What is online presence?
Online presence is the collection of all your online interactions and profiles. The strength of your online presence can be broad reaching and powerful. This helps you to establish your brand awareness and in return gain you followers, likes, customers and everything else you desire for your business.
Building your online presence and power
You are not alone if you don’t know where to start with creating your online presence. A lot of work goes into establishing a successful and powerful online presence from identifying your goals to establishing the best profiles to connect to your audience and working out how it will link with your website (if you choose to have one).
To help with establishing your online presence and overcome some of that initial overwhelming feeling we have identified 10 ways to help you get started.
1.What are your goals and strategies?
Your online strategy is no different to any other business strategy you want to implement. You can draw a lot of inspiration from your marketing and communication plans, if you have them, otherwise below are a few dot points to get your thinking started.
- Who will you be targeting?
- What do you want to achieve? Both short term and long term
- How will you connect with people?
- Will you be using organic or paid communication
- What value will you be providing?
- What networks do you have to start with and help build your foundation?
All your effort online should be helping you build your online presence. Constantly evaluate your actions and learn to adapt to shifting trends in your industry. Don’t try to build an online presence ‘just because’ you have to. People will be able to see a lack of passion and commitment in your actions and this will affect how your online presence is perceived. The quickest way to lose your online power is to seem disingenuous, copycat like, disinterested or an uninteresting or uninspiring business. Creating a powerful strategy is priceless in today’s world of online brands. Never underestimate the simplest of tasks and actions. Just like a small post or tweet can bring in hundreds of followers it can just as easily destroy all your hard work and your brand.
2.A strong foundation and ways to improve.
Just like anything that you want to create and build over time a strong foundation is key to longevity and success. For many entrepreneurs this may be your website, Facebook business page or even Google business page. It does not really matter as long as you are committed to making it strong but also free flowing. What I mean by free flowing is that you can easily connect to many media platforms and they can connect to you. Do not make the mistake of spending lots and cornering yourself on a platform that is slow, clunky and hard to use. Do some research, talk to people in your target market range and see what they use the most, this is the easiest way to instantaneously connect.
If you have a website that is a great start, but don’t think if you sit back and wait that people will simply find your website and flood your pages. They need more than a link to get to your page. Give people a reason to come then inspire them to stay. You must undergo a similar planning process to physical shop fronts and businesses in that you must make people come to you, visit your website and look around, and hopefully buy something and continue to come back.
While working on your foundation you will undoubtedly go through several iterations of either your website or key message material. Use this time to also identify and work on your improvement strategy. The things we create and do can always be modified or improved and if you want to stay in power (i.e. ahead of your competition) then it’s up to you to innovate and improve your business. Do not make the mistake of seeing this as a negative task. The ability to adapt to and overcome market changes is only limited by our imaginations and something ‘new’ can stir up interest in your audience.
Search engine optimisation (SEO) is a key attribute to your strong foundation. It involves optimising your website and or online content in order to give it the best possible chance for it to be found by search engines and people browsing. This can be handled through various strategies, but again you get what you pay for. Cheap strategies will get cheap results. SEO is something you will want to discuss with your website designer and is something you will want incorporated throughout your entire website and online profiles. If your web designer has no clue about SEO get a new web designer. Your business is not a training ground for amateur web designers to practice their $50 textbook tutorials on. There is a right way and a wrong way to undertake SEO and if your web designer or SEO manager does not really know what they’re doing they could get your website blacklisted by search engines such as Google. This means Google will refuse to show your website on any of its searches. This is one of those things you can’t just skimp on and get away with.
3.Providing value while being mysterious (knowing what to say and when to say it, without saying too much)
Part of having a successful online presence is that your audience understand that you are there for them not your own selfish reasons. Either you want to help the community, train people and educate your staff or provide products and services of the highest quality.
Does your business follow trends or set them? Many companies have been successful in running either proactive or reactive businesses but when it comes to internal business processes it may be more beneficial to be proactive rather than reactive. For example a customer’s order is shipped and then you realise you have missed a product that they ordered. Rather than waiting for the customer to notify you, you should send the missed item to the customer then inform them that the product is on the way in a separate package. It may cost you extra shipping in the short term but it will save you time in the long run rather than dealing with complaints and may be the difference between losing or retaining that customer for the future.
Another example of this is being proactive with your website. If it’s been a few years since your last website refresh and your competitors designs have caught up or are starting look a little nicer then don’t wait to start getting that feedback from your customers. As detailed in 8 ways visual communication can make or break your website, we discussed how your website design should be a proactive result of your business rather than reactive. And by staying on point you will save time by being ahead of the competition and setting trends rather than trying to keep up.
4.Consistency and quality
Consistency and quality are important in what you provide if you want people to regard your business as important. Even though you may not be exchanging items for money, the public and your customers are spending their time and effort reading your website or looking at your social media. Consistency is key with keeping people intrigued online but work out what suits your business and your clients.
Sometimes it is hard to come up with unique content or you may find something interesting to share with your followers or online readers. Do not forget to credit to the original creator or in some cases request permission to use the article or pictures. It is a curtesy that I am sure you would like other people to do in the event they use something you have put effort into creating.
Quality is a little subjective with online content. What is seen as high quality by some is not seen equally by others. Learn to ‘read’ your audience from their behaviour towards what you create and make adjustments as you go. Do not forget to record what works for different audience groups as this will help when focussing your marketing and advertisements in the future.
5.Protecting your reputation without building fortresses
The Great Wall in China, amongst other things, was a barrier for protection and a sign of power. In today’s globalised world you don’t need to go to such lengths to protect your power but you must not neglect it either. It is very easy to assimilate someone’s identity through online means. Bogus websites and fake social media accounts regularly appear for popular brands so it is good practice to regularly review other pages and make sure that brand or hobby pages that choose to feature your product, business or logo represent you in a positive manner. Otherwise contact the page owners or on social media sites you can report fake accounts.
