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Use The Force to Establish Your Online Presence

Use The Force to Establish Your Online Presence

By Amy Budzynski

As Obi-Wan Kenobi wisely said, “The Force is an energy field created by all living things, it surrounds us, it penetrates us, it binds the galaxy together.” I don’t know about you, but I think the word “force” could be swapped out with the word “internet” and this quote would still make sense. So why not use the Force (internet) to help you build your online presence?

As someone who works in online marketing, and more specifically in social media, it makes sense that I would have some sort of presence online. I’m not talking about party pics on Facebook…unless they’re private (check out Georgia’s tips for that here). I’m talking about a professional presence that shows other marketers and potential clients that you know your stuff. You wouldn’t want someone working on your online campaigns who never uses social media sites, just as you wouldn’t want some regular old wookiee as your co-pilot on the Millennium Falcon. You’d want a totally awesome, knowledgeable one! Plus, having an online presence can help you land a guest post on an industry blog or make you look more credible if you’re trying to pitch to speak at a conference. With all of that said, let’s get started on our journey!

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Image: This Is Nix

Google+: A Great Disturbance in the Force

If you ask anyone who has had to work with any incarnation of Google+ (Google+ Local, Google Places, Google+ for Business, did I miss any?) they’ll tell you that it’s like going to the dark side and never turning back. Most people don’t even want to touch Google+ with a 40 foot light saber, but are often drawn to it with the promise of better search rankings for their clients.

While you can argue back and forth about whether a business should be on Google+, though Lindsay makes a compelling case for it, the general consensus is that marketing (and other) professionals should be using Google+ on a regular basis. You may hate the idea of using Google+ as much as Luke hates the idea of Darth Vader being his father, but the fact of the matter is Google+ isn’t going away. As marketing professionals, we should know how to use it so we can help our clients, and ourselves. Here are some reasons why:

Google Authorship

Google Authorship allows content creators to link their Google+ profile to their online content in order to establish original ownership and make their content more personal. The most notable feature of Google Authorship is that an author’s Google+ profile photo and circles appear in a “rich snippet” in search engine results.

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This is helpful for both the search engine user and the author of the content: the searcher is able to quickly assess the relative credibility of the post, and since these rich snippets are more engaging and eye-catching, the author is likely to experience more click-throughs. Just remember, if you want Authorship to really kick in, you should be posting to your Google+ profile regularly. Depending on who you have in your circles, you should probably be posting a variety of professional/work-related items as well as some personal updates. You can also choose which content to share with your circles. See more on that below. If you’d like to set up Google Authorship on your Google+ profile, get started here.

Google+ Circles

If you’re confused by Google+ Circles, think of them like Twitter lists. They’re just categories for the people you follow. Organizing people into circles is extremely helpful because you can view posts from a certain group. It’s beneficial to add industry professionals to your circles so you can get an idea of the types of topics that are relevant to your industry. And, it doesn’t hurt to create a circle for them separate from your family and friends so you can quickly filter through the types of posts you want to see at a given time.

Google+ Communities

If you’re really trying to hone in on specific topics because you want to connect with others who are influential in said topics, or you just want to share your knowledge, a great tactic is to join Google+ communities. There are communities for almost anything you can think of, including but not limited to social media, authorship, local search, content marketing and more!

Once you have joined some communities, you can add posts to them that you may have already used on your profile. This allows you to get more use out of your content as well as share it with people who would have otherwise not seen it because they aren’t following you (yet). Also, by interacting with other peoples’ posts, you have a chance of connecting with other industry professionals. Give them a +1 (same as a Facebook “like”) or comment on their posts. They might do the same in return!

LinkedIn: Not Just for Showcasing Your Jedi Skills

You’ve got a job, you love it, and you’re not looking for a new one…so why would you spend time on a site that seems to be nothing more than a collection of online resumes? Good question, young padawan!

