With all the social networking sites popping up everywhere, the idea of branding comes to mind. Sure there is the thought of how web sites can draw traffic from social networking sites, even sell product or services but in addition to that, what about protecting your brand before someone else beats you to it? This is especially important with respect to user names and unique URLs.

Many social networking sites allow you to set up your own profile in which you can not only post information about yourself or your company, but also have your own unique URL.

So what is to stop just anyone from setting up profiles and URLs using your brand? Beating them to it.

I have done this for years in search marketing related forums. I often register user names under “SearchRank” and “David Wallace” and then participate under one or the other. In the last year I have found myself doing the same with social networking sites such as MySpace, Flickr, LinkedIn, Squidoo, Digg and TickMe to name a few.

Besides securing your brand, are there any benefits to setting up profiles on social networking sites? That is still playing out, at least from what I have seen. We obviously have heard stories about sites like Digg sending large spurts of traffic when something hits the first page. There is also the opportunity to receive jobs or secure new business at sites like LinkedIn. Even sites like MySpace, though more geared towards young people, have driven traffic to our site from visits to our MySpace profile.

While I’m not sure yet how all this social media stuff is going to pan out, I am finding myself recommending that companies seriously think about securing their brand first and then figure out later if they can somehow use it to their benefit. In fact, we just recently set up the very first profile for a client at MySpace at their request.

Here are a few major social networking sites that companies and/or individuals should seriously think about setting up their brand and profiles on before someone else beats them to it.

  • MySpace – I originally got on MySpace to spy on keep tabs on my kids. I quickly learned that MySpace profiles did not consist of individuals only but companies as well. This is especially true of entertainers, music artists and companies that market products to young people.

    Therefore I have set up profiles for SearchRank as well as our Arizona Builders’ Zone and Jesus Site web properties, if for nothing else simply to secure the domains before someone else did (i.e. www.myspace.com/searchrank). One of my original thoughts was to see if a MySpace profile would provide some good link love when linking back to my main sites but I have yet to see any real evidence of that.
  • Flickr – Flickr has quickly become one of the top photo sharing sites on the Internet. Not only can you upload pictures and share them with ease, you can create a profile which can contain information about yourself or company as well as provide links back to your site. I set up a Flickr profile just after the recent Search Engine Strategies conference in Chicago mostly so I could share photos with other conference attendees or anyone that wanted to look at them. I would have loved to have set up a profile for my name as well but somebody already beat me to it (www.flickr.com/people/davidwallace/). You can easily see why time is of the essence if you want to secure your branding.
  • LinkedIn – I hadn’t heard about LinkedIn until Jill Whalen invited me. It is a social networking site that is more geared towards business than anything else comprising itself of about 9 million experienced professionals from around the world, representing 130 industries. Some of the things you can do through LinkedIn include finding potential clients, service providers, subject experts, and partners who come recommended, be found for business opportunities, search for jobs, discover inside connections that can help you land jobs and close deals, post and distribute job listings, find high-quality passive candidates, get introduced to other professionals through the people you know and most recently post questions or answer others in a public forum.

    Since I set up my LinkedIn profile, I have built my network of connected people up to 40. There are plenty of other people on LinkedIn I know but I simply haven’t taken the time to invite them to connect. Eventually I will as time permits.
  • Squidoo – I heard about Squidoo one day while listening to an episode of SEO Rockstars on WebmasterRadio.fm. Greg Boser and Todd Friesen who host the show were complaining that someone had already nabbed their names. I wasn’t going to allow that to happen to me so I set up my Squidoo “lens.” Other than that I have done absolutely nothing with it – just wanted to get that unique URL before someone beat me to it.

    I don’t even fully understand the purpose behind Squidoo as of yet but according to their about us page, their goal as a platform is to bring the power of recommendation to search, as a co-op to pay as much money as they can to lensmasters and to charity and as a community to have fun along the way, and meet new ideas and the people behind them. I hope to be able to play around with it in the near future and see what kind of benefits it might provide.
  • TickMe – TickMe is relatively new to the social networking scene. It was developed by one of my fellow colleagues in the search marketing industry, David Naylor and his team of developers. Dave describes it as “a bit like Myspace/Faceparty but with more privacy and a dating slant.” He goes on to say that it is, “the answer to your greatest social problem – finding out if someone likes you without risk of rejection.”

    Like some of the other social networking sites, TickMe allows you to set up a profile, link back to your main web site, secure your own unique URL and connect with other people. You can also set up special interest groups and invite TickMe members to join them. I set up my TickMe profile almost as soon as the site was announced. It will be interesting to see what kind of benefits this brand new site can provide over time if for nothing else to provide some nice link juice back to my main site.

I’ve only mentioned a few of what I suspect to be many other social networking sites out there. The basic idea I am trying to get across is that it may become more important over time for companies and individuals to locate these types of sites and at the very least, secure their brand. They can then figure out at a later date if there is some way to benefit from the sites or simply sit on their brands so no one else can steal them.

Who are some of the other major social networking players out there that we should be concerned about when it comes to securing our brands? I’d love to hear some feedback in the comments section of this post.

David Wallace

David Wallace

David Wallace, co-founder and CEO of SearchRank, is a recognized expert in the industry of search and social media marketing. Since 1997, David has been involved in developing successful search engine and social media marketing campaigns for large and small businesses.

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