1. Claim your Twitter handle
Prime domain names, especially those ending in “.com,” have long been desirable, hard to find and extremely expensive. By not reserving your domain name, your business or personal brand is at risk and you may never be able to reclaim it once you’ve lost it. With Twitter continuing its meteoric rise in popularity, it’s no surprise that Twitter account names are starting to be treated like domain names.
What happens when you don’t claim your Twitter handle:
• Exxon Mobil failed to claim their name on Twitter and was forced to deal with reputation management problems, when an imposter started tweeting using @ExxonMobilCorp.
• Jack Canfield, founder and CEO of Chicken Soup for the Soul Enterprises, had to take a different user name because he didn’t act quickly enough to secure his full name (he has @J_Canfield, not @JackCanfield).
Stop what you’re doing right now and claim the Twitter handle for your full name, as well as any products and/or companies that you currently own or you have plans to create in the future. You can’t truly own your personal brand if you don’t even own your Twitter handle.
2. Decide how you want to brand yourself
Before you start actively using Twitter, you need a strategy, and the first step in developing that strategy is to completely fill out your user profile. One of the goals of having a Twitter account is to gain followers and few people want to follow an account that doesn’t look legitimate (i.e. the profile hasn’t been filled out and there’s no avatar).
Take a good look at your other websites and profiles and draft a Twitter bio to match the rest of your online branding. This is how people will find you and recognize you now and in the future, so be honest. Don’t brand yourself as an expert unless you already are one. Do brand yourself based on your passions and skill set.
Once you have everything filled out, you should spend some time focusing on your Twitter background, which gives you an opportunity to extend your brand image onto Twitter and create a more cohesive experience for your followers. There are many sites that you can use to help you develop a custom background, such as Twitpaper and Twitterimage.
I recommend creating a Twitter background that resembles the colors, format and logo from your personal or corporate website. When you create your background, add in additional information that isn’t covered in your Twitter profile, such as pointers to more websites, contact information, or information about products or services you sell.
Three techniques for branding yourself on Twitter:
1. Lead with your company: Pete Cashmore puts his company (Mashable ()) ahead of himself on Twitter by using @Mashable as the account name, but uses his personal avatar and bio. This is a smart approach for Pete because he wants to build his company’s brand, while associating his own name with this successful property. This also gives Mashable a face and a personality to go with it.
2. Mutual branding: More and more companies are realizing that their employees are on Twitter and that they can be tapped to help promote their initiatives. Some of these Twitter accounts are mutually branded, so that the avatar has the person’s picture and the corporate logo. Two examples are Kodak’s Jennifer Cisney (@kodakCB) and Allison and Mike from CareerBuilder’s PR team (@CareerBuilderPR).
3. 100% personal branding: If you’re trying to build a strong personal brand, then focus your Twitter handle, avatar and bio information 100% on you, instead of your company.
3.Utilize third-party applications
There are literally thousands of Twitter applications out there, but only a few that can really help you build your personal brand. The apps below will help you stay in touch with your industry, find people you can network with, save you precious time, and push out your content.
Note: If you have additional Twitter applications that aid in personal brand building to recommend, please tell us about them in the comment section.
• Tweetbeep: Keep track of your brand reputation by getting alerts through email when your brand is mentioned on Twitter.
• Tweetmeme: Put a button on your blog that allows your readers to more easily retweet your posts.
• Hashdictionary: Keep track of conversations that include hashtags on Twitter.
• Twitter Grader: A site that ranks your influence in the Twitter world based on an algorithm. You can see where you stand in your town, city, state or country, as well.
• Tweetlater: Schedule tweets so that they are published automatically in the future. It’s a real time saver.