Nowadays, if someone’s trying to figure out who you are — whether it’s a potential employer or a potential date — the first thing they’ll do is probably Google you. The internet is also probably where potential employers and collaborators will first find you. So, improving your online presence is more important than ever. But while there’s a lot of advice out there for businesses to do this, it’s not always clear how individuals should. After all, you can’t really create advertisements for yourself. But you can create a name for yourself.
“There is no silver bullet to building a larger online presence,” Andrew Selepak, PhD, a professor in the department of telecommunication at the University of Florida, tells Bustle. "You can listen to all the experts and watch all the tutorials out there on how to build an online presence and it still won’t make you Kardashian famous overnight. So, the first thing to do is have a realistic expectation of how big your presence can become.”
While becoming a Kardashian may be out of the question (unless you can find a way to snag your own reality show), becoming a trusted source of information (or, as they call it in the marketing world, a “thought leader”) in your own industry isn’t. Here are a few ways you can grow a bigger following online, according to experts.
1. Join Groups
To get your message beyond just your followers, you can post in groups on Facebook and LinkedIn, Digital Marketing Project Manager Holly Zink tells Bustle. There are lots of groups devoted to specific industries where you can talk about your work and share links to your social profiles (though you don’t want to come off too self-promotional).
2. Join Twitter Chats
Some companies and communities host regular Twitter chats on topics related to specific industries. For example, Hootsuite hosts a weekly #HootChat about social media, says Zink. Or, if you’re in academia, you can participate in hashtags like #SaturdaySchool and #ScholarSunday. Try Googling “Twitter chats for __” and seeing what comes up that’s related to your job.
You can always start your own blog, but if you don’t want to build a following from the ground up, you can offer to guest-post on other people’s blogs, says Zink. Find sites related to what you do and ask if the people who run them accept guest posts.
4. Create A Consistent Bio
You want people to feel like they’re interacting with the same person no matter what site they find you on, business and life coach Celia Ward-Wallace tells Bustle. So, create a one-to-three-sentence bio that captures who you are, and paste it on Twitter, LinkedIn, and any other sites you’re on. Include your email address in them if you want people to contact you about opportunities.
5. Get A Professional Headshot
If you really want to step your online presence up a notch, Ward-Wallace recommends filling your profiles with a professional photo. Invest in a photoshoot and get two to three photos you really like.
6. Get On A Bunch Of Sites, But Focus On One
The more places you are, the more likely people are to find you, so Ward-Wallace suggests setting up profiles on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Google +, YouTube, and Yelp (if it's relevant). However, you probably won’t have time to build a large following on all these, so focus your activity and engagement on one that suits you.
7. Post With Personality
The accounts that get followed the most are the ones that make people laugh, put forth unusual ideas, and surprise people. So don’t be afraid to show off your personality. The most successful people on social media “post random thoughts and ideas, put their personalities into their content, and showcase who they are,” Social Media and Marketing Professional Caitlin Thayer tells Bustle. “Engage authentically with other users.”
Building an online presence is a way to establish yourself as an expert on certain topics, and once you do that, it becomes a self-perpetuating cycle, because more and more people will start coming to you for advice and information.