3 Steps to Develop a Branding Strategy for Social Media

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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!

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Published by Sherryl Perry

Welcome! If you're looking for help building an Internet presence that fits your needs and works for you, you're in the right place. I blog common sense articles about WordPress, social media and SEO. My goal is to help small business owners and entrepreneurs understand their core business. Together, we can develop and implement business strategies that make sense to you.

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69 Comments

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  1. Without a word of a lie, I’ve been put of social media time and time again because I can’t decide on a username! I know that the minute I lock something in I’ll want to change it and it’ll either be impossible or will require me to redo the entire registration process once more. It’s Myspace/Facebook and Tumblr all over again! 😛

    1. Hi Adam,
      Well good luck deciding on your name! It can be challenging but it’s so important to get started building those connections asap. I know it’s fairly easy to change your Twitter ID but there’s no good way (that I know of) to communicate to everyone that you’ve switched your ID. It would definitely be better to pick an ID, brand it and then not mess around with it.

      Have you tried asking friends, family and peers for input? I toyed with the idea of tweeting under my actual name rather than keepupweb. So, I reserved that too. Still, in retrospect, deciding on a domain name is much harder for me.

  2. Picking the right name for your business in social platforms is crucial in creating a brand. You must come up with a name that people can easily remember and identify it as a business.

  3. Sherryl, thank you for pointing me towards this post. I think it is a little ahead of where we are at the moment so I have added it to my favorites with a note to self.
    Thank you again for your help and advice. I can see me and my husband Bill becoming regular visitors.

    1. You’re welcome Kay. Setting up a Gravatar is free easy and I do recommend it for you. With a Gravatar, every time you comment, we’ll see your profile pic. That might seem like a little thing but it actually does help people to recognize you which is big. As far as reserving your ID on Twitter and other sites, even if you have no plans of being active on those sites right away, it’s a good idea to at least reserve your name/user ID before someone else does.

  4. Great strategies Sherryl and I definitely agree.

    The way I was taught when I came online was to just use your real name to brand you because if you decide to change directions later down the road, you will have already built up a following with people who know, like and trust you. So similar to what Jeff said, I have more than one business too. If I decide to drop one later on down the road, I don’t have to start all over building up that brand again. That would not be fun girl.

    1. I would have branded my name earlier on Adrienne but so many people struggle with the spelling of my first name. I just replied to Jeff that I’m now thinking of branding that too. I have a feeling that 2012 is going to be a good year for a lot of us.

  5. I think branding yourself is important, especially if you have multiple online businesses. If you tried to maintain say, 3 or 4 different “avatars”, can you imagine how time intensive this would be?

    In my case, as someone who works full time, and has 3 online businesses, I’ve relegated to just branding myself. Even though my niches are unrelated, it makes you seem like a real, multi-faceted person, instead of just a parrot for one brand always. And if your niche/business changes over time, you’ve already got an existing network.

    This goes back to people doing business with those they “know, like and trust”.

    Especially since more networks like Google + and Facebook use your real name (usually), this seems a good way to go. Your thoughts?

    1. That sounds like a great strategy Jeff. I can’t imagine having multiple Twitter personalities. I have reserved a few Twitter user names to protect my brand and I may use them in the future but for now, I’m maintaining the course I started with.

      I really like the way you have branded your user name as Jeff_Bronson. I struggled with branding myself as SherrylPerry and I have that Twitter ID reserved but because of the unique spelling of my first name, I decided to go the route of branding keepupweb instead. (I also reserved keepupweb.com as a domain and have it forwarded here.)

      Whatever we decide, I think we need to build awareness by continuing to be seen commenting, sharing and participating in conversations. I believe I have reached a point of top-of-mind awareness where a lot of people see the @keepuweb and they know it’s me. (At least I’d like to think so. 🙂 )

      1. Hi Sherryl,

        Thanks for your reply Sherryl.

        This does seem like the only conceivable way. Although, I do like your strategy of reserving your brand names on these properties just in case, and so nobody else can grab them!

        1. This is so funny Jeff because just yesterday I was thinking of tweaking my overall business strategy and I’m rethinking branding myself as Sherryl Perry while maintaining my @keepupweb brand. My coaching and consulting business is really growing, (mainly due to my online efforts). So, you may start seeing tweets from @sherrylperry once I dust off my dot com name. (I’m fortunate to have grabbed that name years ago too.)

  6. Hi! I believe branding is the next big thing online. So far I spent a lot of time to get my head around the basics of SEO, but I have recently started to dig more into Social Marketing. These tips are very powerful, as having the right fundamentals is key for a good branding. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Tomek,
      First, I’d like to apologize for taking three months to reply to your comment! I really appreciate the time it takes readers to comment and I truly do try to reply to all comments asap. Somehow, your comment got by me.

