When social is personal
Social media is a popular buzzword, and it can be tightly integrated with an SEO strategy for your personal brand. As an individual or a small business owner, you can approach social media in a couple of different ways, depending on your attitudes about Web 2.0.
A. Social media as a means to an end
You’re busy, and you don’t have the time to spend all day updating MySpace, Facebook, a blog, Twitter, and a vanity site. You want to make sure your Google results say the best possible things about you and/or your business, but you aren’t interested in social media outside what it can do for your Google results.
First of all, this attitude is a perfectly acceptable reason to pay attention to social media. Not everyone can be an early adopter who endlessly evangelizes about the latest social media widget. What’s important is to create a presence on a few key sites, and target that presence to the keywords you want associated with your personal brand (your name, your business name, and possibly some local search terms related to both). Set them up and let them go out into the wild. You can get great results on some long tail terms when you combine this approach with SEO on your main site.
B. Social media as a hobby
If you’re into social media for social media’s sake, you’re going to have to make some decisions about what to keep public and what to make private. You want to be sure that your personal accounts (crazy Flickr photos, an old Livejournal, some embarrassing Yahoo! Answers queries) are under a different username that’s unconnected with your professional brand. If you sign up for all the latest and greatest social media sites, make sure you take a moment to think about whether you want your profile on the site to be public or private.
What to target?
Whether you fall into category A or B, make sure you know what terms you’re targeting as you’re creating profiles. Don’t refer to yourself with a nickname and don’t forget to include local search terms. “Midtown Market, an Austin grocery” is much better than “Midtown store.” Don’t be afraid to really work the local angle, especially if you’re a consultant or a retailer.
Social media is a powerful tool for managing your personal Google results. Even if you’re not as “into it” as others on the web seem to be, don’t discount it as an option for personal branding. And if you’re beta testing 5 fresh new startups right now and have profiles on every one, be aware of how it will affect your personal SERPs.