When you’re on social networking sites or commenting on blogs, do you recognize bloggers that you know? Do you see familiar faces? Are there people online that you’ve never met, yet you feel you know them? If you see someone’s Twitter name or user ID, does their real name immediately pop into your head? If the answer is yes, I think it’s safe to say that those bloggers have implemented a strategy for branding themselves online.
#1: Pick your Username
This is not a trivial step if you’re serious about branding yourself/business online. Your user name is a part of your brand. If you’re branding yourself, you may want to consider registering your name as your ID. If you’re planning on building a brand that is representative of a product or service (maybe you have dreams of selling your brand in the future), you may want to build your brand around a name that’s more generic.
After you decide on your username, register it on as many of the major sites that you can think of (within reason – you can always add more later). Even if you don’t plan on being active on all of these sites (that would be both unrealistic and ill advised), you don’t want someone else reserving your username and either using it to compete with you or squatting on it in hopes that someday, you’ll buy it from them. A good site to use to check availability of usernames is KnowEm.com.
#2: Create a Globally Recognized Avatar
After you’ve decided on your username and have registered it on some of the key social networking sites (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn), visit Gravatar.com to create your own Gravatar (globally recognized avatar). Register your username with the URL of your website and your email address – (one that is branded with your domain name).
While creating your Gravatar, upload your profile picture. Some people choose to use their logo for their profile picture. Most bloggers (and small to medium sized businesses) choose to upload a photograph of themselves. (Larger businesses that have already built awareness of their brand usually use their company logo.) Personally, I prefer to use a photo of myself. My opinion is that people do business with people that they know, trust and like. Therefore, I want my blog readers to know me as a person. The decision as to what you want to brand is part of your overall marketing strategy. Wherever you decide, we should be able to recognize you immediately whenever we see your Gravatar.
#3: Start Engaging on Social Networking Sites
Now’s the time to make sure that you have a social networking strategy. There will always be people who believe that more is better and that it’s a good idea to have thousands of followers and friends. Count me in the group of bloggers who believe that it’s better to have the “right” people following you. Who are the right people for you? Who are your niche target customers, clients and readers? Who reaches those people? (The answer to this could be competitors but should include non-competitive services/products. For example, if you’re a florist, you share the same target customer as event planners, function halls and funeral parlors.)
Identify a manageable number of social networking sites to participate in. This is especially important when you are first building awareness. Don’t overextend yourself at first. It’s usually best to start participating in two or three sites at first. After you’ve built a reputation and have brand recognition, it becomes easier to expand your network on additional sites.
#4: Bonus Tip – Brand your Username
This is a tip that I’ve shared before and I don’t believe that it’s become standard practice (yet) but when I decided that keepupweb was going to be my user ID, I set out to brand it. When people think of me, I want them to think of keepupweb. So, I reserved the domain name keepupweb.com and set up a 301 redirect so that if someone decides to go to KeepUpWeb.com, they’re redirected to the home page of this blog. (It’s a similar strategy to keying FB.com to go to Facebook.)
What are your best tips for someone who is trying to build a brand for themselves on social networking sites? How important do you think your username is? What else is included in your brand? Here’s the chance for all of you marketing gurus and graphic designers to leave a CommentLuv link to one of your best articles on building awareness and branding. It’s also a great opportunity to ask some of your questions about branding, building awareness and even the value of social networking sites. Bring it on!