In today’s social age, creating a personal brand, through strong and authentic online presence, is a prerequisite to leadership. The business case for a leader’s engagement in social media is clear. CEOs who are active on social media are perceived as better leaders who can build better connections with customers, employees and investors, according to a survey by New York City-based social media agency Brandfog. The study further shows that executive engagement in social media leads to brand trust, with more than 60 percent of those surveyed more likely to purchase from a company “whose values and leadership are clearly communicated through executive participation on social media.” Therefore, by building a social brand, not only are you strengthening your reputation but you are also influencing your company’s bottom line.

But how do you craft a social brand that complements your in-person brand? Below are six steps to get you started.

1. Have a plan

Building a social brand is like marketing any other product. You need to identify your objective, target audience and channels. What do you want to achieve? Are you looking to engage your staff or amplify your company’s brand? Understanding your target market is key to picking your social media platforms. Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+ are must-haves. But if you’re, for example, targeting millennials, then presence on Instagram and Snapchat is required as well. Draft a plan and lay out those basic elements.

2. Set up a blog

A blog is a powerful avenue to show transparency and thus build trust with your stakeholders. Aim to write a monthly post on your company or personal blog/website. Blogging on LinkedIn is also a great way to share your thought leadership. A web-friendly blog post typically starts with a teaser or timely story and is organized into segments, as is this article. If you blog on your company’s website, then republish your blog posts to your personal website with a link to the original post. Once published, promote the blog through your social networks. Plan your posts in advance by creating an editorial calendar of post ideas.

3. Tell stories

Nothing drives a point home better than a story. Back up your insights in your blog with a personal story, client case study or interesting anecdote. Write about both success and failure—a great way to show that you are human. For example, on his LinkedIn blog, Carlos Ghosn, chairman and CEO of Renault-Nissan Alliance, shares his views on taking career risks through recounting the story of how he made the decision to seize a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to go to Japan and turn Nissan around.

4. Create your own hashtag

Having your own hashtag increases your visibility and helps you curate content around your personal brand, including blog posts, quotes, speaking engagements and media appearances. For example, Dr. Marie Bountrogianni, dean of Ryerson University’s Chang School of Continuing Education in Toronto, uses #RUDeanMarie to promote and track conversations on Twitter related to her activities. The hashtag appears on her  Twitter bio—a signal to new followers to search for the hashtag if they want to get caught up on her social presence.
Create a hashtag that is short, easy to remember and not in use already. For example, if your name is Denise and you are a CEO, #CEODenise or #AskDenise would work. The latter though works better if you are looking to invite followers to engage with you.

5. Contribute to high-traffic sites

Getting published gives you credibility as a thought leader in your space. Maria Pinelli, global vice chair of strategic growth markets at Ernst & Young, is a great example to follow. Pinelli, who oversees Ernst & Young’s business unit that advises entrepreneurs, writes about entrepreneurship-related topics on her firm’s blog. She also regularly contributes articles to high-traffic sites, including Forbes, which strengthens her brand as a leading authority on entrepreneurship. Repurposing those articles for LinkedIn drives fresh traffic to her content and keeps her top of mind with her network.

6. Take baby steps

It is easy to get overwhelmed by social media. Avoid that by making a small but daily time commitment to engage with your social networks. Start small. For example, on Twitter, start with one tweet a day until you graduate to four. Aim at reaching a frequency of one monthly blog post, two weekly status updates on LinkedIn and four daily tweets. Scheduling posts, using social media manage-ment tools such as Bufferapp or Hootsuite is helpful, but continuing to post in real-time is important. Post during peak traffic times to maximize your exposure. Best times to post on LinkedIn are weekdays during business hours, and on Twitter 5 p.m. for highest retweets and 12 p.m. and 6 p.m. for highest click-through rates.
This post originally appeared on the website of Young Presidents’ Organization.