Using the Internet to gain exposure, position yourself, attract and maintain new business has never been easier. Thanks to the continued growth of the Internet, especially due to the explosive growth of new social media web sites you can build relationships with people around the globe. You can share your passions and add value to the global community of the Internet by sharing what you know and what you’re learning.
Social media is not some new system merely for driving traffic to a landing page. It represents a collection of tools and resources which have been created for the Internet to bring people together. Collectively, this “new media” is known as Web 2.0. It doesn’t replace, but rather adds to the existing capabilities of the Web which contributed to the early success of the public Internet.
The number and variety of social media sites already available on the Internet is vast and more are being created almost daily. Joining and connecting with the people on only a handful of these sites can connect you to a bounty of people. No matter which of the many social media sites you use, there is one ingredient that is so important; to leave it out is like pulling out of the driveway without tires.
That essential ingredient of your online presence is you.
Also known as your personal brand, your presence online leaves an impression for others to experience. What you do online casts a shadow which other people view and use as their measure of who you are and what you’re about.
It doesn’t matter if you are using a blog, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn or MySpace. Even if you are distributing press releases, articles or reports, you’re an essential part of the mix. It’s not about your products, services or the company you represent. Social media is about people. Before people will look at what you have to offer, they will want to connect to you. As you bring your personality into your activities online, people learn to know, like, and trust you the more that they are exposed to you.
In your business, that’s critical.
When people know, like and trust you, they’re more likely to explore your web site. They’re more likely to sign up for your mailing list or click your links to sales and opportunity pages. Sure, people are looking for good deals, and they’re also looking for value. They’re looking for experts to help them make good decisions, and as an expert in your field, your success requires the trust of others.
As the saying goes: all things being equal, people like to do business with those they know, like and trust. All thing not being equal, people still like to do business with those they know, like and trust.
To develop and maintain an effective online presence, you need to express your personal brand effectively and consistently. All of your activities should be reflective of your core values.
I’ve identified four pillars which I believe are critical. They are presence, content, engagement, and interaction.
Presence is about how you “show up” on the Internet and is also a critical part of your “personal brand.” Here’s a secret that most people don’t tell you: you already have a personal brand. We all do. It’s what our mothers used to call “first impressions,” that lasting perception people have of you after just a brief meeting. You refine that personal brand every day even if you’re not trying: by how you look, how you speak, how you behave, how you eat, and so on.
When other people see your presence online it creates and reinforces your personal brand between you and them. When you participate on a social media site without a picture of yourself, or when you fill out the profile information incompletely, it sends a signal that you’re not really there. For every social media site you use, include a well-lit picture of yourself. Fill out the profile information completely. For sites that allow you to share your favorite movies, books, and other interests, use the opportunity to share about yourself instead of simply including a laundry list of your likes.
Content: On the Internet, content is King. Everything you create, including blog posts, landing pages, articles, comments, videos, and even your account profiles count as content. Each piece of content created is like virtual real estate which you control. As other people come across your property either they like it and seek out more, or they don’t and move on.
Using sites like flickr.com or Facebook.com, share pictures of the events you attend, your vacation or pictures from around town. Include a description not only to help others understand what they’re looking at but the description can help your picture be found by people using search engines like Google. Share videos through YouTube.com and Facebook.com as well. Not only can this content be fun to make, it also helps position you more as a “real person” online.
Finally, if you maintain a blog (and you should), use the capabilities of Flickr and YouTube to embed your pictures and videos into your blog posts. These cross connections help people find more content from you, and the search engines love it. Take advantage of your blog real estate by writing some descriptive text about the pictures or video. Don’t just describe what other people can see for themselves. Tell the story behind the content.
Engagement: Leaving comments for other people through Facebook, Twitter, blogs, YouTube, discussion forums and any other place where you are directing comments at others in plain view of the world is a form of engagement. In the giant cocktail party setting, engagement is about taking part in conversations. Unlike the cocktail party, your comments stay around for others to read months and even years from now. How you handle these opportunities is reflective of your personal brand. Open and friendly or cold and argumentative? Others will form their opinions of you based on the trail you leave on the Internet and public engagement with others is often the most telling.
Engaging others can take many forms: Ask questions through your blog, a video or a message on Twitter. Solicit ideas through discussion forums. Use your webcam to record a “video response” to someone else’s video on YouTube. Host a teleseminar and unmute the lines to allow participants to ask questions. Again the possibilities here are substantial and by engaging others content is being created for you.
Interaction: There wouldn’t be much point to any form of social networking if online relationships didn’t move to personal interactions at some point. As you get to know someone online, eventually you will move some of your new relationships to private emails, a phone call or maybe even a coffee if they’re local.
I’ve personally received free tickets to a seminar by someone to whom I made a restaurant recommendation. I’ve also been invited for TV and radio appearances by people who came to know me through social media. I’ve also found guests for my own podcast through relationships created over social media. As with face-to-face networking, focus on the relationship and not your agenda for best results. When it doubt, make a friend first.
The four pillars of online presence overlap and support each other as they support your personal brand online. To make them work, practice with them regularly. Check your online profiles, the content you create and the comments you make against your personal brand to make sure they’re supporting you and not tearing you down. When you make a mistake, own up and move on. The more you harness the elements of presence, content, engagement and interaction online, the more others will find you, be exposed to you.