The Five Tips for Developing a Professional Online Identity

The Five Tips for Developing a Professional Online Identity

We see it all around us. Technology is becoming more and more embedded into our daily lives.  While it used to be sufficient to attend industry networking events and keep in touch with our existing customers, it’s becoming increasingly important to also have a strong, professional online identity. But with 98.5% of all businesses in British Columbia classified as small and medium sized businesses, there’s a good chance you don’t have your own marketing and PR staff to rely on to develop and curate your professional online identity.  The good news is that it’s not too complicated to set this up on your own and it will also be more authentic when you are the one crafting your message.

Q: I already have a good customer base. Why do I need to worry about my professional online identity?

A: You want to make sure you engage with your current customer base following their movements interacting online and you want to be visible to people when they are doing Google searches looking for either you or your products or services.

Q: I already come up high in Google. Do I need to still be on social media?
A: According to a recent study of 2,000 hiring managers by Harris Interactive, 37% of companies went beyond just Google and actively looked at social media sites like Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter to investigate candidates. Only 15 percent said their company policy prohibits snooping on social media for background checks. This doesn’t just impact prospective employees looking for work, it also impact contractors working on projects. For many smaller businesses, you are the face of your business.  You don’t have a billion dollar brand to rely on but you can every day build on your own personal brand.

Q: Where do I start?

A:  Establishing an effective and professional online web presence doesn’t have to be rocket science.  Follow these five tips and you will be well on your way!

1: Develop a personal website as your online anchor
While it’s good to be on social media, it’s critical to have a “domain of one’s own”, i.e. a personal, professional website that you can use as an online anchor.  This isn’t just a company site – you need that too – this is a site that is your public online presence.

You don’t need to spend thousands of dollars to build a professionally looking website.

One of the best tools for this is the free and open source WordPress, the most popular blogging and content management system with approximately 20 percent of the entire Web using it.

You could get a free site on the hosted WordPress.com service and purchase their domain mapping service that enables you to use a custom domain name. The only drawback with WordPress.com is

that you have less control over themes and plugin functionality than if you set up your own self-hosted WordPress site at a company like CaCloud (www.cacloud.com).  They have affordable, shared hosting packages and use a tool called Softaculous that makes it easy for a non-technical person to set up a WordPress site in just a few minutes. There are other sites you could consider like www.wix.com or www.weebly.com. These look good but may not always offer as much customization and extensibility.  Services like www.about.me or www.flavors.me give you a nameplate type site but again don’t offer the power of a full-fledged content management system like WordPress.

  1. Put measurement systems in place
    One of the first things you should do on your new site is to set up a Web analytics tool like the free Google Analytics (www.google.com/analytics) so you can track who is coming to your site, where they are coming from, how long they are staying there, which pages they leave from, etc. You should also set up a Google Alert (www.google.com/alerts). You can enter your keywords such as your name and company name and also select how frequently you want to receive alerts and which region you want Google to focus on. Whenever the Google search index comes across your name being used, it will send you an email alert with a link to the web source.  You want to be the first to know about both the good and bad being said about you or your products!
  2. Blogging
    As part of your website, be sure to have a blog and write regular posts, at least once a month if not more frequently. Make sure your posts are not self-advertising but instead offer some valuable insights or commentary on your industry. This will help establish yourself as a reputable person in your industry.

 

  1. Leverage Twitter and LinkedIn

There are a lot of social media networks you could start using like Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, Foursquare etc. but you may find you just don’t have time to cover them all, especially when you’re getting started.  The two that will likely have the biggest impact for your business are Twitter and LinkedIn. LinkedIn has much more of a professional business networking focus than the more personal oriented Facebook.  Twitter is a great way to follow leaders in your industry and connect with colleagues, potential employers and customers.  It is also a relatively quick way to share useful information with others, again to build up your online presences as a reputable person.  It’s good to follow the 80:20 rule, 80 percent of what you post should be about news, trends, tips and only 20 percent promoting your products and services.  No one wants to follow an advertising stream.

  1. Continuous Improvement

Now that you have your measurement systems in place, you should at least once a month monitor how you are doing and make adjustments as necessary. How fast are your social media connections growing?  Are people starting to engage with your website and blog? How many unique and return visitors are you getting to your website? Are there any additional social media tools you want to leverage like HootSuite (www.hootsuite) or SocialMention (www.socialmention.com)? Most importantly, how is your professional online presence turning into leads, sales and revenue?

  
  —————–

BizTech Q&A is our answer to the most common technology questions related to your business. Email us your questions and we will respond.

Cyri Jones (cyri.jones@zenlaunchpad.com) teaches at BCIT and Capilano University. He is the founder of ZENPortfolios.ca and co-founder of Zen Launchpad. . Dr Ivan Surjanovic (ivan@ipowerlab.com) is a marketing faculty at Capilano University and CEO of iPowerLab. He blogs at www.whereispuck.com  and tweets on www.twitter.com/whereispuck.

Written by Dr. Ivan Surjanovic and Cyri Jones, 
adapted from BizTech101 column in Business in Vancouver

FacebookTwitterGoogle+Share
Follow whereispuck on Twitter   Facebook