Successfully developing your personal brand online demands that you become proficient with a range of social media platforms. At first glance, it might seem that each social network is self isolated and although they do offer different individual benefits; it’s their interconnectivity that can be most beneficial when developing an online presence. A key factor to the success of popular brands is consistency, particularly in their values, ideas and image.
How do you use this approach to enhance your social media profile?
The first thing you need to consider is your avatar (and not the type that you would find on Pandora). Every social platform you use will ask for a profile picture and if you are serious about creating a successful public persona, even the most camera shy will have to address this. Consider this; when you are looking for people to follow on Twitter how often do you overlook someone because their picture is still an egg? Choose one photo and stick with it. Over 65% of the population are visual learners. If people consistently see the same picture of you it will act as a memory trigger and increase your chance of being remembered.
Think of your avatar as your personal logo. This is the one picture which people will identify you with. How do you want to be seen in the industry and how can you convey this visually? It is also worth bearing in mind that a picture will make you recognisable to people at conferences or events, if they already know what you look like, they will be much more likely to approach you.
Choosing a profile picture
- Choose a recent, good quality photo, in sharp focus of your head and shoulders.
- It doesn’t need to be a professional shot, this can be expensive and is unnecessary. A picture taken with a standard digital camera or a decent smart phone will be fine.
- Ask a friend to take the photo. A self portrait in the classic ‘MySpace-style’ will not help your professional image.
- Avoid pictures from nights out, pulling stupid faces and group shots; your avatar is about you not your friends.
- If you really hate having your picture taken, don’t panic. There are many people who feel the same way and there is an alternative. I would avoid using a symbol as these seem corporate and impersonal but a cartoon or drawing can work really well. Aim for some abstraction of a self portrait i.e. Don’t pick Mickey Mouse or Donald Duck.
- Or alternatively use photo editing software:
- Fotoflexer is an easy, free way to touch up your snaps. If the professionals can get rid of the odd blemish or wrinkle and it makes you feel more confident, then why shouldn’t you?
- Instagram is a free photo sharing application which is also great for making your photos look a little bit different. It allows you to add a digital filter and experiment with different borders and finishes. The images can easily be shared on social media too.
Now that you have your image sorted the next step is to think about what you want to say about yourself. Most platforms will allow you to write a short bio. Using Twitter as an example again; I rarely follow people who don’t give me an indication of what they are interested in. Completing a short tagline about yourself is also a great way to help relevant people find YOU. There are an array of applications designed to help people find like minded individuals on social media sites. Applications such as Follower Wonk and Muckrack use keyword searches to help you find lists of relevant people, so it is really important that you optimise your bio with appropriate search terms so your profile can be easily found.
Writing a bio
- Firstly, try traditional brainstorming; make a really long list or mind map of everything that interests you. Aim to write down as much as possible, it does not matter at this stage if it seems a little random. Ideally your bio will show a little bit of personality, so some of your more obscure notes might even be worth mentioning.
- Ask for help. Try getting your friends and family to describe you in a sentence, they might think of something you have missed.
- Identify buzzwords. I would suggest choosing around three key terms for your subject area. These will classify your interests and improve the chance of your social media profiles being found. Make sure you are on the right track by checking which words influential people in your field are including, you can also use Tag Crowd to visualize the most popular keywords used on your favourite relevant blogs or websites.
- Connect your bio to your other social media profiles. This is a great place to let people know which other platforms they can find you on and if you have a blog include the URL.
- Finally, Don’t make it all about work and the career you want to have. The people who tend to pique my interest online have a well rounded persona. Ultimately what you are aiming to do is develop a relationship. I am sure you don’t spend all your time in real life discussing work, (if you do: call a friend and go have some fun). People don’t want to network with boring people so give them something they can talk to you about, think about your more unusual interests. I once got chatting to an influential contact on Twitter through a mutual love of Haribo (sour cherries all the way…)
Choosing a name should be fairly straightforward; everyone has one! On most platforms you will be able to use your real name, however there are some restrictions, for example, your Twitter handle has to be unique as does your email address. There are two guidelines I would stick to when deciding on your user name, be sensible but memorable.
Choosing a user name
- This is not the place to try to be funny. Any potential employers, contacts or connections will not look favourably on an avatar called Little Miss Sunshine.
- Try to be a little unique. Which out of your first, middle or surname is more original? Making this a focus can improve your chance of being remembered.
