As a CEO or senior executive, you may think that when it comes to branding, your company should be the focus. However, as someone so closely tied to your corporate brand, your personal brand is just as important. As digital research becomes both easier to accomplish and more sophisticated in its capabilities, your customers are just a click away from your competitors. A recent study by Brandfog found that when C-Suite executives participate on social media and engage with their audiences, positive perception of the quality of their leadership increased from 45 percent to 75 percent within 12 months.

Personal branding can provide you with a competitive edge, as well as with an image, personality, and voice that both your customers and competitors will recognize. Here's how to do it:

1. Socialize.

In order to get started making a trustworthy and recognizable personal brand, be sure to claim your social-media profiles on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and YouTube--basically any platforms that fit your style. When in doubt, park your "real estate" to avoid a long battle to reclaim those usernames later.

The key is to make sure that all the profiles maintain a certain level of consistency--use the same variation of your name (John A. Doe is different than John Doe or Jack Doe), and keep your message and voice as similar as possible. Being consistent isn't just a good branding strategy, it can help increase your Google SEO rankings as well. Having your full name on your social-media profiles, bios, and URLs can increase your chances of being the first result when your name is searched.

2. Engage with your audience.

Building a personal brand isn't as easy as just setting up social-media accounts--in order to prove yourself valuable and trustworthy, you have to engage with your audience, as well as with other industry leaders and journalists. Building relationships with other influencers relevant to your industry and expertise can help your credibility and can lead to new opportunities, like media interviews or networking events.

3. Investigate your digital footprint.

Do some detective work and look up any old social-media profiles or comments. If anything you've done doesn't align with your current brand, try to delete it. It's not like you want future clients stumbling across your old MySpace page, after all. You may want to consider an online reputation management service if you have a lot of regrettable Google search results.

4. Update your "about" page.

The "about" page is often one of the first pages people visit when checking out a company's website. Make sure yours includes bios, photos, and social-media links for you and any other C-level executives. Bios should include all of your accomplishments, including any articles you have written, speeches, interviews, or awards. Your audience is more likely to trust if you if they can get a sense of your company culture and the personalities of its leaders.

5. Get writing.

Whether you start a blog, develop a guest column on someone else's website, write for the company website, or just start engaging on Twitter, getting your voice and viewpoint out in the world is a great first step for your audience to get to know and trust you. Choose a theme or specialty wisely, as your customers will start to associate your personal brand with your personality and interests. Sharing your thoughts and opinions on industry-related topics or breaking news will help increase your credibility.

6. Provide value.

In order to increase your personal brand awareness, you will need to provide some kind of value for your audience. Use your professional expertise to your advantage by sharing knowledge that can't be found anywhere else. Think about how you can address your audience/customers' most common problems. If you can build your audience's confidence in your ability to understand and help them, they will be more likely to follow you on social media, interact with your content, or buy something you endorse.

By tailoring your personal brand, you can reinforce your reputation and increase your chance of finding the right opportunities for you and your business. As your personal brand awareness grows, your network will expand along with your business! Do you have any personal branding strategies? Do you think personal branding can make or break your marketing?