      By now, hopefully, you’ve followed some of the steps here and have started to really engage in social media. The post I’m attaching to my reply goes a little deeper into how you can build brand awareness and authority through social media. Good luck and I hope to see you online!

  7. Thanks for the extra tip, Sherryl! Do you mean to put it just after my signature, where I put some other info?

    1. Judy, It looks like the TwitterLink may not be working. I’m beta testing CommentLuv Premium and the link used to be working. If I can’t figure it out, I’ll post to the forum and let Andy know. (So, it’s me not you. 🙂 When it’s working, you shouldn’t be able to miss it.)

  8. I love that you give such practical advice in language I can understand! I’ve used The Reflective Writer on FB, Twitter, and my blog, and I do think I have some good branding with it. But I haven’t gone to the lengths you are describing, and I think I have more work to do. Thanks for tips I can actually use.

    Judy Stone-Goldman
    The Reflective Writer

    1. Judy,
      Thanks for letting me know that your find my articles practical and easy to understand. I appreciate your feedback. That is exactly what I strive to do. I think you’re doing a good job of branding yourself. I recognize you! A simple thing you can do to give you one more advantage is you have the option of leaving your Twitter ID when you leave a comment on sites like mine that have KeywordLuv installed. A lot of the people who comment here follow each other on Twitter. 🙂

  9. Thanks Bill. I’m glad you like my blog. Feel free to ask questions. I get a lot of new ideas for articles from questions. If you ask questions in the comments, you may also get feedback and answers from some of the other bloggers here. 🙂

  10. More great suggestions, Sherryl. I’m still having issues getting all my accounts under one email however (remember, we discussed that awhile ago). Since then I had a couple of issues w/ my mac — had to completely backup & basically scrub. Now the settings are really whacky! Still working on it…

    Heidi & Atticus

    1. Don’t you just hate computer issues? You start out trying to fix one thing and the next thing you know, you’ve discovered a new problem. Good luck getting it all straightened out. If there’s anything I can do to help you, let me know.

  11. Thanks for weighing in on this Rana. One tip that I don’t think I’ve mentioned before is including your name in the title of your website. For example, the title of this blog is “Keep Up With the Web – Sherryl Perry”. That gives my name a little clout in SEO because the search engines are always reading it. Also, if someone is viewing my site with a browser like Firefox, they’ll see my name as the title when they’re on my home page. If I were ever to sell this domain/site, someone could easily remove my name from the title.

  12. Really important to have a consistent branding strategy to be able to get yourself noticed online . Very important point Sherryl mentioned in #1 that you should pick right user names and domain name at the start especially if you are thinking to sell your business down the line.

    Because if you are branding yourself as your name, it will not be easy to sell the blog or other social media real estate.

    Great tips, Sherryl and thank you for your sharing 🙂

  13. Hi Sherryl,

    I am using my real name as my brand, I am sure people remember it because it is unique and different (I can’t find another Franziska San Pedro online, lol).
    Actually, I wanted to mention CommentLuv but I’ve seen some of your friends already did. I also like the ReplyMe plugin, it sends an email to the commenter when someone directly responded to their comment. Usually, most bloggers don’t automatically return to the blog they’ve commented on and read the response, so I think this one is fabulous.
    Definitely agree with Michele, KeepUpWeb is you,

    Franziska San Pedro
    The Abstract Impressionist Artress

    1. Hi Franziska,
      You do have a unique name. (Do you have the dot com reserved?) I’m a beta tester for CommentLuv premium and it’s really neat. It incorporates G.A.S.P., KeywordLuv and Twitterlink Comments too. (I’m always looking to reduce the number of plugins that I’m using.) I recently started using the ReplyMe plugin and 2 people have already asked me about it. It is a winner!

      1. Oh ReplyMe is awesome!! I had way too many plugins on my blog so that I decided to purchase a template that has many of the features that I needed included already (like gallery). Now I have only a few like akismet of course and several other.
        Yes, franziskasanpedro.com leads directly to my website /artwork -I will use it soon directed to my blog because my artwork will be on the same page.

          1. Hmmm, I was quite happy with it and it worked well until a few weeks ago, suddenly I have more spam coming through (up to 10 per day), I thought it was because my number of readers went up. Maybe I should check out G.A.S.P. and see if that works better! Good to know that I am not the only one, thanks for the suggestion 🙂

  14. Hi Sherryl, I came by to check out CommentLuv and found this wonderful post! This is really an critical step that cannot be missed by business owners when they market online.
    I’d like to add that it’s also a good idea to be consistent and use the same image from Gravatar on your Google profile. This becomes increasingly important as more and more users are signing up for Google +.

