How to Create an Effective Online Identity

If you’re reading this, I can almost guarantee you have some sort of online presence. Even if you’re one of the few Internet users who shun social media, it’s more than likely you have at least one or two screen names you use to comment on some of your favorite websites. While some of us prefer to stay hidden behind our computer screens, anyone who’s ever created anything for the world to see would do just about anything to get noticed on the web. With so many people vying for the attention of the online community, it’s not as simple as posting something on your Facebook wall and hoping for the best. You need to make a calculated effort to be seen, especially if you intend to grow your business or online presence to the point of making a living out of it.

1. List Your Goals

Like I said, you can’t haphazardly jump into the World Wide Web’s many social outlets and just assume your content will go viral. Make a list of your short- and long-term goals, what you hope to accomplish almost immediately, and what you’re willing to work months or even years to accomplish.

But don’t stop at simply listing them. After you’ve figured out what you want to accomplish, figure out how to accomplish it. Research other success stories, being sure to stay away from those obvious get-rich-quick schemes the Internet is chockfull of. Figure out what tools and services you’ll need to utilize in order to reach your goals. Understand that you’re going to have to put a lot of effort into this project of yours, but it will ultimately be worth it in the long run.

2. Build a Solid Foundation

If you want to get noticed in the online world, you need some sort of hub which others will be able to contact you through. If you don’t have your own website or blog, get one—even if it’s something simple that lists your contact info and links to articles you’ve written or products you’ve created. Make your purpose known so that people who visit your site can keep you in their virtual rolodex if they ever find themselves in need of your services. If your audience has to dig to find out what your specialization is, they’ll end up passing you over for one of the millions of other people in your industry.

3. Keep Moving Forward

Eight Below

If you haven’t noticed, the Internet and its community are ever-evolving. Fads and trends used to stick around for months, even years. In today’s world, however, what was hot a few days ago loses its luster before your grandma can even figure out how to share it on Facebook. I’m not even talking just about silly memes, either. Entrepreneurs are constantly figuring out more advanced ways to reach their audience. Whether they’re figuring out new social tricks or technological advancements, the online community seems to somehow always be one step ahead of itself. And you need to be there, too, if you want to avoid being lost in a sea of mediocrity.

4. Provide Value to the Community

I’m hoping that you already know you won’t become an overnight millionaire creating content for the Internet community, and that you’re dedicated to the long haul. The vast majority of people don’t fall for “as seen on TV” gimmicks much anymore, so you better not be looking to make a quick buck off a couple million suckers and fade into oblivion. You absolutely need to provide true value to the world if you want to create a widely known online presence. Not only do you need to create your own amazing content but you need to share others’ work, too. People will see right through your spammy tweets promoting your own brand if you’re not also promoting other related content. Obviously, you want to get your name out there, but you also want your audience to see that you appreciate other people’s great work, as well. Think of it as “greatness recognizes greatness”: people will see you in a better light once they realize you have an eye for others’ talent.

5. Be Social

I guess it’s pretty obvious that you want to be social when using social media. But it’s all in how you do it. Like I said, you definitely want to share other people’s work; spread the love around rather than just forcing your own products into people’s faces. But don’t forget that even though you’re on the Internet and could possibly be communicating with human beings across the globe, you’re all still human. Don’t think of your audience as one vast mass of population; recognize them as individuals. Connect with them on a human level. Engage in conversation with them when they comment on one of your blog posts or tweets. Don’t be so robotic that you just click the “like” button and hope that’s enough of an acknowledgment; it’s not. No matter how busy you are, always take the time to reach out to others – you never know if the next connection you have could be the one that helps you break through.

6. Be Active

We just discussed how you should make sure you engage with your audience on a consistent basis if you want to maintain a strong online presence. But don’t mistake “strong” for “ubiquitous”. There are dozens of hugely popular social media outlets, from Twitter and Facebook to Instagram and Pinterest. Don’t feel like you need to have an account on every single one of these systems; it just won’t work.

Imagine being the owner of a chain of franchises. Every single storefront you own is incredibly essential to your bottom line. If you own five stores but you let one fall into disrepair, every person that visits that store is going to have a negative view of you—even if you get thousands of customers a day at the other four.

So if you have a an active Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram account with large followings, if people visit your Pinterest page and see you haven’t posted anything since 2013, their image of you is going to change. It’s better to stick to the outlets that work best for you, and minimize your presence on the sites you rarely use.

7. Track Your Progress

There are so many tools out there, such as Google Analytics and Twitter Analytics, to help you gauge your success over time. See what works, and what hasn’t worked; what’s been shared, and what’s been ignored; read comments from your audience—both good and bad. Like I said, the Internet community is pretty fickle; it’s overall mood changes almost as quickly as the tides. Evolve with it, even if that means making changes to your initial goals. You might realize some of the goals you set are unattainable given the path you’re on, or you may realize that you’ve already reached some of your goals and want to aim even higher in the future.

Starting up on social media is the equivalent of walking out onto a crowded sidewalk and shouting “Here I am, world! Take me or leave me!” In both cases, unless you present something of value to the world, you’re going to be ignored. We all want to be noticed, but it’s the people who deserve to be who gain the biggest following.

What other tips do you have for creating an effective online presence? Let us know in the comments section below!