Last Updated Aug 5, 2011 5:19 PM EDT
Now imagine you're the Johnny Depp of your business or career. Sometimes you are in front of customers or in a job interview. Sometimes you're "on." But a huge percentage of the time a stand-in takes your place. Most people find out about you or even know you by your stand-in: Your online presence.
If you think about it in those terms, does your online presence represent you the way you really want it to? Or is it, just like Johnny Depp's stand-in, a convenient but inferior substitute for the real you?
The answer to that last question is probably yes. So fix it! It's easy. And free. You don't need to redesign your website or hire David LaChapelle to take new head shots. You just need to improve your words: The words that speak for you on your website, on Twitter, on LinkedIn... wherever your stand-ins appear.
Here's how, in just five days, to dramatically improve your online presence:
Day 1: Tighten up your website. Many websites are full of superlatives, jargon, buzz-words... all the stuff that sounds impressive to you but is meaningless to a customer. (And if a word doesn't mean anything to customers they won't use it as a search term so it's an SEO waste as well.) Go through every page in detail and either explain the technical terms and jargon (good) or eliminate them altogether (often even better.) For example, "residential evaluation consultant" sounds lofty, but home buyers search for and want a "home inspector."
For more on improving website language, check out my post 10 Words That Should Never Appear on Your Website.
Day 2: Rewrite your 'About Us' page. The About Us page is often one of the most-visited pages on a small business website and one of the best sources for search traffic. Plus it lets a potential customer who is on the fence get reassurance you are the right choice to provide what they need. Your About Us page should provide that reassurance. How? Be real. Be a person. Share facts instead of fluff. Focus on the needs you fill and the benefits you provide, and explain how. Don't use "we" if "I" is the reality. Think about what you would want to read -- about what would reassure you -- and start from there.
For more on writing about yourself or your business, check out my post 7 Ways to Write a Better 'About Us' Page.
Day 3: Rework your Twitter bio. While I'm not convinced Twitter is an effective small business marketing tool, many people are. So if you have a Twitter account, why not make sure it represents you well -- and helps you be found by potential customers? First focus on pruning words designed to express personality or panache; while in some fields displaying some swagger is effective, in most cases simple language and accurate descriptions are what potential followers -- and potential customers -- really want to see. Then focus on how you describe yourself or your business. (You may actually be an "authority," but let others call you that.) Then be sure to say what you provide in plain language; I found an accountant to handle a small project because her Twitter bio said, in part, "Harrisonburg bookkeeper and accountant."
For more on crafting a great Twitter bio, check out my post 8 Words That Should Never Appear on Your Twitter Bio.
Day 4: Really connect with your LinkedIn profile. I am convinced LinkedIn is the best social media site for professionals and small businesses. (If you disagree, hey, prove me wrong.) If you basically pasted your resume onto your LinkedIn profile, you're missing a great chance to be found by and to connect with potential customers or employers. First focus on your profile summary. List keywords others are likely to use for searching, then describe yourself with those terms in mind. Be conversational, be approachable, and try to build rapport. Frame your accomplishments as benefits for others. Your summary should describe, just like an About Us page, how your skills and qualifications and experience can help or benefit others. Then work on the rest of your profile, fleshing out who you are as a professional and a person.
For more on optimizing your LinkedIn profile summary, check out my post How to Create a LinkedIn Profile That Really Connects. Then go deeper and work hard on your full bio; check out The Key Element Your LinkedIn Profile is Probably Missing.
Day 5: Reach out. Now that your online presence is tuned up, more people -- more of the right people -- should find you. Great... but why wait to be found? Take the initiative and reach out. Thank a customer. Congratulate a colleague. Send a note and tell someone -- acquaintance, stranger, doesn't matter -- how impressed you were by a recent accomplishment. Check out the website of someone you are following and if you like what you see, say so. Or review other businesses online and benefit from their reflected glory. It works, because when you take the first step you meet another person well past halfway.
For an example, check out my post Great Business Networking in Four Easy Steps to see what happened when a reader reached out to me. And if you really want to take networking to the next level, check out The Only Business Networking Guide You'll Ever Need.
Day 6 and beyond: Keep in mind the process of improving your online presence never stops. Neither does keeping up with how you are perceived online. Here are some Simple Tools to Monitor What People Say About You Online; unless you're a multinational conglomerate, keeping up should only take a few minutes a week.
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