Whether you are looking for a job, thinking of starting your own business or even steadily working for someone else, this is a good time to start marketing yourself.

Companies have long known the importance of making a name for their products and services to set themselves apart from their competition. Today’s rapidly shifting economy combined with our increasingly Web-driven communications make it essential for individuals to constantly assess, update and promote their skills.

OK, you say, I understand why Microsoft, Apple, Nike, Kellogg’s, Campbell’s and Nabisco market themselves. I’m not a computer, a shoe or a can of soup.

Well, just like those companies, you face competition every day, whether you know it or not. Marketing yourself is the key to standing out, no matter if you are selling a product, a service or yourself.

This economy makes it essential for us all to rethink how we view and market ourselves. Why? If you are searching for a job, you are up against who knows how many applicants, many of whom will be promoting themselves as the most qualified. And the same thing happens when you’re trying to get media coverage. You have to stand out!

Here are a few marketing tips:

Use online social networking: Beverly Shepard posted a reward of up to $6,000 on LinkedIn for help landing a new job after a newspaper eliminated her position as marketing manager. She was flooded with leads and publicity from her post on LinkedIn, which reaches an estimated 40 million people. Your Facebook friends list right now may hold the keys to new opportunities you haven’t dreamed of. The exponential reach of social networking makes it an essential tool for extending your networking reach.

Position yourself as an expert: Your interests, talents, skills, education, hobbies and perspectives are unique. You may have in-depth knowledge, experience or a passionate interest in a particular area but have never thought about using the Web to share it. I developed PitchRate to connect journalists with expert sources so new and fresh perspectives will be the norm not the anomaly.

Network through associations: Even if you have not yet made the change to a new career, joining and becoming active in a professional association is a proven path for marketing yourself. Meeting other people involved in the same line of work will help you get up to date on the latest trends affecting that business and build networks that can lead to future opportunities.

What wins the day is creativity, persistence and the motivation to promote yourself. There have never been more tools or a better time to do it.