Standing out online: Are you a 'ghost' or strategically omnipresent?
Entrepreneurs and professional people tend to fall into one of four categories of online visibility. Where do you sit?
G’day, my name is Trevor Young and this is my newsletter about positioning ourselves to take advantage of the opportunities that come with being an active participant in today’s ‘Reputation Economy’. You can subscribe by clicking on this button:
In a connected world where people do their homework before doing business with you, how do you stack up? Does your online presence do the ‘professional you’ justice?
‘Doing business with you’ could mean literally that: Buying products or services from you personally, or your company; it could also mean employing you, partnering with you on a new project, or appointing you to an advisory position on a nonprofit board.
It’s 2022. Of course I’m going to check you out!
Now, what would happen if I Googled your name, what would I find?
Would I be validated in my mind that your business is the right fit for me, or that you are by far and away the best person to hire? Or, would I be underwhelmed with what I find?
PLEASE NOTE: I’m not talking ‘discovery’ here; that is, I don’t know you from a bar of soap, and somehow stumble upon you while Googling. The scenario I’m trying outline is more around word-of-mouth referral, not from a random search per se. In other words: I’ve heard about you from a third party, or have met you at some point around the traps and I’m doing my homework to get a better understanding of who you are, what you know and, importantly, what you stand for. You do stand for something, yeah?
What I find in my focused search efforts could well (and probably will) influence my thinking ahead of contacting you. Will I be excited with what I find, or disappointed?
I believe professional people tend to fall into one of four categories of online visibility:
ONE: ‘The Ghost’
Professionally-speaking, this is the worse case scenario. I punch your name into Google and nothing comes up, or if it does, there’s but a skerrick of information about you that adds negligible value. In essence, you’re a ‘ghost’. Hmmm. Doesn’t fill me with confidence.
If personal privacy is important to you, that’s cool. Ditto, if you secretly are a spy, or have aspirations to work for the intelligence agency in your country. But if you’re wanting to get ahead in business, you might want to start taking steps to boost your online visibility.
TWO: ‘Social Presence’
LinkedIn is the place online you obviously need to have the strongest presence, and most likely the first place I’ll look if I’m checking you out online.
But, critically, don’t stop at using LinkedIn just as a place to ‘hang your resume hat’; that won’t fill me with confidence.
At the very least fill out your profile with an interesting summary that does the professional you justice; upload PDF presentations and/or videos, and contribute regularly to LinkedIn articles (or start your own LinkedIn Newsletter, if you have access to this function). These are all things that will help you stand out that little bit more and potentially might give you an edge in the marketplace.
Twitter, like LinkedIn, tends to come up high in searching rankings. As an added bonus, Google pulls in recent tweets (see image below - page one of a Google search for “Trevor Young” in incognito mode). How good is that? But you’ll need to first optimise your Twitter account for SEO. Ditto for Linkedin.
If I was a real sticky beak, I might also check you out on Facebook. Would this worry you?
THREE: ‘Present & Accounted For’
Okay, now we’re talking. You have left some digital breadcrumbs for me to follow (and follow them I shall!). I’m looking forward to being impressed!
Being present and accounted for online means having your suite of social channels all stitched up plus a clutch of other web pages where you and your work are featured. Some examples are:
About.me page – Not a hundred percent sure how this works from an SEO perspective, but it’s a great (free) way to aggregate and promote all of your various links in the one place so you can provide people with the one web address and they can go from there. By way of example, here is my about.me page. Alternatives to About.me include Flowpage and Carrd.
Public speaking – Speaking at organisations that in turn promote you on their website and social channels is a savvy way to start building visibility online. It also shows you’re out and about and have (perceived or real) authority in your field of expertise.
Medium – If you’re not keen to start a blog on your own domain name, why not try opening an account on Medium? Sure, you’re still going to need to publish articles to make it worth your while, but Medium takes care of the rest. It really is an easy-to-use blogging platform; the fact it has its own built-in audience is a bonus! Alternatives to Medium include Vocal and Substack.
