There’s an implicit pressure on social media enthusiasts to be connected in more than one way. It’s not enough to have a Facebook page, you need a Twitter account as well. What do you mean you’re not on LinkedIn? Well, at least you have a blog on WordPress or Tumblr, right?
There is no requirement to spread your digital self thin, but many of us are still juggling more than one online profile (I’m currently balancing at least five). Each of these profiles offers us a chance to connect with new communities in different ways, but each network needs to be managed and updated. With so many online profiles, questions are bound to arise. Is your bio page the same across all platforms? Should it be?
There are few hard and fast rules when navigating social media; a lot comes down to preference. For those starting out or just looking to make sense of their profiles, we’ve culled advice from five social media experts in a range of backgrounds. Mashable’s given you ways to create your brand, face the challenges, track your reputation, and corral your profiles on the social web. Now, here are five ways to manage, consolidate, and clean up your online identity.
1. Keep It Consistent!
One of the best things you can do is to make sure your profiles are consistent. This includes your bio page, your profile pic, and your tone of voice. “Consistency is important,” said Dan Schawbel, managing partner of Millennial Branding, “If you’re “Matt” on one site, you better be “Matt” on every other site.” That similarity can help viewers keep track of you across different platforms. Start by scooping up vanity URLs on sites like Facebook (facebook.com/ClarkKent) and Twitter (twitter.com/ClarkKent), and buying your domain name (www.ClarkKent.com). Similar fonts and font sizes can also help create a congruous online identity.
But what about your updates — how do you keep those consistent? “Using the same tone of voice will help keep the cohesion,” said Amber Naslund, Director of Community at Radian6. “It doesn’t have to be verbatim but there needs to be a certain level of consistency,” Naslund said. “You’re assuming that [one particular social site] might be the only place they get that [information].”
Keep in mind that consistency doesn’t mean repetition. Customize your profiles and updates to align with the values and uses of each social platform, but maintain a common theme throughout.
2. Find Your Brand!
Put some forethought into what your want your digital reputation to be and build towards that. Joshua Benton, Director of Harvard’s Nieman Journalism Lab, highlights the importance of viewership. “You don’t want to have carbon copies because you’re talking to different audiences. Your paragraph bio on LinkedIn isn’t going to make sense on your Twitter page and neither of those is going to make sense on your Facebook page.” Benton recommends making a basic bio that can be tailored for each network. “Think about how the image you want to present sits in with the audience.”
Different networks are better for different things — it helps to cater your posts based on the audience. “Part of that is baked into the form,” Benton said. “It’s sort of hard to have a wild and crazy LinkedIn profile, whereas you can on something like MySpace.”
Whether you want to be known by your real name (recommended) or a cute buzzword, it’s important to come up with something memorable and representative of you. This advice applies to people and brands. “When you type Digsby, we are the first result,” said Steve Shapiro, CEO of Digsby. “It is important to pick a unique product name but also one that people can spell when they hear it, or they’ll never find you on Google.”
Once you’ve decided your online name and brand, try to stick with it. It’s hard to build a reputation if you keep changing. “The problem with changing your specialty every six months is that people can see what you did six month’s prior,” explained Barry Hurd, CEO and founder of 123SocialMedia. That kind of indecision can make it difficult for your audience to get a grasp on your identity.
3. Own Your Name!
One of the best ways to track your progress is a simple Google search. “I’m conscious that I’m writing about the things I’d liked to be found for,” Naslund said. “If I’m going to post a tweet about a drunken bender with my sister from last night, it might pop up on Google.” Make sure you’re updating your social networks on news and events that you want to be known for. Part of managing your online identity is understanding your professional profiles (like LinkedIn) can very well get mixed up with personal profiles (like Facebook). “You can’t keep the peas from touching the mashed potatoes,” Naslund added. “The Internet doesn’t distinguish between profiles. That’s a human distinction, not a technical one. It all gets lumped into the same basket.”
An easy, free way to manage your name’s SEO is by getting onto popular social media sites. “Twitter accounts often pop up on the first page even if you’ve only posted three tweets,” Benton explained. “Chances are you’d rather have that and a link to your bio page than something you don’t have control over. Get on networks with good page rankings.”
Another tip for optimizing SEO is by proactively setting up inbound links between your profiles. Include links to your social profiles, such as Foursquare, Twitter, LinkedIn and Quora, on your blog. On your Twitter profile, include a link to your blog. And on Foursquare, make sure you include your Twitter profile link. If you already use multiple networks, this practice is an easy way to increase the amount of inbound links for each site. It’s a circle of links that will help optimize your Google search rankings.
The ultimate goal is to optimize your SEO so that someone should be able to search for your name and get a good idea within the first 10 results of who you are or who you’d like to be.
4. Get a Little Help!
The good news is that you don’t have to monitor all these sites by yourself. There are a bunch of web tools that can help you track or update your entire online presence. Try using a multi-platform dashboards like Ping.fm, Tweetdeck, or Hootsuite to update your social media identity all from a central hub.
As a secondary step, if you’re interested in seeing which sites are benefiting you the most from a PR point of view, set up Google Alerts on each of your profiles. Alerts will help you keep a pulse on buzz around your name. To see which sites are most referenced, try adding small marks to your profile pics for manual tracking. Hurd suggested adding a small Facebook logo to your Facebook profile pic, for example, so you can see when your Facebook profile (along with a pic) is linked to.
5. Human Afterall!
Out of all these tips, perhaps the most important lesson is to just be yourself. It may sound simple, but ultimately people are connecting with you because of who you are. “How people perceive you is through those interactions with your audience, not just a neat and tidy persona,” Naslund said. “People want to see the person behind the persona.”
Schawbel recommended being selective with your networks and genuinely connecting: “If your Twitter handle or Facebook page is your name, it has to come from you.”
That same sense of honesty can also be a great way to find customers. “These platforms are a huge opportunity to interact with users one-on-one,” Shapiro said. Connecting in an honest way can bring in new supporters for your product or brand.
Final Words of Advice!
We asked our experts for a golden rule to managing your online identity. While there may not be one ruling maxim, here are some choice words of wisdom for cleaning up your social identity.
- “Commitment is really the key word,” Schawbel said. “Everyone keeps talking about passion, but commitment takes [it] into account. If you’re committed to this, you’ll succeed. Or, at least you’ll get something out of it.”
- “Be consistent with the tone and approach for all those social networks,” Naslund said. “Through all those profiles, it will feel like you. And that’s what people use social media for, to connect with a real person. Develop an identity you’re not only proud of, but can stand behind.”
- “I think you have to go into these sort of things acknowledging that compartmentalization is impossible. [It’s] the same way in real life. We act one way around our parents, and one way around our boss, and one way around our friends, even if we’re still the same person,” Benton said. “Think about the image you want to present… and don’t be afraid to be human.”
What is your top tip for keeping your social identity clean and consistent?