Personal branding is not a new concept, but it's something small business owners and marketers have to pay attention to now and certainly through 2010.\u00a0 Your brand is your clear differentiator and your competitive advantage.\u00a0 It's also the first impression you have with potential customers and the source of attachment you create with your current customers. Over the past few years, we've seen personal branding become more and more important because of the pressure of the economy and through the rise and acceptance of social media technologies for both business and personal use. With a 10.2% unemployment rate across the U.S., we have to stand out and become more exceptional in what we do.\u00a0 Aside from competition, business is being shifted into new territory.\u00a0 Instead of traditional transactions offline, we are starting to use social networks for business more and more.\u00a0 For instance, Facebook, with 325 million active users, has been turned into a money making empire.\u00a0 In previous years, the company was laughed at for not having a business model, much like Twitter was earlier this year.\u00a0 It's now obvious that readership and engagement amounts to big money. So without further ado, here are some personal branding trends to watch out for in 2010: 1. \u00a0New content models are on the rise Content, such as the articles you find on Small Business Trends or Anita's podcasts, is made freely available across the web.\u00a0 In many instances, this makes a lot of people stop paying for content because they can access free content on any topic they desire.\u00a0 A recent Forrester report stated that 80% of U.S. consumers won't pay for online content.\u00a0 Another survey by BCG showed that for online paid subscriptions, the most people will pay is $3 per month.\u00a0 What this tells us is that the personal brands of 2010 are going to be built through a different model, based on consumer demand, the endless supply of content and the free distribution systems we all have.\u00a0 The more people that know about your brand (free content), the better, but since you have to make money, the options are freemium (having some free content and then some paid content), advertising or selling products and services on your site.\u00a0 News Corp's Rupert Murdoch has even announced that all of his media properties will be blocked from Google spiders next year.\u00a0 2010 will be the year of the major content shift, new business models and the fall of many media properties.\u00a0 You can benefit from this by turning your corporate site into a media property. 2.\u00a0 The year of building lists 2010 will be the year of small businesses developing and building upon their lists, including email and blog subscribers, Twitter followers, Facebook fans, LinkedIn contacts, etc.\u00a0 A survey by VerticalResponse, Inc. shows that 74% of small businesses plan to increase email marketing and 68% will increase social media marketing.\u00a0 More and more small businesses are viewing social media and email as an important way to build lists of people interested in their products and services and then to convert them over time.\u00a0 We'll see this more next year because of the competition and the understanding of how these tools can be used to support overall corporate efforts. 3.\u00a0 A saturated web Most small businesses have websites, but the world is forcing every single person to have their own website.\u00a0 A lot of business owners have ignored their own personal brands in the past because they feel that their brand might conflict with their company's brand.\u00a0 In 2010 and beyond, everyone in every company (anyone with a pulse) will have a website, typically under theirname.com.\u00a0 Right now, there are over 1.3 billion internet users, with 200 million websites and there will be a 40,000 fold increase in websites in 15 years.\u00a0 There are incredible disadvantages to ignoring the explosions of websites and blogs, such as lack of online visibility.\u00a0 Next year, there will be a lot more websites because of this. 4.\u00a0 Reputation management fatigue Over the past few years, it's been a best practice to review online brand mentions using a variety of tools, such as Google.com/alerts, search.twitter.com and backtype.com.\u00a0 With more and more consumers making decisions based on what they find online, small business owners are going to have to set time aside every single day (not every week or month) to review comments said about their brands.\u00a0 According to a survey by the Opinion Research Corporation, 84% of Americans say online reviews influence their purchasing decisions.\u00a0 In 2010, reviewing comments isn't going to be good enough.\u00a0 Brands will be forced to react to brand mentions in order to prevent negative word of mouth. \u00a0There will be victims and there will be winners next year.\u00a0 Those that invest more time protecting their online identities will succeed. 5.\u00a0 Transparency will rock your world, literally The truth about you and your company is going to come out next year, whether you like it or not.