- Wherever possible, use your real name. You can find out if yours is available on a range of platforms by doing a quick search on Name Check. If the site requires you to create a unique user name then try to say as close as possible to the one your mother gave you. Here are some combinations to try:
- Include your middle name
- Put your surname first (Hathaway P)
- Add a Miss, Mrs or Mr (Mr James Carson)
- If you have to add a number, try not go overboard stick to one or two digits (Roger 2 Dots)
Sign up for Gravatar
What is it and why is it useful?
If you are following and commenting on blogs (and you should be) then Gravatar from WordPress is something you must sign up for. This is a great platform for helping you keep your image consistent, as it automatically pulls through your image whenever you comment or post on a WordPress blog. As they are probably the biggest blogging host on the internet right now, the majority of blogs you read are likely to use this as their platform.
How do I set one up?
They are really easy to create all you need is an email address. You will then be able to create your profile which allows you to add a photo, bio, email address and links to your social profiles. When these are complete all you will need to do is use your email address to sign in each time you comment or post on a blog and your image will automatically be pulled through. Simple.
Cross platform communication
As I have mentioned on a ‘few’ occasions already, the key to developing a successful social media profile is by engaging with others in your community. Your avatar is important for displaying a consistent image, however you need to be using your chosen platforms cohesively to really stand out. There are many ways to do this and it is largely dependent on which ones you use. (If you are still confused about which platforms are best for you, this guide should help).
A few tips to try
- Tweet that you have just commented on a blog post and provide a link to the post. This is a great way to encourage discussion about topics you are interested in.
- If you are posting an update on LinkedIn which you think might be useful to your Twitter followers you can share it across both platforms by adding the hash tag ‘#in’ to the end of your post.
- Google+ is a great place to host debates. Don’t leave your comments on the blog’s website, instead share the post with your circles and encourage people to talk about it on your Google space.
- Hook your tweets up to Facebook. This will pull your Twitter feed through as Facebook status updates. If you are selective about what you are tweeting and monitoring responses to both, this can be great for time saving. One warning, however; Twitter moves a lot faster than Facebook so constant tweeting could soon become annoying to your Facebook friends.
- Quora is a great place for discovering new topics to discuss and if you leave an answer it will give you the option to share this on Twitter or Facebook. This is a great way to quickly get more people involved in the discussion and publicise your knowledge.
Time saving applications
When you have begun to get a feel for your new social profiles, these applications can be fantastic time savers. They allow you to hook up your different profiles and manage them all from one place. They save you from the need to be constantly attached to your social profiles. These are great time savers, however, they are still only applications so remember; they can’t engage for you. So use them, but don’t get lazy.
TweetDeck is great place to start if you are looking for a time saving application. If you are mainly using just Twitter and Facebook on a regular basis, then I would recommend this. It allows you to monitor multiple Twitter and Facebook accounts and also gives you the option to schedule tweets. This means you can spend an hour in the morning working out what you want to post and it prevents it from distracting you throughout the day. It also has a handy pop up to notify you when anything happens so you can stay engaged without constantly checking your news feed.
HootSuite is one of the most popular time saving applications as it allows you to connect the broadest spectrum of social networks. You can add your Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Foursquare, WordPress and even MySpace. Like TweetDeck, it includes a scheduling function so you can organise your sharing for the day ahead. Another fantastic function of Hootsuite is that it allows you to automatically share your favourite blogs, simply add the RSS feed and it uses an inbuilt URL shortener to tweet them at intervals with a message of your choice. The only thing I would mention about this is to make sure you monitor any comments and respond to them. They also include an analytics dashboard so you can track how much engagement your posts are receiving.
Buffer App is a fairly new platform which has been specifically designed to help you save time whilst improving how well you engage with your audience. At the moment it supports Facebook, Twitter and most recently LinkedIn, but they also claim to be ready to jump on Google + as soon as the API is released. Firstly, Buffer allows you to add an icon to your tool bar which enables you to automatically tweet the page you are browsing. The main premise of this app, however, is to ‘buffer’ your news feed. In the morning you can collate relevant articles; add them to your buffer stream; decide which content is relevant to which audience and it will then share them automatically with your networks at intervals throughout the day.
- Choose a sensible, good quality profile picture.
- Write a bio which shows your personality as well as your professionalism.
- Choose a user name which is as close to your own as possible.
- Ensure all the above are the same across all of your social media platforms.
- Use short-cuts and software to consolidate your social media profiles whilst remaining engaged.
This post is part of the Personal Branding Series, helping you develop a successful online presence.
Top image by Movie Mania
Bottom image by Robbert van der Steeg