Being a leader in your field requires lots of work and effort and protecting that status requires meshing a balance of your industries technical skills and interpersonal skills for the online world. You need to be constantly working on and learning about what is new in your industry and how you can utilise the new knowledge to benefit your business and online power.
6.Be social and build relationships (building goodwill)
Just like a networking conference, being social online allows you to meet people everywhere all the time. Each industry will have at least one social media tool that is more specialised or more utilised by its experts. From LinkedIn to Google+, Facebook to Pinterest there are leads of online social media tools you can utilise to tell the world about your business and build relationships.
NOTE: Just like with building relationships in real life, learn to develop mechanisms for filtering out time wasters and fake accounts from the real ones. You don’t want to waste your time talking to online bots or providing details to scammers.
When utilising social media accounts don’t forget to be regular with your posts and online discussions. Relationships and trust are built with regular communication not one post a month. Talk to your followers, engage in chat rooms or discussions on your social media accounts or even on your website. If someone makes a comment then follow up with it, even if it is to say thanks.
Being social is also a great way to minimise your advertising expenditure. With regular posts you can inform your followers of specials and upcoming events without the need to spend on specific ads because you already have constant engagement with a group of people. When they like and share your post it will spread to their friend’s social feeds and so on.
7.Seek attention without seeming desperate
This trait can be quite difficult to master and can take many failed attempts in order to get used to. Finding the right content to post all the time about your business can be hard if you overthink it. Sometimes the simplest of pictures or comments can attract lots of attention. It is all in the delivery. If you post up a picture of your logo you may get a few likes and perhaps a comment or two. However, if you post up your logo with a story about how it originated, what it means, how it came about, then that is something to get people hooked on to it. There are a few bonuses with using stories attached to your media. The obvious one is it created content of value that has meaning behind it. The other is that you are educating people about your business without coming across as the boring business spiel. Online followers and customers are more educated about content of value and posts for the sake of it.
If you get commented on saying your just posting for attention, don’t ignore the comment but most importantly don’t argue back. Just reaffirm that you are educating people about your business and your services and products. A good trick is to try to get them to ask about your business. Discussions on social media feeds automatically become notifications on the feeds of the person you are talking with, that’s free advertising. That’s also why you must stay calm, positive and professional as anyone could be reading what you say on there.
8.Playing to people’s fantasies
(Warning: appealing to customers fantasies usually contains elements of play where people have a bit of a mutual understanding that they half realise they are being duped, but the dream and hope of possibility keeps them coming. Never promise and get too close to that which you know is a fantasy (such as the promise of unattainable wealth) as this can ultimately backfire and cause huge backlash from your customers and followers).
Fantasies of the masses can have great power when it comes to online success and presence. Just like that oasis in the desert we all dream of, or create our own fantasies to escape from the realities of life. For example: ‘that pot of gold is at the end of the rainbow, and I can help you get there’. We all know realistically that’s not possible but the idea of accumulating wealth by working with someone and putting in little effort to get there is a tempting offer.
Expectation management is an important task when playing to people’s fantasies as its lets them know what they can realistically expect. Now you can choose to be subtle about this, but make sure your customers are aware that when they attend you conference or meet with you that they won’t all be millionaires by the end of the week. It’s about learning the skills, acquiring the toolbox of knowledge that can be utilised to make money and grow your online presence.
9.Maintaining emotional intelligence
We have all seen at least one of those emotional outbursts on Facebook where an employee rants about their boss or a customer has a complaint about restaurant they went to and it wasn’t what they expected. We have a nice chuckle at the article and some of us even wonder why on earth they posted it up online instead of dealing with outside of social media. Usually, it’s because in the heat of the moment we drop our emotional blockers and fail to see the possible repercussions due to the fact that we feel safe doing it behind the screen of our phone, tablet or computer. Many of us have been in that situation where we are angry at something or someone and we feel that we are doing a service to the community by letting everyone know our issues. However, if you wouldn’t yell it in the street why do we insist on spreading this negativity online? I had a bad day at the office, so everyone must know. I had a rude customer, so everyone must know. The desert was great, but not what I expected.
Lack of self-control can be damaging to your online presence. There are correct ways you can manage your emotions and posting in the heat of the moment is not one of them, from both sides of the situation. Whether you’re sending a complaint or dealing with one make sure it’s not in anger. How would you feel if your grandma read what you posted, or your boss, or a potential employer? Everything we post up can be found by anyone with a quick search of your name so practice being rational and focus on posting a positive alternative to your nasty comment. For example if you didn’t like a meal that you were served perhaps advise what could make it better.
How you post and how you react to posts lets everyone know who you are and your values. Always think how people may interpret your posts and social media activity. Being emotionally intelligent is a skill that can be learnt and involves being self-aware, socially aware, and have the ability to manage yourself and your relationships.
10.Be patient and royal in your own way
Building a strong online presence is not something you can do in days or weeks. It takes months and sometimes years depending on your level of commitment and competition. To start with focus on establishing your strong foundation, providing consistent and valuable content. It will be up to you to engage and draw people to your media streams through relationship and trust building both online and in reality.
The way we tend to carry ourselves usually determines how we are treated. Just like royalty respects themselves and inspires the same sentiments in others so should you make yourself seem destined for greatness. No one wants to work with or associate themselves with someone or an organisation that seems petty, false, vulgar and too chummy. People will see through this very quickly. In order to succeed with your good online presence you must be genuine and open.