Brogan: Building an Online Presence

A hundred years ago, we did our business face to face. Someone came along and invented the telephone, and I imagine there were a bunch of people out there offering courses and speeches about how selling over the phone was the next big thing. You can almost hear the business owners: “Pshaw! Talk on the phone? That’s madness! We do business face to face.”

Here we are again. The social Web and the Internet are the new phone. You know how to build business in the offline world, but feel a bit thwarted by the online version. Let’s talk about building an online presence so that you can start taking advantage of opportunities when you see them.

A Website Is a Great Start

As we said in Your First Moves in Social Media, a website acts as your home base. I very much prefer using a blog as your home base, because it’s easy content management software, can be configured to look like a standard website (if you don’t want to write regular episodic content), and because there are some built-in search engine optimization (SEO) options that are hard to beat.

But here’s why else.

A Page for Every Need

With a blog, it’s as easy as clicking “Add New Page” to start a new page, with a title, a spot for a photo (maybe of you and the staff), and whatever you have to say. So, for instance, if you want to build a landing page for a service of yours, just create it. I have one for my professional speaking, for instance, so that any time someone refers me as a speaker, they land where I can do the most good.

You can build a “Welcome, Twitter Followers” page and use that as your bio link on that service. You can write a “Work With Us” page to show people the ways they can hire you. The possibilities are endless.

Make Good Use of Social Networks

In establishing your web presence, you should build profiles at sites like LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. We’ve talked a lot about these being outposts. They are where you talk to people about what they’re into, and then occasionally point them back toward your home base.

You might also get a Google account (from gmail.com), a Yahoo! account from yahoomail.com, and accounts at WordPress.com and Disqus.com for use in commenting and for accessing other applications. These are called “passport” accounts, because it’s more likely that you’ll use these to visit places where others are commenting, and where you might want a word of response here and again. If you’re in a specific line of work, you’ll also want accounts on specific networks and forums that relate to your business. Restaurateurs, for instance, might want an account at Yelp.com.

Be Yourself and Be Human

From the act of choosing an avatar (you should use a recent picture of yourself—nothing too formal, but not a party picture tightly cropped to cut out whatshisname who was hugging you) to the art of writing a brief bio, it’s important to represent yourself on these social networks and on your website as a person. Yes, you’re there to grow your business, but you have to be a human.

Talk about other people. Talk about your customers (without being spammy about yourself and your business). Talk about the people you’re trying to connect into: your prospects, your existing customers, whoever you’re reaching into. Talk a bit about yourself, but without bragging as much as you’re equipping people to be helpful. Does that make sense? I know it’s a tricky balance, but the point is that you do what you’d do at a social gathering, only on the Web.

Presence Plus Media

The only other thing to think about adding (and it’s the hardest thing) is a media presence. By this, I mean, if you’re willing to write a regular (even if “regular” equals once a week) blog, then things will go easier. Over the last little bit, making media has made a world of difference to my business efforts. I’ll say without a doubt that if I didn’t have [chrisbrogan.com], all my success would have been harder earned. A site got people’s attention and then could direct it.

Every new project I launch has a media property (almost always a blog) with it. I do this because it helps to have some kind of channel where people can learn things and do things and where you can also guide attention where you need it. Give this some serious thought. It’s tricky to pull off well (meaning, people reading it think what you’re doing is helpful to them), but it’s important.

Put it all together and you’ve got something. What say you?

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