By Stephanie Sammons
Have you started building and growing your online presence beyond a basic website? Did you know that your online presence today affects your credibility, reputation, professional relevance and referral power?
Perhaps you've been hesitant to do more because of compliance fears or perhaps you just aren't sure where to begin. New digital tools, social networks and mobile devices in just a few short years have completely changed the way we live and work. All that change can be overwhelming, and it's moving at the speed of light.
We've entered an era where anyone can build a personal-media platform. If you don't attempt to adapt and embrace this “new media” revolution with your own online presence, you are putting your business at risk. The risk of sitting on the sidelines today is greater than the risk of moving forward.
In order to forge ahead successfully, you need a process. It's not the new tools that will make you successful, it's the process you implement to leverage those tools. When you have a process in place, all of a sudden, things aren't so complicated anymore. Sound familiar? This is exactly what you do for your clients when you help them develop a clear financial plan and implement an investment strategy that is targeted to their goals. It's all about the process.
The most logical place to start is to develop a plan. Think about your goals, budget and the resources that might be required to go digital. Consider which online marketing channels make sense for your business, as well as the education or training you might need to get up to speed with building your online presence. Most importantly, creating a powerful online presence will require a consistent investment of time to build traction initially and to continue that momentum on a daily basis. Now is a good time to evaluate which marketing activities aren't working and reinvest your resources into building long-term digital equity that will pay off for years to come.
Today it's easier than ever to self-publish online. Through blogging technology, you can publish text-based articles, videos, audio podcasts, images and presentations on your own website, as well as on social-media channels, in order to expand your visibility and credibility. Work to build a robust library of unique, personable and high-quality content that is accessible and relevant to your target markets 24/7 on your website. This will make it easier for you to be found by your target markets in search engines, on social-media sites and even in e-mail inboxes (for those who “opt-in” to your database). Don't underestimate the power of publishing as the foundation of your digital strategy.
It is no secret that we are bombarded with information today. People have enough information. What they really want is knowledge. They want someone to sort through all that information and lead them to make good decisions. Part of creating a successful online presence is sharing the right knowledge (content) with the right people (members of your target markets). Ideally, a decent proportion of what you share online comes from content that you develop, but you can also build significant clout online by sharing content from other influencers and reputable websites or blogs. Activating your online presence through a consistent and systematic social-media-sharing strategy will help you expand your following and stay top-of-mind with your community.
You can invest in an amazing online presence and have outstanding content, but without a community, you won't generate opportunities that can forward your personal and professional success. Focus on building your community online through search engines (web traffic), social media (networking) and your e-mail database. It is your community that ultimately will enable you to cultivate trusted connections who can become advocates for your business, referral sources, promotional partners and new clients. Invest in both the depth and breadth of your network.
As you cultivate your community via your online presence and activities, you will open up the door to engagement opportunities with others. This is professional networking as we know it in the traditional sense, but it's online, easy and can accelerate relationship development. Building the community first gives you access and permission to engage with the members from within. It also allows you to gather intelligence about the individuals with whom you are connected. Engaging in influential networking activities based on personal knowledge about someone's personal or work life is incredibly powerful. It can create an immediate warm relationship!
Optimizing your online presence is a continuing activity. Online marketing programs cannot be put on autopilot. The landscape changes rapidly and therefore you will need to be constantly updating and optimizing your online presence. Think about all the new features and updates you hear about from social networks such as LinkedIn and Facebook. Just as you optimize client portfolios for risk/reward, you will want to do the same for your digital portfolio to make sure it's working for you in the best way possible.
Luckily, some amazing and powerful digital tools are available that can give you great insight into how your digital strategy is working [such as Google Analytics]. A good number of these tools are free or low-cost. With digital tracking and marketing tools, you can gather data from your activities and re-balance your strategy from time to time as you learn what works well for you. You will need some time to gather that data and make sense of the results. However, it is quite powerful to be able to measure marketing performance, which is something that has never been available in the past.
Following this seven-step process will help you navigate the digital landscape and build a powerful online presence. Keep in mind that the results of your efforts will not be visible at first, but don't worry — results will come over time. Think of your online presence as a long-term growth stock. If you consistently work to build it the right way, you will have a valuable asset in the end.
Stephanie Sammons is the founder of Wired Advisor (wiredadvisor.com), and a speaker and writer on digital and social-media strategy for business.