Generally speaking, it’s a great way to build your personal brand and do some online networking. You can skip the awkward handshake with a stranger over a meat and cheese tray at a networking event and build your network online! By simply finding people you know on LinkedIn, you can immediately see second and third degree connections to other people in the marketing industry. Or maybe you’ll be attending a conference and want to know which speaker presentations to attend. By looking up these speakers on LinkedIn, you can see their fields of expertise and industry experience. And that’s just the beginning…

Show off your hard work

Maybe you’re a fan of the “humblebrag” because it gives you a chance to tell people how awesome you are in a slightly less obvious way, but did you know that LinkedIn is a totally acceptable place to show off all your hard work? Besides just posting the skills you’ve acquired at each job, you can showcase blog posts, slideshow presentations, and more! You can also ask co-workers past and present to write recommendations for you. All of these are displayed in the relevant places of work sections on your profile. So, for example, a blog post I wrote for Thunder is shown in the Thunder section of my profile (and yes, I’ll be adding this post to my profile soon):

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Keeping Up With Companies/News/Trends

Another reason to use LinkedIn is so you can keep up with what’s going on in your professional world. Just as you use Facebook to keep up with friends and family, you should be using LinkedIn to learn about companies in your industry, social media or marketing trends, and so on.

The type of content that is posted on LinkedIn is much more professional and work-oriented than content you see on most other social networking sites. For example, I love everything about Mashable, but the type of content they post on Facebook is completely different than what they post on LinkedIn. When I was job hunting a while back, I saw a lot of great Mashable articles on LinkedIn about interview tips and job openings (that I rarely saw on Facebook). Even now that I have an amazing job, I still see relevant content from Mashable about what to expect from a career and so on.

To establish a good presence on LinkedIn, you should also be posting content that is relevant to your network. I try to share Thunder blog posts, interesting articles, and more since a large part of my LinkedIn network is in a similar field of work. We’re all trying to keep up with what’s happening in our ever-changing field, right? So help a sister out and post some good stuff on LinkedIn!

LinkedIn Groups

Joining LinkedIn groups is a great way to connect with people in your industry, especially ones near you, because a lot of them are location-based. You can find local meetup groups, alumni groups, topic-specific groups, and more. Use them as a way to learn from others, meet new people, or share your knowledge.

Twitter: An Easy Way to Connect with Everyone in the Galaxy

If C3PO had a Twitter account, my theory is he would tweet all day long, @ mentioning anyone who would (or wouldn’t) listen. While I don’t recommend taking this approach, I do recommend that you tweet often to establish a presence on Twitter and connect to other marketers. Below are some steps you can take to make the most out of your Twitter experience.

Optimize Your Profile

Like other social media sites, Twitter has gone through some profile changes over the years. The profile redesign that just happened recently included several layout changes. Header photos are larger, backgrounds are no more, and tweets can now be “pinned” to the top of your profile, just to name a few. If you want people to think you are worthy of following, you should always stay up to date with any changes that are happening so your profile looks the best that it can. To learn about all the changes, check out Georgia’s amazing guide!

Another way to make sure your profile is optimized after you’ve made it all spiffy-looking is to make sure that your short bio gives people enough information so they can tell if they want to follow you. If your main reason for using Twitter is to establish yourself as an online marketer, make sure to include what kind of work you do. Then, you can add some fun facts about yourself with the characters that are left.
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Find People to Follow

There are several ways to find people to follow on Twitter, such as importing your email contacts, manually searching, and looking at “who to follow” on your home page. The first two options probably aren’t going to help you find industry professionals, but if you have already followed some of these individuals, “who to follow” can become pretty helpful. I also like to see who my co-workers are following and who they have on their Twitter lists. The more you can leverage the profiles of the people you already follow, the easier your life is. If you still feel that you need to take greater measures to find profiles to follow, you can also use tools such as Followerwonk, Twtrland, and FriendorFollow.

Send Some Tweets!

Once your profile is optimized and you’re following some people, make sure you are sending tweets as regularly as possible. The amount of tweets you send will fluctuate depending on if you’ve had a particularly busy week, if you happened to live tweet an event, and so on. The point is, if people are willing to follow you, you might as well give them something to read.

Since I personally use Twitter for connecting with friends and for learning about industry trends, my tweets are a mix of industry-related posts and just things about my day-to-day life. My goal is to put out information for all of my followers. My sister might not care about the changes to Facebook Ads or tips for content marketers, but at least she’ll be entertained when I tweet about something funny my cat did.

Which brings me to my next point: depending on what kind of information I want to read, I use Twitter lists to help help me sift through the massive amounts of tweets I would see if I were just reading on my home page. I definitely recommend using Twitter lists so you don’t feel like you’re drowning in information.

To Schedule or Not to Schedule

I’ve had conversations with some of my fellow Thunder Cats about whether it makes sense to schedule tweets. All I can say is it just really comes down to personal preference. I’ve used Hootsuite and Tweetdeck in the past because I can look through my lists and schedule tweets, which has been helpful. Sometimes though, if you get caught up in scheduling tweets you can waste more time than if you had just posted them on the fly.

