Social media profiles are arguably some of the most powerful tools for optimizing your digital footprint. When users search for you, a social media profile is likely one of the first places they’ll look for reliable information. This is in part because your profiles — on sites like Facebook and Twitter — can rank prominently in organic search results if active and properly optimized.

There are dozens of potential profiles that make sense for individuals and brands to consider. Popular websites tend to be highly visible and have the highest number of users. It’s also important to consider lesser-known but highly targeted industry profiles, like lawyer.com for law professionals, as they cater to more specific users.

Social media profiles allow you to control the vast majority of messaging and it’s important that you take advantage. These profiles play a large role in uniting your brand or personal image online, and they give you the opportunity to communicate accurate, relevant, and fair information about yourself or your brand. They can also provide a gateway to your website or other favorable digital destinations.

3 ways to leverage your social profiles to protect your online reputation

As previously mentioned, when completed, optimized, and kept active, your online profiles can be helpful in inoculating your online reputation from damaging events. There are a few easy ways that you can leverage social media to be more impactful in shaping your reputation.

STEP 1: Setup

Verify

First, make sure you’ve used any kind of verification tool that the social channel offers. Verifying your profile is one of the best ways to let users know that it’s an official, authentic profile controlled by you or your brand.

Choose Your Name Wisely

Pick a handle that accurately represents you or your brand and one that you will be comfortable with for the long term. Character limits may prevent you from choosing your ideal username. If that is the case, use a variation of the name that still makes sense. Keep your name as consistent as possible across channels. Changing your name from time to time can actually hurt your profile’s visibility.

Populate Your Profile

Take advantage of all the segments that social profiles allow you to fill out. This is typically the material that Google will crawl, and use to identify you and assign relevance and authority to your profile. Whether this includes descriptions, images, references and/or privacy settings, ensure that you review and fully leverage all options available. It will help strengthen your profile and make it appear more legitimate to users. Think of it as an opportunity to really let your unique voice or brand message come through.

Step 2: Post Regularly

Keeping your profiles active and regularly updated with fresh content will signal to users that your profiles are authentic. Set a regular posting schedule to make sure you’re keeping your profiles active.  Channel-specific analytics tools, like Twitter Analytics and Facebook Insights, can help you determine how often and when you should post.

When it comes to the content you create and publish on your social channels, spend the time and resources necessary to preserve quality. This essentially translates to giving tangible value to your audience.

Step 3: Monitor

Unfortunately, you can’t just set it and forget it. Once you’ve set up your social media profiles properly and have an established following, it’s crucial to continue to monitor them regularly for situations that may require your response. Search regularly for mentions of your brand or name, or set up third party tools that will aid you in this task. The more you monitor the online conversation, the less you’ll be caught off guard if a crisis situation arises. Monitoring will help you be better equipped to handle the situation calmly and appropriately.

Ultimately, social media is just one area of opportunity to strengthen your online reputation. There are many other areas that can either help or harm you, so it’s crucial to continue to educate yourself on the best ways to maintain your online image.