Creating Your Social Media Identity

September 11, 2009
By Lisa Barone in Social Media

Back in May, I wrote a post about creating your social media plan. And to date, I think it still stands as one of the most useful posts we’ve been able to provide for readers and clients. But I think it’s missing something really important. And I’m sorry for that.

No one will argue that it’s extremely important to secure your brand and to learn how to navigate the waters of social media. But that only gets you so far. You still have to choose who you want to be once you get there. Social media gives all of us a chance to be whoever we want to be in order to sell ourselves and our products. You can either choose to create a persona that people can’t help but love, or you can be that kid in school who spends his days getting stuffed into lockers. The choice really is yours.

If you’d rather your brand be associated with the former, here are some tips. If you enjoy confined spaces…then, well, you’re on your own.

Picking Your Username

Imagine if you had a chance to go back in time and have a say in what your parents named you? If you were the newly born Sparrow James Midnight Madden and you could get yourself into that post-delivery room and beat whoever jokingly suggested that to a drugged Nicole Richie. With social media, you get that chance to start over and control your name. But pick wisely, because your social media name is just as important as the name given to you at birth. [Okay, maybe not really. Unless you’re Sparrow James Midnight Madden looking for a redo. Seriously. Ouch.]

Your username tells people who you are. It tells them what you support and sometimes, even your motives for being there. You need to figure out who you’re going to be. Are you a regular person (LisaBarone), a brand (OutspokenMedia), a person representing a brand (OutspokenLisa), a fictional character (Lisa’sConscience) or some other mix. It’s up to you. The type of username you choose will affect how you’re able to connect and interact with people, so do give it some thought. I’d suggest picking something that defines you, whether it’s your name, your company’s name, whatever. Don’t try and be too clever or faddish. Fads die. Usernames are forever.

And of course, once you decide on your username, we recommend using a service like Knowem to make sure you Grab. It. Everywhere. You want to build trust by being consistent throughout the Web.

Choosing your Avatar

This is actually more important than people want to give it credit for. I know it feels silly, but it pretty much sets the tone for your whole social strategy. There are lots of choices for picking what type of avatar is best suited to represent you.

Avatars commonly seen include:

  • A photo of yourself
  • Your company logo
  • A photo of your pet or child
  • A photo of an object [Think @TheMadHat]
  • Abstract images
  • Celebrity faces
  • Cartoons

In most cases, your best bet is to use a photo of yourself. Something that is easily recognizable and that brands you, the person, with the account you’re creating. People want to form relationship with other people, not with your company’s logo. And whatever avatar you decide on, make sure you’re once again being consistent across all channels.

For tips on developing a full blown avatar “strategy”, Search Engine Journal has already created a pretty good resource on the topic. I’d give it a read.

Tagging Accounts

Once you have the account, you want to give it a voice by using tags to find “your kind”. Most social sites don’t have the advanced search capabilities that Twitter has, which can make it hard to track conversations. To get around this, people use tags to not only tell the world what they’re interested in, but to make it easy to find others (and to let others find them) who share their passions.

To see this in motion, think of a site like Facebook. All the information, interests and favorites you include in your profile become links that connect you to other people who have inputted the same information. By clicking on them, you’re able to find people who think just like you do about a certain topic. It works the same way on sites like MySpace or even Dailybooth. You should be using tags to help you find your village of customers.

Creating a character

We’re all told to be “real” and “genuine” and “authentic” in social media. According to the experts, that’s how we’re going to be successful. And I believe that. However, I also believe that if everyone walked around bleeding who they were, what they believed and what they stood for 24/7 that we’d all die of exhaustion within a week. Look at poor Susan Boyle and what it did to her. Being completely “ourselves” in front of the cameras is often just too much. To survive, celebrities create a caricature of themselves. There’s who they are in real life and who they are in the public eye.

You should do the same thing.

Creating a caricature of yourself allows you to do a lot of things. It gives you the freedom to magnify the personality traits needed to attract people, it allows you to play on your strengths to establish a point of difference, and it makes your personality appear larger than life. People are drawn to those types of people. You know that person you are when you’ve had a few too many cases of Sam Adams? The heightened version that draws people in and makes them notice you? It’s a similar concept.

Adopting this strategy in social media will also save your emotional well-being when you’ve reached the point where you have 10,000 followers and everyone wants to tell you exactly what they think about you and how offensive they find you. For some reason, it seems to add an extra layer of skin. Not that I know this from personal experience. Oh look, we’re moving on…

Deciding how to fish

Obviously, deciding where to fish is going to be an important part of your social media plan, however, you also need to decide how you’re going to fish in order to make money in social media. You need to figure out how you’re going to compete. What will your point of difference be that allows you to bring people from Twitter to your blog? What’s the strategy you’re going to adopt?

If you’re Guy Kawasaki, maybe you do it by making yourself a news source and building trust that way. If you’re Peter Shankman, maybe you’ve found a way to monetize being helpful. If you’re Zappos, you’re using social media to exemplify customer service. Know what your plan for interaction is before you start and make sure you’re feeding that in every conversation. Don’t just start talking. Know how to find the conversations that will make you money.

Once you have your initial social media plan in place, take some time to figure out who you want to be and how you’re going to form that persona.  We all want to be the cool kid in school. The tips above can help you learn how to jump into the right circles.  Or at minimum, they’ll keep you from being stuffed into lockers.

Poor Sparrow James Midnight.

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