by Liberty Stembridge, Advertising Columnist
Published in Advertising on 6th November, 2018
For the vast majority of internet users, social media is a daily ritual. We check our phones to scroll through facebook, instagram, twitter and so on, but we fail to capitalise on the benefits of an online presence as we build up the followings of others. We might update our facebook pages regularly, but reap little to no benefit from this action.
An online presence can be an incredible tool for growth and connection, and it's not just for hip business owners either. In this day and age, your online profile is your personal portfolio, showcasing who you are and what you can do to the world. If you're not at all interested in building an online presence that's fine, but if you're like many who are realising the potential that having a cohesive, well-put together personal brand may provide, it's time to start stepping it up a notch.
When you're first starting out, it's ridiculous to expect yourself to start building a presence on all of the major online platforms. Some people will benefit more from certain platforms than others, and finding the best platform for you is key. For example, if you are a creative type such as a makeup artist, photographer, graphic designer or baker, you might want to stick to more visual platforms where you can best showcase your skills, such as Instagram, Pinterest or Tumblr. If you're more wordy and want to share your opinions and engage in debate, look to more text-based platforms such as Twitter, Facebook or a personal blog. Finding the right platform for you is crucial, because it is there that you will find people who are interested in finding the content that you can produce. If you're looking to break into the world of politics, posting pictures of your weekend trip to the beach on Instagram probably isn't going to help, but engaging with your local community on Facebook will. Many people make the mistake of simply going straight for the site they use the most, but this might not work for you. Think carefully, and look at the people you look up to, see where they are focusing the majority of their attention and follow their lead.
If you want to build an online presence, a cohesive "brand" of sorts will be necessary. There's no need to run out and hire a graphic designer to get a logo and build you a website just yet, but it's advisable to stick to a certain "theme" and carry this across all of the platforms you use. If you're looking to promote yourself as a professional, such as a nutritionist, life-coach, entrepreneur etc, having a professional feel to all of your posts is necessary to show that you take yourself seriously and invite your potential clients to trust your judgement. If you're a creative sharing your work, make sure this translates to an equally beautiful and creative online presence, showing yourself and your work in it's best light.
Contrary to popular belief, not everyone needs a website. In fact, investing your time and money into a website that is rarely updated and poorly designed, is more likely to be hurtful rather than helpful, so only create a website if you really need one, and know that it will be genuinely useful. In many scenarios having a website to direct people to can be very helpful, whether it be in driving sales or attracting clients, or simply providing information. For the most part however, you won't need a website unless you are actively trying to make money from your online presence, either by attracting clients or customers to give you money.
The key to growing your online presence is to be active and remain so, right from the very beginning. Sites such as facebook and instagram are designed to reward users that interact with and are active on their sites, for obvious reasons. The reward itself is more exposure and therefore more growth, more likes and so on so forth. This is why choosing a few key platforms is so important. You cannot remain active and creating quality content on 20 different sites - choosing a few particular one's that you enjoy will make your job far easier. Being active doesn't just mean creating posts however. It also involves following other users, commenting on other posts and generally getting involved in the community you are creating. This, in combination with an active posting schedule, will make growing your online presence far easier. Creating and sustaining relationships is the backbone of your online presence, so it's important to spend a little time everyday doing just that.
If you are using more than one platform to promote yourself online, you need to be linking and cross-promoting them. This will not only help to increase your following on each one, but will also improve your overall SEO, allowing anyone looking for you online to find you more easily. Ideally, your accounts should have the same, or very similar names / handles, making it a lot easier to link them together and for people to find you. Associating your name with a very specific username will not only make you more memorable, but also a lot easier to find and identify.
If you want real, authentic growth, you'll need to be patient. Success doesn't happen overnight, but it can happen with persistence and determination. There are ways that you can amass a following in a short amount of time by using bots and extensions designed to trick the system, but ultimately these will not serve you any good in the long run. Your aim should be to grow a following of real people, who actually engage with what you produce. 1000 real, engaged and authentic followers will always be far more valuable than 10,000 fake ones.