Social media can be your best opportunity for enhancing relationships and expanding your brand. It can also help you do your job better. The web has become one of the most fertile sources for finding solutions to vexing problems, connecting with resources, building and maintaining relationships, sourcing talent and researching clients, employees and prospects.

With over five billion searches a day, Google is clearly the world’s number one research tool. You can almost guarantee that prospective clients, employees, business partners, and colleagues will use it to connect with the people they need. If you’re avoiding social media, you’re invisible to those who seek what you have to offer. Be visible and available in the virtual world so you can expand your success in the real world! Connecting with your virtual brand community helps you build and nurture real relationships – relationships that will increase your success and fulfillment.

To build your social media strategy, integrate these three essential elements:

1. Be Real.

Personal branding is based in authenticity. Your virtual world brand must match who you are in the real world. Unlike personal interactions, the web gives you fewer opportunities to build emotional connections with your audience. You need to be crystal clear about what you want to communicate and commit to expressing the true you in everything you do online.

So how can you make real connections in the virtual world? Brand your bio or social media profiles by injecting them with your personality, values, and passions. In everything you write or post, incorporate your style and point-of-view. Use your headshots and video as ways for people to get to know you and connect with you on a deeper level. Being ‘real’ when building your brand in bits and bytes will help you stand out and make true connections with your virtual contacts.

2. Be Focused.

The web is vast.  The indexed web contains billions of pages, and there are literally thousands of different social media tools you can use. It would be exhausting to try to be visible everywhere, and maintaining conversations on multiple social media channels will squander your limited communications time. Make targeted choices based on your brand attributes and audience to make better use of your resources.

To get focused, start with your ideal community. You need to know who they are, where they show up on the web and how they like to interact. Learn where they go for information and find the industry and functional portals that accept guest posts. Identify the top blogs in your category and use them to post comments and connect with readers. Know which social media tools your ideal community favors (Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, Twitter, something else?) to create the most contact points with your communications.

3. Be Consistent.

Whether you choose to focus on Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ or Facebook, or decide to have your own YouTube channel, blog or vlog, be consistent. Social media only works if you work it. Consistency builds recognition and memorability. Strong brands don’t go into hiding and when it comes to the web, that’s doubly true. To make consistency happen, create a routine by adding social media activities to your calendar or do-list. Strong relationships are built through regular, branded interactions. If you plan out a year a quarter at a time, you’ll be able to thread a story through your online communications to get your message heard and understood by those you seek to influence. Simply updating your status on LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+ and Facebook is a way to stay current and let people know what you’re up to.

Social media is a powerful tool for increasing your visibility, building relationships and connecting with others who are not in your geography. Build your social media strategy around your personal brand with authenticity, focus and consistency. Being real in the virtual world will expand your influence, connecting you more quickly to those who need what you have to offer.