Posted by randfish

If your job or current tasklist includes building a social media strategy for your organization (or yourself, personally), you should be thinking about the branding created by the profiles you create. The profile name, the image you use as an icon or avatar, the webpage you link to and the words you use to describe yourself have a significant impact in how you’re perceived and how you’re remembered across the web.

Strategies for Choosing a Name

The name you choose should be based on branding considerations, SEO and reputation management intent. Choose the name of your profile based on your carefully thought out goal for social media participation (and if you don’t have one, get to work!): 

  • Company Branding
    • Use the exact brand name of the company, not a modified version, a play on words or a name you picked for fun. If you’re going to be representing your brand officially in these spheres, you need to craft a profile that does just that. It doesn’t mean you can’t show personality or be fun with your profile, it just means you need to make it extremely clear that this profile IS your brand.
    • Consider adding a geographic or specific modifier only if this is part of your branding goal (for example, Utah SEO PRO). Because anyone can make a modified version of your name, you should also invest in owning the exact match brand name to be sure there’s no confusion (and, if possible, mention the profile you use in the exact match name).
  • Personal Branding
    • First and last name must be included. Speaking from personal experience, if I could go back in time, I would alter all my profiles to be "Rand Fishkin" rather than "randfish." It seemed fun at the time (2001), but in retrospect, my full name would bring far more recognizable branding and credibility through those profiles, back to a personal brand. I can’t enumerate the number of folks who, offline, made the sudden connection that "randfish" and "Rand Fishkin" were one in the same – a clear sign of missed branding opportunity.
    • If your name is exceptionally long or difficult, you can consider shortening or modifying, but make sure it’s something you’re comfortable using in the real world as well. Remember that this advice is targeted towards professional use of social media campaigns, so if you’re just in there for fun, you don’t need to worry about this nearly as much.
  • Boosting Search Rankings
    • Choose relevant, non-cannibalizing keywords and phrases to put in the name. You don’t want to directly compete with your own site on the keywords you’re pursuing – you just want the profile pages to have some keyword relevance (and oftentimes, the profile name is the only keyword opportunity you get in the title tag on social sites).
    • Make sure it makes sense, sounds reasonable and doesn’t come across as spam. No matter how much effort you put in, if the name is "student-credit-card-dude," no one will trust you or want you around.
    • A diversity of profiles may seem wise, but in reality, you may be able to draw far more link juice and value by contributing more significantly with fewer accounts.
  • Pro-Active Reputation Management
    • Use the brand name and possible combination keywords to build phrases that make sense and can fill up important or risky search results.
    • Make sure to be extremely careful and non-provoking as you participate – aggressive or antagonistic behavior can turn a pro-active reputation management campaign into a defensive one very quickly.
  • Re-Active Reputation Management
    • Consider using names synonmous with but not exactly your brand name. The reason is to avoid having responses to negative comments repeat the keyword of your brand name more times in the copy or having complaints about your profile come up in brand searches.
    • If you are representing yourself, be clear about it – if web users smell a rat, they’ll pounce, and you could end up exacerbating the reputation management problem.

Strategies for Choosing a Profile Image / Avatar

  • Company Branding
    • Use the logo. If the logo won’t fit, use the most recognizable aspect of the logo that fits into square dimensions
    • If all else fails, go with the first letter or an Acronym for the brand name
  • Personal Branding
    • Use a picture of yourself – a head shot, with your face as close up, visible and friendly as possible.
    • Make the photo fit your personality. Even if you’re going for a very professional profile, having a smile and a polo vs. a somber face and tie is OK. As with many things on the web, there’s a certain respect for the more casual and approachable profiles, but don’t miss the opportunity to brand visually.
  • Boosting Search Rankings
    • It’s probably best to use a photo that’s cute, funny or enticing without being directly associated with your brand or you personally. After all, if you go overboard initially or learn the ropes by testing the boundaries of what you can accomplish from a pure rankings perspective, you don’t want that possibly negative branding reflecting back on you.
    • As others aruond the web (and in presentations) have noted on this topic, using an image of an attractive, younger woman on social sites can produce more interaction, more "friending" requests and a greater level of acceptance. I personally think it’s a sad example of sexism on the web, but my responsibility on the blog is to note valuable strategies, and this one certainly can deliver.
  • Pro-Active Reputation Management
    • As with company branding, using the official logo is a generally wise move here.
  • Re-Active Reputation Management
    • Using a photo that helps humanize you as an individual and your company can help – a group photo, a picture with your kids, significant other, on vacation, etc. One of the big problems in reputation defense is getting the opposing party to empathize, and this strategy can help start down that path. Now is not the time to be the faceless corporation.

I’ll let other tackle advice about how and where to link and how to optimize the descriptive elements of a social media profile page for maximum value (or maybe Jane can do it next week) 🙂

Also looking forward to your feedback about how you’ve had the most success with social profiles.

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