Writing articles for other blogs – Penning the odd article for industry blogs or online publications can be helpful in raising your profile and increasing your visibility online. If the publication you write for boasts authority in your field, I might just discover it – and you – in my research. If your articles are re-published on your LinkedIn profile, so much the better! Career strategist and LinkedIn expert, Sue Parker, of DARE Group, does this well - check out her portfolio of coverage here. Ditto entrepreneur and marketing consultant, Anne Miles.
Being ‘present and accounted for’ is a really good place to be profile-wise and, if executed steadily and strategically over a period of time, it’s probably all you need to put yourself way ahead of the pack.
However, if you want to take things up a notch or two and really give your personal brand the edge in the marketplace, you’re going to need to strive for strategic omnipresence.
FOUR: ‘Strategic Omnipresence’
Strategic omnipresence is when you start popping up all over the place online … in a good way! You are, in effect, omnipresent (“widely or constantly encountered”).
Done well, you will not only have greater visibility across your social channels but also potentially you’ll start making headway in Google searches as well.
But it’s not just about visibility for the sake of it. It’s vital you demonstrate professional substance via the content you produce; this can only come about by freely sharing your ideas, knowledge, insights, opinions and expertise with the broader online community, without the expectation of getting anything in return.
Building strategic omnipresence online takes planning, commitment and effort.
Firstly, you need to nail such things as the key social channels in your own name. Speaking at industry events will also be a help here too, as will writing the occasional piece for relevant blogs and online publications in your field, as per what we discussed above.
With this foundation in place, things get a bit more serious.
Anne Miles - source Campaign Brief
Ideally, you will have a dedicated blog-based website that bears your name, ideally within the domain.
A good example of this is leadership and workplace culture expert, Tristan White.
Tristan White is also the name of a well-known Australian field hockey player with a Wikipedia entry. But ‘leadership’ Tristan has a website with his name in the URL – tristanwhite.com.au – so he wins!
It has also worked with me. My name is pretty common, but having a website bearing my name in the URL works a treat from a search perspective (see ‘incognito’ search result below). Now, I don’t claim to be an expert in SEO by any stretch of the imagination, but I’ve been active enough content-wise over the journey to build up a strong presence online, using the tactics such as those outlined in this article.
And here’s what pops up if you search for Tristan (I know Google searches can differ for people - this is from a search in incognito mode); disclosure - Tristan is a client of mine.
Heath Evans is a former American football running back and former analyst on NFL Network. Search for the name, and he comes up high.
Heath Evans is also a marketing strategist and coach from Melbourne. He still features in the first page of Google rankings, thanks to his personal brand website.
Passion, purpose & strategic intent
The thing with building omnipresence is you need to show up regularly; you need to approach your personal branding efforts with passion, purpose and strategic intent. For example:
be active on social media (particularly LinkedIn and Twitter)
speak at meetups and industry events
write for industry blogs and online publications
create your own content hub and publish to it regularly (preferably on your own domain)
publish videos to YouTube
create a podcast
Creating strategic omnipresence is not for everyone, of course.
But if online visibility and having a credible personal brand is important for your business and/or professional goals, then elevating your efforts from ‘Present & Accounted For’ to ‘Strategic Omnipresence’ might just be worth the effort.
And it goes without saying, if you’re a ‘ghost’, you’ve got a fair bit of catching up to do! Good luck!
Oh, and if you want to chance your arm with more advanced (but very doable) SEO techniques, I highly recommend this article by digital marketing guru, Andy Crestodina (note the optimised company bio page) - How to Improve Your Personal SEO: 5 Tips for Personal Branding within Search Results - it’s a ripper! I also interviewed Andy for my Reputation Revolution podcast - we chat about this topic and thought leadership marketing in general: well worth a listen!
Thank you for reading … let’s connect on the socials (links below)!
P.S. Did you know enrolments are now open to my training program SCHOOL OF INFLUENCE, where we teach and support leaders, entrepreneurs and professional experts to become credible, thought-leading voices in their industry. You can find more details here.