    Thanks Sherryl! Now I can get what I came for *lol*

    1. That’s an excellent reminder Ileane. Consistency is the key. Thanks for droppig by. I’m exceited about the CommentLuv Premium. It’s going to be wonderful to have one plugin for CommentLuv, G.A.S.P, TwitterLink Comments and KeywordLuv rather than using four separate ones.

    1. Thanks for testing this Catarina! For those of you who haven’t heard, I’m a beta tester for CommentLuv Premium and I asked a few people on Facebook to let me know if it was working. So far, so good. 🙂 If anyone reading this sees anything weird going on, please let me know. Thanks.

  15. Hi
    Sherryl,

    It really boils down to branding, doesn’t it? Developing your brand and adding Social Media to the mix can be very powerful.

    All very important steps you’ve mentioned here for sure. I’ve made it a point to brand myself as NewBizBlogger everywhere when I first started. Funny, I wondered if people even knew my real name for some time. 😉

    By the way, when I hear KeepUpWeb I will always think of you. You’ve done a great job at promoting your brand!

    Ciao!

    1. Hi Michele,
      Thanks. When I hear NewBizBlogger, I think of you and, if someone were to show me your profile pic, I could tell them your real name, your Twitter ID and the URL of you website. 🙂 It about branding and building awareness.

      BTW – I just read your latest post and it’s very motivational.

  16. Great first steps for anyone who wants to establish their brand on social media Sherryl. Next step is to interact appropriately on social. Social is very transparent because it is action – in other words, writing anything is a choice, a decision. How one participates (or when one chooses not to participate) on social establishes a pattern of behavior which can make or break a brand. I address how not to behave on social in my new post listed below. It’s easy to fall into brand mismanagement if one consistently alienates others. 🙂

    1. Excellent advice Catherine (and a great idea for a follow-up post). 🙂 Years ago, I was involved with the networking group called BNI. One of the first things we were taught is that everything we do is either a relationship builder or a relationship destroyer. I’ll check out your article. Thanks for leaving the link.

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  18. Sage guidance as always Sherryl! Regarding the gravatar, I used to use my logo because I loved it but after asking around the consensus said to go with a picture. I agree that faces help to create a personal connection. I also want to thank you for helping me to undestand that social media need not be a numbers game. Quality matters more. Thanks Sherryl!

    1. Hi Keyuri,
      I think it’s especially important for someone like you (a parenting coach) to use your picture for your profile. That personal connection is especially important to people who build their business around trust and authority.

      You are very welcome. It makes sense for you to build your reputation only on sites where the clients you want to serve are.

  19. The name is absolutely important because it’s what people will remember you as. It’s where brand recognition begins. I decided to use my last name after a number of years because I kept getting from people that it was unique and stands out. Most people have never met a Salvatier, so I went with it. And it’s really made a difference. Just google me 🙂

    Gravatar is also a helpful tool because when it comes to social media networking people need to see a face. A logo is incredibly important, obviously, I stand behind a logo 100%, but a face is what people connect with when wanting to start a business relationship. It just goes with the old saying “people want to do business with people they like”.

    1. You’re the only Salvatier I know Dennis. Plus, your name is spelled like it sounds. (To me anyways but I imagine there are people who could get creative with it.)

      That is great input that you prefer (and use) a picture rather than a graphic, illustration or logo for your Gravatar. If anyone reading this is not familiar with Dennis. . . He is an amazing graphic designer and illustrator. So, it’s really good to have him weigh in on this.

      Thanks for the link to your post on logos. That’s a great fit for this conversation. too.

  20. Exactly. It is about differentiating first and then focusing. Focus, to some, is too limiting and cuts you off from the myriad of opportunities that exist with broader audiences. But, not focusing dilutes a brand’s strength, especially if it didn’t have a strong differentiated position to begin with. It starts with knowing who you are implicitly, being authentic to that and being it in everything you do and say–which leads to ownership of your space. Then, and only then, will social media actually be a useful tool.

    1. Very well said Rob. Your reasoning supports the belief/strategy that numbers are not as important as quality. And as for being authentic, some of the best advice that I’ve heard experienced bloggers say to newbies is to find your voice. This is why I talk so much about having a strategy for all of our efforts both online and off. Thanks for joining our conversation. 🙂

  21. I really appreciate this post, one point about names especially if you want to sell is to see if you can get trademark registration…

  22. Branding is an important step in building your online presence. I had somewhat of a tough time figuring out my twitter username for my blog: Tech Straightforward, but I eventually just decided to abbreviate it as TechStrFwd (couldn’t have the full name due to character restrictions)

  23. Hi Sherryl,

    Jackie made good points and branding as we all know comes from our brand’s positioning. One point about names especially if you want to sell is to see if you can get trademark registration. This means at in Australia that you won’t get registration for a generic or descriptive name. I registered my brand name in Australia.

