Here’s an article I wrote which has just been published in the March issue of Enterprise Magazine. After the limitless joys of the web it’s quite hard to whittle down your thoughts to a mere 550 words, so excuse the brevity. But hopefully it’s a nice read! 🙂

Unless you’ve decided that you won’t engage with the internet in any way, then it’s almost certain that you have at least one profile online somewhere. Whether it’s a personal profile like Myspace, or a more business oriented one like LinkedIn, you are using social media to project an image of yourself that, to one extent or another, will be viewable by any person on the planet with an internet connection and, here’s the kicker, your great-great-grandchildren. Having an online identity is inevitable, and it will be available for anyone to view forever. How we engage with the social internet is something not to be taken lightly.

Firstly we must be aware of search results. What’s going to come up when our name is entered into Google? What about the information that is always associated with our name – our biographies. Do they portray us as hyper-efficient, revenue-generating machines or a laid-back networker? What are the keywords that will attract attention, and do those keywords trigger the relevant searches on Google? What words do you want to be associated with on search engines?

Tom Critchlow, Head of Search Marketing with web-experts Distilled, had some great tips for using social media to improve your online identity. “Make sure you choose an online ‘handle’ which is both easy to remember, unique and short. Be consistent – make sure that you keep the same username across all the social media sites. Make sure you are contactable – If someone wants to get in touch with you make it easy for them. Never underestimate the power of email. Last but not least, engage! When someone emails you, email them back, when someone twitters you, twitter them back”.

With his final point, Tom hits on a crucial fact about social media and online branding – You can’t just expect to just constantly promote yourself and your products. There’s a certain amount of give and take. For every time you advertise your blog to your Twitter network, be prepared to make 20 other “tweets” that are relevant links to other people’s works.

And this leads us neatly onto the social network of the moment. You’ve no doubt heard of Twitter by now and if you’ve read this far then, yes, you should be using it. For me, it’s the network where the boundaries between social and professional are most blurred. But it’s also the most powerful networking device I’ve ever come across. The micro-blogging format lends itself to sharing links to interesting articles and reports, using keywords to attract more followers and thus generating fantastic contacts with people you would never normally have found. However, it also lends itself to pithy asides, comments on the latest TV shows and occasionally a silly photo or a drunken joke. Keeping your discipline, and maintaining a professional (if informal) image is important.

I’ll leave the final words to Carl Morris of social media strategists Native. “The term ‘personal brand’ is not to everyone’s taste, but if you do anything on the web you need to understand it. Your prospective client, employer or advocate will take seconds to figure out who you are. Attention is scarce! So you need to represent yourself in a way that makes it as easy as possible for them”.