First things first. To get social online, you'll need to be plugged in. Start by identifying what your goals are and choosing the appropriate networks to join. You may want to socialize with friends, grow your customer base or do some career networking. Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn are good places to start. If the thought of creating and publishing content appeals to you, a blog or personal website gives you one central hub to post your portfolio of work.
Take the time to craft an engaging profile. This is your opportunity to write your own personal brand description. Think short, snappy and interesting. How can you boil down your life, hobbies and goals into a brief and compelling chunk of text? Always fill out your profile completely — that means including a quality photo. As you complete multiple online profiles, keep things consistent across sites.
Now that you've created your accounts, you'll need to add contacts. Take advantage of each network's tool to identify people who are already in your address book or other social networks. Choose the people you'd like to connect with and send invitations to link up.
Yes, it's fun to log in to your network and peek at your friends' photos, updates and links. But if you really want to create a presence yourself, you must engage. When you see an opportunity to contribute a comment or share helpful information, go for it. After all, the whole point of having a social presence is to be social!
Chances are your contacts will naturally fall into certain categories. Business connections, acquaintances, close friends and family are a few examples. As you add contacts to each of your networks, assign each person to a list. This will allow you to communicate with your contacts in a way that's relevant. (Your business associates probably don't want to know every detail of your kids' lives, and likewise, your best friends don't need to hear a play-by-play of the scintillating real estate conference you're attending.)
Be yourself. Before you post content, comments, photos or videos, ask yourself if you would make the same communication choices in person. Talk to your friends online as you would face to face. The surest way to make a mess of your social presence and turn off your friends and followers is to act like somebody you're not.
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