Your digital footprint is your personal brand. It can help to approach it in the same way as you would a corporate brand: have a focus, be consistent and make sure clients and customers can find you.

It takes time and effort to build a personal brand online. But there are plenty of tools and shortcuts you can use to ensure you’re getting the best possible return on investment.

In terms of professional profile, Twitter and LinkedIn are key. Here are five easy ways to boost your personal branding using those two social networks:

1. Use a decent photo

This is stating the obvious, but it amazes me how many people (even in comms) use a blurry or inappropriate photo or (even worse) don’t bother with a pic at all. People want to connect with other people. A face in your avatar or profile photo shows you’re human. A smiling face is even better.

2. On Twitter, follow and connect with people who interest you

This is probably the first rule of social media: imagine you’re at a party, if you don’t interact with anyone else, then how can you expect them to interact with you? Decide on a handful of topics to focus on and stick to them. People want to know what you’re about. Use hashtags where possible as it will enable you to show up in search results. An app like Ritetag is great for identifying good hashtags for any topic (don’t use the paid version, just type your desired topic in the search box). Or consider joining a Twitterchat. The more niche your conversations, the more likely you are to gain followers. If you’re worried about following too many people who don’t then reciprocate and follow you back, use a tool like Crowdfire to manage non-followers. Check Twitter Analytics regularly to see how your tweets are doing.

3. Keep LinkedIn for people you’ve met in real life

If Twitter’s a serendipitous discovery engine, LinkedIn is your reliable Rolodex. LinkedIn doesn’t advertise follower/ following ratios like Twitter, so if people know you they’re usually more than happy to connect. LinkedIn should be your first port of call whenever you come back from an event with a stackful of business cards – sending a request is way quicker than firing off an email, and the great thing about LinkedIn is that the contact should still be good if your connection switches jobs. If you use Gmail, Rapportive (owned by LinkedIn) is a great little tool, free to install, that will show you all the social media profiles connected to any one email address. Once you’ve built up your LinkedIn contacts, don’t be shy in asking anyone you’ve previously worked with for a reference. LinkedIn referrals are reciprocal, so if a previous client/ manager writes a reference for you, you can always return the favour as a supplier / colleague.

4. Post regular updates

This is especially true of Twitter where inactive accounts fall off search results and every new tweet ensures higher visibility. If you want to build your online profile and you’re not using a scheduling tool, you really should be. Buffer is great: the free version will schedule up to ten updates on Twitter, LinkedIn and other social networks. And the automated scheduler analyses your followers to find out when they’re most active online. Buffer will even allow you to attach up to four images per update. If you’re not sure what to post, use an RSS reader like Feedly or Netvibes to curate interesting stories that you think your audience will like. The premium version of Buffer also offers a feed-reader.

5. Learn to live-tweet

In my experience, live-tweeting from industry events and conferences is the best and most enjoyable way to boost your Twitter following. Live-tweeting isn’t as tough as it sounds – it’s just like using your phone to take notes, only you’re taking them via the Twitter app, and sharing them with the wider public. Make sure you include the event hashtag on all your tweets. And set up a search for that hashtag so you can see what other people around you are saying. It’s a great way to find anyone who’s interested in the same ideas as you, and connect with them. Those back-channel chats can often be the most enjoyable part of a conference.

And that’s the best point to end on: because having fun is the real secret of social media success. If you do nothing else, enjoy yourself, experiment. Connect with people you like and follow people you’re interested in. Invest a little every day, and over time you’ll reap the rewards.

Not only will you boost your personal brand, you may find you also enrich your life.

Photo: Keran Look Loy via Unsplash