\u00a0 Search engines are starting to blend with social networks and status updates are being made visible and accessible just about everywhere on the web.\u00a0 This poses incredible opportunities but also some threats that you will have to be aware of.\u00a0 Every single time you publish a tweet, it will appear in Google and other search engines and, with your permission, it can appear on LinkedIn, Facebook, and other places like Brazen Careerist and Ning networks.\u00a0 This is starting to occur because it's a revenue stream for social networks and because the "real-time web" makes search engines more relevant to the end user.\u00a0 When consumers start trashing a brand (such as yours), it might make the first page of your Google search results and damage your brand.\u00a0 This is something to really pay attention to in 2010. 6.\u00a0 Brand realization A lot of people don't have a deep understanding of what their brand really is.\u00a0 What's starting to happen is that your online audience is giving you feedback, without you even realizing it.\u00a0 For instance, Twitter lists are really personal brand categories.\u00a0 If someone puts you in a list of influencers under a certain topic such as "personal finance," then they are giving you a hint about how you're branded.\u00a0 People will make categorization decisions based off of two things: your profile and your tweets.\u00a0 When you're on a hundred of so lists, then you have great survey data that will show you if you're branding yourself properly or not.\u00a0 More brands will start using tools such as mustexist.com to figure out what their brands are and get feedback from their audience if they are doing a good job. 7.\u00a0 The cream will rise to the top and niches are inevitable I introduced this post by talking about competition and then went on to explain how the free nature of content destroys barriers to entry and creates an ecosystem of unlimited choices.\u00a0 Well, the truth is that not everyone will be able to become mega brands.\u00a0 Those that have the best content next year will float to the top, while everyone else will make less money and have fewer opportunities.\u00a0 What we've already seen is that the first-movers, such as Anita Campbell and Pete Cashmore (of Mashable) have owned their niches.\u00a0 It will be much harder to compete with big brands, which means next year the focus will be on niches and "hyper-niches."\u00a0 People will have to really narrow down their market in order to stand out and succeed. 8.\u00a0 The value of information will increase substantially If you aren't in tune with what's going on in your industry and with the latest technology developments, you are set to lose out next year.\u00a0 Have you heard of FourSquare.com?\u00a0 If not, then you better Google it right now.\u00a0 Are you reading at least 20 articles or blog posts each day?\u00a0 If not, then you better start because you're competitors are and they are forming relationships with the media and bloggers as we speak.\u00a0 By not keeping current and not being open to new trends, you're going to be in a world of anxiety in 2010.\u00a0 The business world is moving too fast and if you can't keep up, then you're out of business. 9.\u00a0 The video and mobile scene catch fire According to "The Global Web Index," from Trendstream, with research conducted by Lightspeed Research, early this year 72% of US Internet users watched video clips monthly.\u00a0 You might have seen your favorite show on Hulu.com or watch music videos on YouTube before, and that's where a lot of the action is now.\u00a0 Video is the most powerful personal branding medium because it closes the gap because between knowing of someone and actually meeting them.\u00a0 In business, this is called building trust and a connection with your audience.\u00a0 Text and audio doesn't have that type of impact, which is why video will be a huge trend next year.\u00a0 607.5 million mobile users will be using social networks by 2013, which means that businesses will have to start making their websites mobile friendly.\u00a0 It also means that a lot of branding will be viewed and spread from one mobile device to the next. 10.\u00a0 You will be judged on voice, not just your resume Most people judge others by their resume.\u00a0 A resume is an account of what you've accomplished in the past and an attempt to show a prospective customer what you're capable of in the future.\u00a0 Sorry to say that a resume won't be powerful enough to build your brand in 2010.\u00a0 In addition to all that work experience and all of that credibility you've built up, your online conversations will be just as valuable.\u00a0 If you don't blog or comment on blogs or at least update your status on social networks, then you won't be perceived as a valuable contributor.\u00a0 Your opinions and thoughts is what people will want to hear in 2010 and beyond, not just previous projects that get outdated really fast. * * * * * About the author: Dan Schawbel is the bestselling author of Me 2.0: Build a Powerful Brand to Achieve Career Success, the owner of the award winning Personal Branding Blog and publisher of Personal Branding Magazine.