Staying Aligned in the Online Challenge

Many of us struggle with how to truly optimize our social media presence. The game continues to change, and it is hard to know where, when and how to post strong, compelling information to support our professional presence. Whether we are entrepreneurs, corporate executives or individuals in transition, the question continually comes up: how do I make my online presence and brand relevant and aligned to who I am, what I want, and what I want others to think, say, or do when they run across information on me?

There is no pat answer. The answer most certainly differs based on where you are now and where you want to go. There have been numerous books, articles and blogs written on this subject; with many focusing just on your Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn presence; the list is infinite. This short blog is the not-all-encompassing advice column; however, I will reference a few key blogs which I found particularly helpful when trying to discern how to create a compelling professional profile online. I have also tried to encapsulate the top actions with which to start.

1. What are you ‘marketing‘? Just as with any product or service, we have to be clear on what we are trying to sell about ourselves. If you are a high-powered sales executive and seeking to build this aspect of your career, then you need focus on that aspect of your experience. Think about the words you use to describe what you do, how you do it, and what makes YOU different. Try to be specific to your industry – as smart seekers will be using keywords which are unique to your field to find experts. As one excellent article on states very concisely: “If you are a web designer, for example, but you don’t provide any training, the 7 million Google searches for “how to web design” are irrelevant to you.” Use your most important and salient descriptive word(s) for your target audience in your headline – and reuse it over and over again. So, if you are using your online presence to increase your professional profile, think about what you want someone to think, say, or DO from finding you online – whether this is LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter – the message we send and post needs to be consistent, aligned and relevant to your professional profile

2. Feng Shui your profiles. In other words, get rid of resume-induced clutter in your bio or profile. If a prior position or experience you have had is not relevant or in some way tied to what you do NOW, streamline it. Listing the prior position, without cumbersome detail, is more than ample if that position does not add significant credence to what you do now. Most of us have had varied experiences, which is great – it adds dimension to our lives and career! Yet, only give the details and duties of those that support your new-found direction and position. These experiences are dimensions of you and may add flavor; however, they are not your main dish. Keep focused on the main plot of the story you are trying to tell.

3. Who are you…really? Let’s face it – folks hire and want to work with people they like. If everything else is equal (experience, track record, etc.), being someone you would want to work with or even just get to know is key. So, sharing your passion, what you love to do, and letting your individuality and the “real you” shine through can make all the difference in being hired or being recommended to others. Oh, and yes, those that think looks don’t matter – they do. Posting your passport photo (unless you LOVE that photo) is not a good idea. Just as it is with company names, colors and logos – they alone never win the business; however, often they garner the second look. So, be smart about your visual presence. Let your photo represent you – the you you are positioning professionally.

4. Don’t be bashful about recommendations. Everyone knows that most recommendations, online or otherwise, are solicited. However, most folks also know that despite being solicited, they would not be provided or posted unless the person posting it truly felt strongly about the other person. Again, it is their brand they are creating, too. Who they recommend and what they say about that person is a reflection on them, too. So, for those who are timid about asking for testimonials – get over it. Testimonies add perspective on LinkedIn profiles. In addition, retweeting Twitter posts drives traffic and helps add credence to your postings. One may wonder, how do I make this happen? Having compelling, brief content is a start AND as with most things, the best way to create connections and drive support is to be the one to offer it first. So – retweet those whom you respect. Offer testimonies or supportive posts to colleagues you support. Ask others to support your perspective and/or postings by retweeting, sharing or referencing. The old adage “you get what you give” is a truism even in the online world.

So, in closing, it is a reality that our online presence has never been more critical to our professional profiles. Recruiters live and breathe online search tools and social media sites. Check out this blog if you have any doubts. Regardless, this is the new world of keeping our skirts clean and our business suits pressed – keeping our online presence aligned with the overall message we are trying to create and send is standard operating procedure for 2012.