This is the fourth installment of the 5 Part Going Back to College Series. A new site will be reviewed daily. For the complete series, check out the Back to College Series post. Don’t forget to leave your thoughts in the comments below.
As web applications and social networks continue to grow and become mainstream, more and more employers are using them and Google to scan candidates. It’s easy to have questionable content posted either on one of your accounts or one belonging to your friends. Often that questionable content is enough to remove you from consideration for a job.
Luckily, the fellas over at Brand-Yourself.com have come up with a service to combat that problem. Their website takes an aggressive approach towards improving your online presence by helping you create content that reflects a better side than that Facebook photo of you doing a twelve foot beer bong in college. How exactly that’s done is pretty impressive. Equally impressive is how well they explain their service. They have a video that shows the process in detail and it’s so good I decided to save myself some time and post it below.
The Brand-Yourself team, led by Pete Kistler, is compiled of Syracuse University students and recent graduates. They joined together with the intention of designing “tools to establish, track, manage and improve our web presence.” The result is a web service that is effective and simple to use. They have already garnered numerous awards and acknowledgements including a nomination as one of five finalists for Entrepreneur Magazines 2009 College Entrepreneur of the Year.
What I Liked
This website will only continue to gain momentum as it becomes evident that your internet footprint can be a critical factor in whether or not you get a job. I like that Pete and company have found an untapped need and are well on their way toward servicing it. When the rest of the world catches up they’ll have a great jump on the competition.
The part that I’m most impressed with is the ease of use. Not everyone has the technical skills necessary to start a webpage on their own. With Brand-Yourself you don’t need to do so. Anyone with the basic skills to write an email or create a Word document can excel using the tools offered at Brand-Yourself. The interface is a clone of WordPress without the need for servers and hosting plans. The result is a well-crafted webpage that reflects the user in a professional light.
A number of high quality tools are available for your use once you sign up for an account. The Web Presence Breakdown organizes your online appearance by finding your social networking accounts and linking them together. This allows you to easily monitor how they look to a potential employer from one simple location. The Breadcrumb Tracker collects all the digital snippets that are associated with you online. If someone’s left a comment about you somewhere, the Breadcrumb Tracker will find it and you can monitor how it affects your professional appearance.
The site is continuing to grow as new tools are developed. The Recommendation Engine is a yet to be released tool that uses your skills and expertise to determine the next step toward developing a noteworthy web presence. Brand-Yourself likens it to your own personal career coach.
Another tool that is coming soon is the Hireability Monitor. This tool notifies you immediately in the event of a change in web presence. By doing so you’re able to make the necessary adjustments to be sure you’re image is not damaged too badly.
Because you can only do so much to control how others portray you online, the best way to combat negative content is to overwhelm it with positive stuff. By creating a website at your personal domain you’re able to direct people to it, showing them the side of you you want them to see. When you give them a place to go to find good information it limits the likelihood they’ll look around long enough to find the bad stuff.
What I Didn’t Like
There’s not too much to dislike from a concept perspective. The idea is right on track with addressing the most common internet problem currently experienced by young people – a damaged image due to negative web content. Using Brand-Yourself will definitely help you get that image better under control.
There is a small cost associated with this service (3 months/
$34.95 $24.95), which I think is both fair and affordable. The hangup for me comes with my being conditioned to receiving many online services for free. I don’t think they’re wrong for charging for a service that most cannot replicate on their own, however I can see the costs to be a small barrier to entry for some people. The alternative option is them putting adds on your personal website, which undoubtedly will take away from your site’s professionalism.
My suggestion, in case they’re listening (and care what I think), is to have both a free and paid version. Currently, you can register for a trial account, which of course they hope will lead you to purchasing a paid account. The free plan I propose is the same as the current trial plan, only with sponsored ads on the personal webpages and limited use of tools. I wouldn’t change the paid version. Eventually many users would see the value and seriously consider an upgrade. Even those that didn’t would still bring in ad revenue. The end result would be a larger user base and mailing list to solicit future sales.
Of course that’s my outsider’s opinion. I’m sure they wouldn’t be getting the attention they have from Entrepreneur Magazine if they hadn’t done their research and carefully thought things out. Despite my ramble on their pricing strategy, I still think they’re onto something and can find no real fault with what they’re doing.
The Final Word
For both the Brand-Yourself.com crew and young professionals concerned about their image, this website is a winner. If you’re someone who is concerned what potential employers might think if they Googled your name, this is definitely a site you need to look into.