the dangers of bills like SOPA and PIPA represent. (via Pastebin)

+ A high school student in Indiana was expelled after sending out a tweet that repeatedly used the word “fuck,” and worse yet, the school principal admitted to monitoring students’ social media activity. (via TechDirt)

Local Music Shops Offer What Online Distribution Can’t

A big, open room off of Mass. Street sits filled with vinyl LPs, CDs, 45s and cassettes, lying in the sunlight that pours in from the floor to ceiling windows in the front. Customers pace back and forth between the rows of sonic solitude, searching for their diamond in the rough. A young man walks in the front door and straight towards the section titled “Used Alternative.”

“I try to make it in every couple weeks,” says Justin Rennel, a junior at the University of Kansas, “but sometimes I come more often than I should, and other times I don’t come often enough.”

LoveGarden Sounds is one of the few music stores left in the Lawrence area, and without their diverse selection of new and used records, music lovers would have even less of a local market for such an integral part of their lives.

“I probably have between 35 and 45 records,” Rennel said. “There’s something different about the sound of a physical LP compared to listening to something on your iPod or computer.”

Record stores like LoveGarden Sounds have been through a lot over the last fifteen years. With the move from physical media, such as CDs and LPs, to digital media, many record stores across the country have been left with no option but to close their doors due to dwindling sales.

However, Katie Ashmore, Used Record Buyer at LoveGarden Sounds, said they’re not worried about the prevalence of digital media, and she believes that the LP is making a comeback.

“We’ve been around for 22 years now,” said Ashmore, “and I think there was a period of semi-dormancy, I guess, but there’s been a resurgence, but I wouldn’t say that we’re combating digital media.”

Ashmore has been with LoveGarden for over nine years, and she’s seen some of the highs and lows of running a locally owned record shop firsthand. Ashmore believes that although digital forms of distribution are easy to access, it isn’t the same as holding the real deal.

“It’s kind of a ritual,” she said. “To kind of take the record out of the sleeve, put it on your turntable, sit down and read the liner notes. It’s more interactive.”

Other KU students like junior Sam Palm agree, and can attest to the same affinity for physical distribution.

“I really enjoy sitting down and putting on a record,” Palm said. “I enjoy owning the records of the artists I like, and actually having the physical copy in hand. The artwork is one of my favorite parts.”

To those who collect and buy physical records and LPs, the proximity of a local shop is crucial to their hobby. Without local stores, some might not be as excited about buying new or used records in any way.

“I like that I can walk down the street from my house and pick up a new record from a shop where I know all the people who work there,” said Natalie Oliver, a junior at the University of Kasnsas. “For me, a record just has a completely different feeling from an mp3. I like the tangible feeling of the record; I like the needle and the sound.  I don’t know if I would have as many without local shops.”

Unfortunately, some local Lawrence music stores, like Ally Cat Records, among many others, didn’t find ways like LoveGarden did to keep up with the growing trend in digital distribution.

“Really great record stores that have been around for a long time all closed within a couple years,” Ashmore said. “Basically I credit us still being around, and thriving, to us being established and hustling. It’s a really hard job to maintain.”

Ashmore also said that in addition to their hard work, the record industry has been doing all it can to get young listeners back into physical format distribution.

“There are events like Record Store Day, which happens every April, designed to get people excited about records, specifically their local record store,” she said. “Records just never really went away, and they happen to be making a big-time comeback.”

University of Kansas Students Talk Records and Importance of Local Music Shops


Brett Crawford: As the trends of buying new and used records continues to make a comeback, students at the University of Kansas enjoy having a local record shop and feel it’s important to support the artists they like by buying records, not just singles.

Natalie Oliver: “I mean I love local if I’m just looking for something, or if I just want to find something, but if I’m looking for something specific that they don’t have I generally order it online or through them, because they’ll do that for me. It’s really important to buy music from the artists you enjoy and appreciate because they work hard, and they enjoy what they’re doing. If you want to hear more of their music it’s important to, you know, give back to what you enjoy, in my opinion.”

Sam Palm: “A lot of times, the way I buy music, for albums, I don’t buy a lot of albums that only have a couple good singles. I buy albums that are good albums. CDs I still kind of take for granted a little bit, but as far as like, vinyl, I definitely don’t take that for granted. I think it’s a really cool thing.”

Crawford: Collectors and hobbyists can agree that there’s just something special about a record on vinyl. This is Brett Crawford with Politech.

Former Employees Open Up, RIP AIM, and Why Ignorance Isn’t Bliss

+ In keeping with last week’s feature on University of Kansas students’ reactions to the lackluster Google+, CNN has published an article providing a first-hand account of a former Google employee, and why Google+ is nothing but trouble.

+ Microsoft’s latest Operating Systems upgrade, Windows 8, has caused problems for many who have made the switch. One former Microsoft employee is launching a new website to help solve many of the problems users could plan on encountering with the new OS. (via Tom’s Hardware)

+ AOL has decided that all good things must end, and officially closed the door on AOL Instant Messenger. ArsTechnica has the story, and if only for a moment, revels in the nostalgia that was one of the Internet’s first social networks.

+ The budding e-voting system, which would allow U.S. residents to cast their votes electronically, still has many flaws and was able to be hacked and accessed within 48 hours, said in a recent article. It looks like we’re still a few years off from voting from our iPads in Mexico.

+ Mozilla CEO Gary Kovacs ruffled some feathers last Saturday at the annual South by Southwest Interactive conference in Austin. Kovacs said individuals who have no real knowledge or grasp of the internet have no business running it. (via National Journal)