We live in a world where your online reputation can be your strongest asset or your biggest liability. A world where sales and marketing are better executed by employees with strong personal brands than by the brands themselves. A world where companies hire not based on resumes and cover letters, but on information they find online.

Today, it has never been easier to grow a massive following and become a celebrity in your industry.

Personal branding is becoming less of a competitive edge and more of a requirement for anyone looking to grow their business; get that dream job; or take their career to the next level.

Here are 22 essential statistics, which prove the overwhelming value of personal branding.

The power of employees' personal brands.

  • When brand messages are shared by employees on social media, they get 561 percent more reach than the same messages shared by the brand’s social media channels.

  • Brand messages are re-shared 24 times more frequently when posted by an employee versus the brand’s social media channels.

  • On average, employees have 10 times more followers than their company's social media accounts.

  • Content shared by employees receives 8 times more engagement than content shared by brand channels.

The bottom line is that we trust people more than we trust brands, and we engage with people more than we engage with brands. If you don’t get your employees involved on social, you’re absolutely losing out to companies that do.

Personal branding helps sales and marketing.

  • Leads developed through employees’ social media activities convert 7 times more frequently than other leads.

  • Sales reps who use social media as part of their sales techniques outsell 78 percent of their peers.

  • Ninety-two percent of people trust recommendations from individuals (even if they don’t know them) over brands.

  • Marketers, who prioritize blogging, are 13 times more likely to enjoy positive ROI.

  • Consistency is key. It takes five to seven impressions for someone to remember a brand.

If you’re looking to grow your pipeline and get more attention for your offerings, then you’ll want to invest in personal branding initiatives. Train your sales and marketing teams to use the free tools at their disposal, such as social media, blogging, videos and webinars. People have so much going on these days that if you don’t make an effort to stand out, you risk getting left behind.

The power of social media in recruiting.

  • Employees at companies that invest in personal branding initiatives are 27 percent more likely to feel optimistic about their company's future; 20 percent are more likely to stay at their company; and 40 percent are more likely to believe their company is more competitive.

  • Of all recruiters, 95 percent believe that the job market will remain or become more competitive. If you don’t stand out online, your competition will.

  • Seventy-five percent of HR departments are required to search job applicants online.

  • Eighty-five percent of U.S. recruiters and HR professionals say that an employee’s online reputation influences their hiring decisions at least to some extent. Nearly half say that a strong online reputation influences their decisions to a great extent.

  • Seventy percent of U.S. recruiters and HR professionals have rejected candidates based on information they found online.

  • Of all executive recruiters, 90 percent say they conduct online research of potential candidates.

This one is pretty much a no-brainer. Imagine if you’re a hiring department - all else being equal -- wouldn’t you rather hire someone with an impressive digital presence over someone with no presence at all?

Successful companies want stand-out employees, and one way to gauge that is by your online reputation.

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Personal branding for online reputation management.

  • Reputation damage is the No. 1 risk concern for business executives around the world, and 88 percent say they are explicitly focusing on reputation risk as a key business challenge.

  • Of all executives, 87 percent rate reputation risk as more important or much more important than other strategic risks their companies are facing.

  • Of respondents who experienced a reputation risk event, 41 percent say loss of revenue was the biggest impact.

Reputation has always been a big deal for companies, but now we have to contend with it both offline and online. With reputation damage as the No. 1 risk companies face today, it’s no wonder executives are preventatively investing in online reputation management as an insurance measure.

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Growing your business with personal branding.

  • Out of all business decision makers, 84 percent start their buying process with a referral. And Google is the very first place people look after getting a referral.

  • Of all Internet users, 65 percent see online search as the most trusted source of information about people and companies. That’s a higher level of trust than any other online or offline source.

  • Fifty-three percent of decision makers have eliminated a vendor from consideration based on information they did or did not find about an employee online.

Even when consumers have a referral, they start their buying process online. What kind of first impression do you want to make? A terrific online presence lends credibility and gets customers excited while a bad or irrelevant online presence turns customers away.

And despite all of this...

Of the 75 percent of U.S. adults, who Google themselves, nearly half say the results aren’t positive.

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If you don’t like the way you look online, there’s plenty you can do about it. If you’re serious about improving your personal brand and need a gentle kick in the pants, hop on my 28 Day Online Reputation Management Challenge. I’ll walk you through your first month, step-by-step, so you can build the foundation necessary to get your dream job; develop your career; and grow your business. The choice is yours.