Are you new to social media and unclear on how to set up your profile? Do you want to avoid the mistakes of people who did not get a job because of information that existed about them online? Do you want to use social media to extend your brand online but are not sure how?
If the answer to any of these questions is “yes”, read on.
Having a personal brand has never been more important than in this age of information overload.
How you position yourself online will impact your success in reaching your objectives. People will judge you based on your picture, your profile description, your content, the messages you retweet and more. And don’t forget that everything you say online is “forever”.
Hence, it is important to take charge of your online persona, devise a clear strategy and manage it with discipline and continuity.
So who do you want to be online?
Well, first of all, you are who you are and you know what you know. So, that’s a good start to define yourself – as long as you are not planning to create a fake alter ego online. For most people, their brand online is an extension of who they are off-line. The most important question to ask yourself is:
Why am I participating in social media in the first place? What are my objectives?
In my case, I am a social media and yoga professional. My personal objectives are:
- Be perceived as a thought leader
- Recruit students for my yoga classes
STEP 1: Choose a focus area
As social media and yoga don’t go together well, I had to make a decision up front: Do I want to be known as a yogi or a social media thought leader? If I chose social media, I’d need to keep yoga-related messages to a minimum, as I’d otherwise run the risk to lose my social media audience that is not interested in yoga. The reverse was true for my yoga target audience.
Lesson: Once you decide on your brand, you need to stay on message. If you have divergent businesses, it is usually best to create respective online identities for each business. Note that this will require extra time and resources on an ongoing basis.
STEP 2: Make a name for yourself = build your brand
Now that I know that my focus area is social media, and my goal is thought leadership, I can start building relationships, and by association my brand, online.
To get started:
- Find experts on your focus area
- Share information on your topic area
- Engage in topic-related discussions
Examples: On Twitter and Facebook, I consume information from social media experts. On Twitter and LinkedIn, I share social media know how, as well as engage in social media-related discussions.
When you first get started on social media, it’s a good strategy to follow your target audience and thought leaders; on Twitter, it’s very likely they will follow you back, and you’ll create a snowball effect that will amplify your brand/influence in your topic area. On LinkedIn, join topic-relevant groups and start to answer questions to broadcast your expertise and establish yourself.
If I wanted to build a yoga business, I would make talking about yoga, meditation and health the focus of my online existence. I’d also follow other yogis, experts and influencers, and try to figure out where else on social media they go so that I could join the discussions. A popular option is to start your own or contribute to a blog.
STEP 3: Be consistent
Many people you will engage with online participate in a multitude of social media channels, e.g. Twitter, FB, LI, YouTube. Make sure that your brand is consistent across all of these channels, or you can create confusion. As mentioned before, if you have different objectives that don’t converge, you might need to create different personas or operate in closed communities. For example, I keep my FB circle limited to closer friends and business conversations to a minimum.
STEP 4: Be yourself
Does having a brand mean I cannot be “myself”? Yes and no. It’s very important to have a personality on social media as you don’t want to come across as a robot that sends out automated messages. But where you draw this line depends a lot on who you are “in the real world” and what your objectives are.
In my case, I am an extrovert and optimist in the real world and that comes across in many of my conversations on Twitter. I like making jokes or occasionally sharing a personal high-light, e.g. my yoga teacher certification. However, I would take a more professional approach in most LinkedIn groups and share less personal information.
I do believe in taking excessive chit-chat into private messages or direct Tweets (see my blog: The Does and Don’ts for Tweeters). But some of my social media connections have made it their trade mark to be brutally honest (including hurtful) online, thereby gaining the reputation of being very credible. Only you know what you are personally comfortable with, and what your values are.
STEP 5: Monitor
There are two main reasons why you will want to monitor your social media presence:
- To find out what people are saying about you (to be able to respond and possibly take corrective action)
- To optimize your online brand/engagement
Here is a short list of tools to get you started. There are hundreds of them, so don’t be shy to use Google to find more:
- Google your name or set up Google Alerts
- Search for your name on Socialmention.com (in addition to a list of search results, you get stats on sentiment, top keywords, top users and hashtags)
- Put your Twitter handle into TweetReach.com and get metrics on your reach/impressions, retweets, mentions, top followers etc.
- Klout.com provides your influencer score. Take this with a grain of salt as it’s not a perfect science. It covers Twitter, FB and LinkedIn. Twitalyzer is a similar tool for Twitter only.
- Mr. Unfollowr tells you who has recently unfollowed you on Twitter (PS: There is also Mr. Follow, to find out who you should be following).
To create a successful brand online, you need to have clear objectives, execute in a consistent fashion, keep it real and monitor the results. Of course, high-quality content, subject-matter expertise and a solid off-line reputation will be key contributors to your success.
An overview of some key social media sites and their profile options:
LinkedIn: On LI, your brand is defined by your resume (=your profile) and your participation in groups. There are many options to spruce up your resume with apps, blog links and recommendations. It’s worth looking into them.
Twitter: It is paramount that you complete your profile. Otherwise you are an unknown quantity and very few people will follow you. Not having a picture can signal that you are not a serious user. More tips in my blog: How to get started on Twitter in 1o simple steps.
Facebook: For a professional page, the purpose has to be clear; you will be judged by the quality and frequency of conversations on your page amongst other factors.
Google+: State your purpose and complete your profile with the desired brand attributes.
Any other channels like your own blog, SAP Community Network, Spiceworks, YouTube, or Flickr: create a profile that demonstrates your intention and expertise to the other community members; a picture usually makes you seem more committed and helps people recognize you.
For a summary, check out this deck on SlideShare: “Your Brand on Social Media“.
Also see: “You on Twitter“.