How do you get started building an online presence on social media sites such as Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn? How do you build confidence, trust and name/face-recognition online? Your brand encompasses your image, your logo, your colors, the URL of your website and your user-ID (whether it be your Twitter username, your ID on Facebook or YouTube or your user name on forums). Every time you contribute or are seen online, it’s an opportunity to build your brand. Here are 6 tips to help get you started:
#1: Pick your Username
Your user name is a part of your brand. If you’re branding yourself, you may want to consider registering your name as your username. If you’re planning on building a brand that is representative of a service or product, you may want to build your brand around a name that’s more generic. Since Twitter limits your usernames (only 15 characters), I recommend reserving your name there first. (A good site for researching available usernames is KnowEm.com.)
#2: Create a Globally Recognized Avatar
Ever notice that some of the people who leave comments always have their profile picture and others have a generic default icon? Having your profile pic automatically populate when you leave a comment is a big advantage when it comes to building your brand online. It helps people to recognize you and this helps to build trust. As soon as you’ve decided on your user name, go to Gravatar.com and create your free globally recognized avatar. (You’ll need your user name, your email address, the URL of your website and a profile pic. The default size for your picture is 80px by 80px.)
#3: Reserve your Username on Multiple Social Media Websites
Even if you have no intention of ever having a presence on a specific social networking site, it’s a good idea to create a profile and reserve your username on all of the popular sites. If you don’t reserve your username, someone else could. The last thing any of us needs is to have a competitor reserve our name and either cause damage to our reputation or steal our website traffic. After you reserve your name, be sure to update your profile with keyword rich descriptions. Most social media sites give you the opportunity to list the URL for your website. This could provide you with a valuable backlink to your site (if it’s “dofollow” and the search engines can index it).
#4: Identify which Sites You Want to Build your Presence On
Hopefully, you have a good idea of who your target customers/clients are. You should also know who else is active in your niche. Who are your competitors? Who offers non-competitive but complimentary products and services to your customers? (For example, if you’re a wedding photographer, look for florists, caterers and function halls.) Networking online is very similar to networking face to face. You want to be where your customers are and then create your presence there. Knowing where your competitors are and where the perceived experts are can help you narrow down which sites are the most relevant for you.
#5: Implement Tools to Automate
I am not a fan of automating social media in general. In particular, I don’t care for automatic direct messages in Twitter thanking me for the follow with a link to their Facebook page. I’d like to get to know you first before I run around following you on other networks. The sort of tools that I do recommend for automation involve scheduling tools such as HootSuite and BufferApp for scheduling posts. I’m also a fan of Dlvr.It or TwitterFeed for automatically feeding my blog (and the blogs of other bloggers) into social networking sites.
#6: Develop a Strategy for using Social Media
As with everything we do in business, it’s important to have a plan in place along with specific goals that we’re trying to achieve and systems to track our results. Along with Google Analytics, I recommend keeping a spreadsheet to track your social networking efforts. Use this to track strategic moves and as a checklist for submitting your posts after publishing.
What are your thoughts? Which social media sites are you the most active on and why? What are your favorite tools for networking online?
Sherryl Perry is an online marketing consultant and blogger at KeepUpWiththeWeb.com. You can follow her on Twitter @KeepUpWeb.