Branding used to a “big business” thing. It was something only large corporations with large budgets had to worry about or even consider. But with the explosion of social media, everything has changed. Today, consumers want to do business with companies they know and with brands and people they recognize. And that’s where personal branding comes in.

Who people say you are

In 2011, you are who people say you are and how well they know you. It’s time for small business owners and online entrepreneurs to come out of hiding and start building their online personas. Your personal brand is a combination of what Google says, established authority, and the trust you create through interactions, content and visibility. Below are some helpful tips on building your personal brand in social media to help you become a brand that consumers not only recognize, but trust.

Register your social media accounts

Before you can build your brand in social media, you first have to claim it. It’s up to you to determine if you want to be known as [Company Name], [FirstName LastName] or something different entirely. For personal branding reasons, many people will choose their legal name, but you can go with any handle that works for you. What’s most important is that you use the same name on every social media account you create. This allows you to build an identity that is consistent and one that customers will recognize. Because consistency is so important, you should claim your brand name on every social media site you can, even if you don’t think you’ll use that account. It’s possible you may want that account in a few months. It also prevents a competitor from being able to claim it and impersonate you.

You’ll want to grab profiles on sites like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Flickr, StumbleUpon, YouTube, and any industry-specific niche sites. To ease the process, you might want to use a site like, which will check the availability of your desired name on more than 500 sites and claim it for you.

Create a home base

Though creating a personal brand through social media will require you to get social on other people’s networks, you still want to create a home base to drive people back to. As powerful as Twitter is, it’s even more powerful when you can find a way to bring the audience you’ve created back to your Web site to continue the conversation. This is where your brand will really be made. For most small business owners, I often recommend that you use your site blog as this destination hub. The reason for this is that your blog, unlike the other social networks, is the one place that you control. It’s yours and you can trust it will be there a year from now. You can’t say the same thing for Facebook or Twitter. Bringing people back to your blog will allow them to learn more about who you are, learn how you do things, and it gives them a more personal forum in which to engage with you. Let your blog be what anchors the rest of your activity. Everything should be pointed here.

Build content on-site

Creating content and having something to offer up is really important in building a personal brand. Consistently creating content will allow you to turn your community into an information hub, help you build authority/expertness and will give customers something to share and promote. The more stuff customers have to promote, the more likely it is you’ll be passed around to their network and that new eyes will find you. Content equals buzz. Of course, in 2011, content doesn’t just have to mean text. Content for you could be a blog post, articles, pictures, podcasts, vidcasts, webinars, etc. You want to pick the medium or, ideally, mediums that work for you.

Find satellite communities to join

The place where many business owners fail in creating personal brands is that they never leave their own Web site. To build your brand in social media, you have to be social. That means:

  1. Commenting on other popular blogs (but not spamming them!).
  2. Interacting in industry-specific social media sites.
  3. Guest blogging on industry blogs.
  4. Writing resource articles for other sites.
  5. Responding to conversations on LinkedIn or Facebook.

Every industry is going to have a number of blogs or sites that people from that area of the Web live. For example, I act as the community manager for BizSugar, a social media hub for small business owners to network and share content. If you’re a SMB owner (or if you’re trying to get the attention of small business owners), it would benefit you to become an active part of a community like BizSugar to network and share. Whatever your field, you want to be on the hunt for the most important satellite communities for your niche.

Answer questions

Check into Twitter, LinkedIn or Facebook any day of the week and you’ll find customers logging in to ask questions, get recommendations, or expressing concerns. They’re going to these sites every day to start conversations and get help with problems they’re facing. Instead of putting your head in the sand, be around to answer them. Participating in question and answer sites is a great way to build your personal brand because it allows you to establish yourself as both helpful and a subject matter expert. This way, the next time someone has a need for what you do, you’ll be the first person they think of.

In this social economy, every business owner will benefit from creating a personal brand. Hopefully the tips above will help you put that into action.