Welcome to the Party

Organizations are genuinely starting to recognize the significance of social media, and expect their employees to understand and use the tools. Not sure where to start? These steps will help you get started in establishing your own ‘personal brand.’

1. Who do you want to be?

Many individuals use their first and last name online. This helps in fostering more authentic relationships, and makes it easier to make contact online. As well, it is more likely to remain relevant after more cheeky screen names lose their relevance.

In college, I was assigned the email address afhill@… I decided I liked the use of my middle initial, and started using afhill in my online communications. Although now I wonder if I would have been better served using my full name, I don’t wish to lose the ‘brand equity’ I’ve developed with afhill.

If you have a particularly common name, you may need to be somewhat creative. Just keep in mind that your screen name WILL follow you into the real world. Make sure you’re comfortable with people calling you your moniker to your face. It’s also useful if it’s easy to say and spell (I find that sometimes folks have trouble knowing if I’m saying aFhill or aShill). You can use usernamecheck.com to see if your desired username is in use. Even if you don’t plan on using many (most?) of these services, you want to ensure you’re establishing a unique brand.

2. What is your primary email address?

Although they do not surface the addresses onscreen, most blogs and online services use your email address as a “key” to your account. While you may love your employer today, you are operating with your own brand. Consider using a gmail or other account to ensure your registration on other sites is tied to you, not your employer.

3. Set up a Backtype account

Everytime you respond to a blog post, you have the opportunity to leave a URL. Even if you don’t have a blog now (or plan to), having a URL to link back to helps to give people an opportunity to learn more about you. Backtype is a service that aggregates the comments you make on different blogs. When you sign up, you have a profile URL of backtype.com/{username} that lets people know what blogs you’re commenting on. If you “follow” someone on backtype, you’ll be able to see where they’re leaving comments, and potentially learn of interesting new blogs.

4. Set up a Google Reader account

Really, you could choose from one of many RSS readers, but Google Reader is well-established and respected. Many, if not all, blogs offer an option to “subscribe to an RSS feed”. Rather than having to return to each individual blog to check if it’s been updated, a feed reader aggregates all your subscriptions and lets you know which have been updated.

google reader

More information on using Google Reader is available at Lifehack.org.

5. Set up a StumbleUpon account

According to Wikipedia, StumbleUpon is “an Internet community that allows its users to discover and rate Web pages, photos, and videos. It is a personalized recommendation engine which uses peer and social-networking principles.” StumbleUpon gives you the opportunity to save and review sites you find online, and see what others have “stumbled”. To really get the most use out of the site, you should download the StumbleUpon toolbar, as you can give sites “thumbs-up” as you visit them. As you save or review sites, you can also see what other stumblers have said about the site. This makes it easy to find like-minded individuals, and learn of new sites. I use StumbleUpon as my primary place for saving interesting blog posts and sites to refer to later.

6. Find some Blogs that interest you

Armed with a screen name, a way to track your comments and your favorite blogs, you’re ready! Now.. where are you going to use this stuff? StumbleUpon may provide a starting place, and another great resource is Google blog search. You can search for almost any topic and find relevant posts.

7. Set up Google Alerts for more

New blogs pop up all the time, so you can actually set up email alerts (or even an RSS feed) for particular terms. When I was doing research for my capstone project, I set up a google alert for the terms “RIA accessibility” and was notified when relevant new blog posts cropped up.

What are you still doing here?

Go out! Have fun! (Oh, but first, subscribe to my RSS feed and give it a thumb’s up on StumbleUpon!)

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