If I happen to come across several articles in a short period of time that I don’t want to tweet about all in one day, I’ll schedule some tweets that will go up throughout the week. However, if something just comes up spur-of-the-moment that I’d like to share, it’s not hard to log into Twitter quickly on my desktop at work or on my Twitter phone app if I’m out and about. There are even services like Swayy that can send out tweets on your behalf based on interests you have (such as social media) but I still feel it’s best to include some of your own tweets.

Join the Conversation

You can’t expect people to interact with you on Twitter if you don’t interact with them as well. It’s nice to send regular tweets, but it’s also good to favorite, retweet, and reply. You can even join a conversation by following a hashtag at an event or during a Twitter Chat. With all the ways to connect on Twitter, it’s almost impossible not to gain some followers or have good content on your profile.

Personal Blog: Creating Your Rebel Base

One final way to really get your online presence established is to curate a blog. It’s like creating your own rebel base to launch from, and is far more stable than social media sites which can come and go. Having your own domain can help with Google Authorship, and it’s a great way to contribute to the internet overall.

If you want your blog to help establish your presence as an online marketer, I would recommend staying away from writing content that is controversial or touchy. Your blog doesn’t have to be focused on what you do in your marketing career, but if your blog is just a place for you to write about things going on in your life, then it makes sense to occasionally write about what’s going on in your industry. Even if you never write about marketing-related topics (because maybe your blog is all about baking or crafting), you can highlight what you do in your nine-to-five life and give your company a little shout-out on your “about” page.

Choosing a Platform

I recently started my own blog so I can write about things that interest me, and I decided to set it up in WordPress because many of my clients have WordPress blogs so it’s what I’m most familiar with. WordPress is also pretty user-friendly and you can add your own domain to it. Of course there are plenty of other blog platforms out there, such as Blogger, Tumblr, and so on. Choose your platform based on what you need. Things to keep in mind are ease of use, level of customization, and functions (adding multiple pages, e-commerce options, etc).

Installing Plugins and Analytics

In some blogging platforms you can install plugins to enhance your blog. You can add social media icons, description tags, and more simply by installing the appropriate plugins. For example, I installed the Yoast SEO plugin on my blog so I can add an SEO title and meta description to each of my posts and get a snippet preview of what my post will look like in search results.

In addition to plugins, it’s a good idea to set up Google Analytics on your blog so you can monitor traffic and see which of your posts get the most views. There are a few different ways to add Analytics to your blog, but I found that it was pretty easy to add it by using a plugin called Google Analytics for WordPress. All I had to do was add the UA code after I installed the plugin and I was good to go! This prevents you from having to mess around with coding and HTML on your blog.

Writing and Building an Audience

As someone new to the blogosphere, I clearly have not reached the master jedi level of blogging, but based on tips from co-workers and articles I’ve read, here are some tips for building an audience for your blog:

  • Use social media to promote your posts. You can share links on Facebook, photos on Instagram, and pin images on Pinterest. If you’re not afraid to shamelessly promote your content, you can get it out there!
  • Ask friends with blogs to give you a shout-out. Some of your friends who have their own blogs might have a page dedicated to linking to other sites/blogs. You can also offer them a link on your blog. Just be mindful of using link building best practices!
  • Write interesting content on a regular basis. It seems like a no-brainer, but if you write things people want to read about you have a better chance of getting them to come back for more. You also need to make sure you are giving them more to read. With busy schedules it can be hard to devote time to your blog, but if you set aside a certain day/time each week to write posts it can be really beneficial to your blog. Also, if you can come up with some sort of recurring post type you might find that you are more likely to post regularly. Examples include: photo of the week, meal of the week, music Monday, or any other day of the week alliteration.
  • Stay positive. Blogs rarely take off overnight. You have to be willing to write to no one for a while instead of getting frustrated and giving up on your blog. You can always check in on your analytics to see if and where you’re getting visits. From there you can reassess the topics you’re writing and make adjustments.

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Image: Dose

Now that you have explored all the ways to build your online presence, use the Force to get started!

Amy Budzynski

Amy Budzynski is a Social Media Specialist at ThunderActive. She’s a lover of animals (especially cats, flamingos, and sloths), the color blue, and thrift-shopping.

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