    Although I do have a brand that is not my name I use my photo on social media for the reasons you mentioned and you can have your logo on your profile page of you want. Good point about non competing products and services and I am a little slack in doing this properly.

    1. Hi Susan,
      Trademarking is a great point. It can get very costly though. So, it’s beyond the reach of some entrepreneurs – at least in the very beginning. Thanks for mentioning including your logo on your profile page too. That’s a great point.

  24. You have to be strategic from the outset when you create your brand. Everything that you do must be consistent, from your colours to imagry, tone of communication, personality.

    I personally don’t think it matters whether you choose to brand around a coined name or personal name, so long as it meets the overall objectives for what your goals are for the business.

    I follow the same path that Sherryl has taken, in that I have built both around my name and the coined name for the website. It definately helps to form that association in the clients mind.

    You have to test what works for you in the social sphere. I was one of the fools that thought autofollowing would be a good tactic (back in the early days when I was young and naive) needless to say the quality left much to be desired, so there was no alternative but to start over…I reduced my following from around 7000 to around 300ish. As a result, it has been much easier to connect with the right people and my tweetstream is now a pleasure to view.

    1. I really appreciate your comments Jackie. I know you blog about branding and social media. It’s always to hear from you. You make an excellent point about testing what works for you. Social media is definitely not a one-size-fits-all strategy.

  25. Great tips, as usual, Sherryl. Color is also a branding device. My color is red. I made the decision with the design of my website that it would be bold and colorful. My gravatar is my photo (I agree that it’s best for entrepreneurs to use their own image), and I am wearing red. My business cards carry my logo Write Speak Sell prominently and my red background. I always get comments on it because it definitely stands out from the crowd of cards you get at networking events. Everything counts, including branding yourself on your smart phone so that your website is mobile-friendly. I just received a new business inquiry via my mobile app. I have no idea if it will pan out but we’re talking on Wednesday. Stay tuned!

    1. Congratulations on the inquiry via your mobile app Jeannette! That’s great. Thanks for mentioning the importance of your color choice when you make branding decisions. That is very important. You don’t see banking websites using bright red or hot pink for a reason.

  26. I know that what I am about to say is not cool in the current climate of 2.0 and other such buzz terms but in my experiance social media advertising is a huge waste of time in a lot of industries (usually ones that are “boring” for lack of a better term). There is no place for social media advertising if you supply workplace products or work for a dull government department.

    1. James, I’m not sure I understand what you mean about social media advertising. I think of participating on social networking as being part of community building that results in building awareness. I agree that if someone is blatantly promoting a product or service online that it can be very off-putting. That is something I don’t advise at all. I think that the people who are benefiting from social media are using it to position themselves as being knowledgeable in specific areas by bringing value and sharing information.

  27. Good advice Sherryl. I use my full name whenever possible across all social media sites, forums, etc. When necessary, I put the word “the” in front of it (like my twitter handle).

    I also wear that teal button-down shirt in my gravatar across all sites. I did that in part because it will help people remember me.

    1. I thought about using my name John but so many people misspell my name that I chose not to. I do use it when I can along with my “handle”. That’s a good tip about your shirt too. All of my pictures are wearing that bright salmon. It’s the little things that count. What I don’t understand is people who use pictures of their pets for their avatar- with the exception of one blog that I follow because the blogger is their dog (and member of the family). 🙂

      1. One advantage of “Sherryl”: when people put your name (correctly spelled) in Google, they find you smack dab on the front page. I’m also on the front page, but it turns out that there are several other guys named John Soares, including a famous photographer, a film maker, and a race car driver.

        1. That’s true John. I’m actually grateful that my parents spelled my name this way. I was even able to reserve a dot com TLD for my name. (I haven’t taken advantage of this yet. I know!) There is another Sherryl Perry that’s a lawyer. She may be a little jealous that I scored that one. Actually, this serves as a good example to try to reserve your name and your usernames in as many places as you can. 🙂

  28. Good suggestions Sherryl. Have done it all, as you know.

    Wish I would have been more selective with whom I accepted to connect with on Linkedin though, like you suggest. Have been accepting everyone that reads my blog and as a result have quite a few followers without influence. So Klout holds that against me:-)

    Really believe that a photograph of you is important on your avatar. We do business with people not a logo. Hiding behind a logo, or worse a photograph of anything or drawing gives the impression you hide your identity.

    1. I haven’t experienced the same problem as you have with LinkedIn Catarina. I don’t believe many people follow me to LinkedIn from my blog. I think that the opposite happens.

      I agree with you that a photograph is your best choice for your avatar but I have spoken with people who are adamant that they won’t post their picture. In that case, I think that they should at least post their logo or some other image that they can brand.