How to brand yourself through social media connections

Birds of a feather flock together online. Here are some tips for using these platforms for personal branding.

Making connections is what social media is all about. However, when it comes to personal branding, the quality of those connections is important.

Imagine a recruiter looking through your Twitter followers and finding a spammy “Buy 5,000 Twitter followers” account, or worse, a porn account. What does that say about you that you didn’t block such accounts?

If you’re still using the number of followers to measure your social media success, it’s time to rethink your strategy. Audit your audience, determine which users are the right ones and cull your lists accordingly.

Once you’ve completed the audit, what can you do in the future to ensure you have quality connections that will enhance your online personal brand?

Start by having a thoughtful approach to whom you’ll follow.

Here are some tips for deciding whom to follow on social media for personal branding success.

Linkedin

Questions to ask when someone wants to connect:

• Are they in your industry or a related industry? (Related question: Are they in any Linkedin groups you belong to?)

• Are they active on Linkedin and other social media?

• What do they talk about and what do they share on social media?

Questions to ask if you seek new connections:

• With whom do you want to connect? Why?

• How will you find these people? Using advanced search in Twitter and Linkedin, and Facebook’s graph search are good places to start—search for people mentioning the terms relevant to your interests.

• Are they active on Linkedin and other social media?

• What do they talk about and what do they share on social media?

Twitter

In some respects, Twitter is a better starting place to find industry-relevant people. It is a place where you can connect with anyone (unlike Linkedin, where you must be connected or pay a premium to contact people you aren’t connected to).

Basic tips to assess whether to follow someone on Twitter include:

• Does their bio indicate relevance to your purposes on social media?

• What kind of content have they shared in the past few days?

• Is their following/follower ratio in balance—in other words, are there either more followers, or are they about the same? If there is a much higher following number, they are either new to Twitter or desperate for followers.

Still in doubt? Use one of the free tools that assesses Twitter accounts:

Twitteraudit: It seeks to answer the question: “How many of your followers are real?” But it also evaluates the Twitter accounts of others. Anything higher than 10 percent fake followers indicates someone who indiscriminately connects or does not block spammy followers– they’re not very careful on Twitter.

Status People: It sorts any Twitter accounts followers into “fake,” “inactive” and “good.” A high number in “fake” (more than 10 percent) or “inactive” (more than 20 percent) should also be a warning sign.

Facebook

First, decide if Facebook is a place you want to open up to people beyond friends and family.

You can use Facebook’s own search engine to find people who may be worth connecting to if you are OK with connecting professionally on Facebook.

Start by using search terms such as keywords related to your industry and move on to search on relevant hashtags. Although its focus is marketing, the tipshere can be applied to personal connections, too.

Google Plus

Any discussion on personal branding has to include Google Plus. Whether you’re a fan is somewhat irrelevant—it’s a Google product so you better believe being there helps in Google search results.

Using the Google+ search or a regular Google search, use keywords and the usual Google search operators.

For more on conducting better Google searches, see “How to Use Google Search More Effectively.”

Mike Johansson is a senior lecturer in social media, advertising and PR at the School of Communication at the Rochester Institute of Technology, and a social media strategy consultant at Fixitology. A version of this article originally appeared on the Fixitology blog.

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