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(ARA) – Millions of people connect with others online through Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare and other social media platforms. These tools can be beneficial, helping you meet new people, re-connect with old friends, communicate with current friends and even find jobs.

However, using social media can create a clutter of information about you online, giving others the opportunity to pass judgment without your control. This doesn’t mean you should shut down your Facebook, Twitter and Foursquare accounts, but rather turn your social media presence into an opportunity to brand and market yourself to the online community. And if you’re one of many job-hunting Americans, marketing yourself online can be the critical point for true candidacy for the job you want.

Emmy-nominated TV/online personality Shira Lazar was recently named “Social Media Maven,” winning Ashton Kutcher‘s 24 Hours at Sundance competition. She’s also the host/guest judge of the MSN video series “The Tastemaker,” a contest that features six contestants competing in a series of challenges to motivate their social networks and community to win the title of “tastemaker.” Here are some simple tips from Lazar to help you be smart and strategic when effectively building your online brand:

* Consistency of your brand. Know yourself and your message. People can see through a fake brand or image. When you embrace your authentic voice, you’ll find your audience and your audience will find you. Once you’ve honed in on your brand, be consistent in your engagement. Just like a friend, you won’t build loyalty with your followers if you’re never around.

* Converse and share. Your brand isn’t just about you, but the conversation you create and what you contribute. Use your online platform to put the spotlight on issues and people that inspire you.

* Content is king. Don’t just talk about what you’re eating and doing. Twitter and Facebook status updates are the new news feeds. If you can provide important and relevant content to your followers, then you will become a valuable source of information, too. Sites like make it easy to share articles and videos with just one click.

* Quality over quantity. If the number of followers is your key indication of success, you’re looking at the wrong thing. It’s the quality of people following you and those who really listen and interact, not the quantity.

* Incorporate multimedia. People love connecting in more ways than just the written word. Try incorporating photos and videos in your Facebook or Twitter posts to add more color. Resources like, Facebook’s mobile apps and more make uploading multimedia content a snap, either at home or on the go.

* Keep learning. Stay curious, and keep up with the latest innovations, topics and news. One way is by observing ways other people are building their brands and activating their communities, like the contestants on the MSN video series Tastemaker at Watch the show to see how each contestant motivates their social networks and community to participate in certain activities for their challenges. Jot down some of those ideas, or even jump start your online brand building by submitting your video vote while the contest is still happening through the end of October.

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Author: Andy Quayle

Andy was born in the Isle of Man and currently lives in Pittsburgh.
Known globally as a willing source for tech news and views, Andy takes great pride in consultation and education.

Should his schedule permit, Andy is available to help you with your SEO and Web Analytics needs.