Technology is the Great Equalizer for Entrepreneurs. The most difficult thing to accomplish when beginning a career is building your own reputation and your own influence levels. Those two things can separate you from your peers and give you the edge you need to make you the right choice for employers and customers. This is especially true for entrepreneurial spirits who are looking to take a leap and start their own business.
That’s a tough call to make for many people. According to Inc. Magazine, half of all new businesses fail within the first five years. That’s a lot of time and resources put into an endeavor where the expectations of survival could be compared to the flip of a coin!
This is where technology can make anyone look as professional and successful as anyone else. It’s also where someone can seriously drop the ball and present a bad image to the rest of the world, so it’s best to do it right. As the saying goes, “You only get one chance to make a first impression.” Make it a good one!
The Right Platforms
Pretty much every kind of business can take advantage of social media and technology. The question isn’t if you should have an online presence, but where should you be? There are dozens of potential sites to consider. To be honest, I can’t answer that for you without knowing more about what field you’ll be in and what you intend to do in it.
For anyone in the Business to Consumer (B2C) world, Facebook is a must. Twitter may be a great choice or a complete waste of time. The same is true for Instagram or any other vehicle, but if you’re targeting younger consumers, I’d probably recommend Instagram to you.
LinkedIn is a sure bet for anyone in a professional or Business to Business (B2B) environment. Twitter is probably a good idea. No surprises there, I know. I consider LinkedIn a requirement for almost everyone. Even if you’re not looking to connect with potential customers there, you can always connect with new suppliers and others who can help your company. My only concern with using LinkedIn is that some employers actually believe that using LinkedIn means that you’re just looking for another job, not looking to help your current employer. See #3 from this article on Forbes.
Similarly, blogging is virtually a requirement for anyone looking to show how valuable they can be to others. I wouldn’t be writing this article if I felt differently, would I? In order to do blogging effectively, you need to consider your platform. I personally prefer a website that has a page for blog articles, but that is hardly the only option:
Dedicated blogging only services, such as WordPress, Blog.com, etc.
Facebook Page Notes
Guest blogging for others
While most people would only consider the first option, the others are also viable alternatives. LinkedIn’s Articles allow for fairly complex postings, as do the recently upgraded capabilities of the Notes feature on a Facebook Page. They also bring your audience back to your online presence, where they can find out more about you.
Guest blogging for others is a good option, but I consider it more of an additional way to reach people than the primary way to do so. Not only does it not bring people back to your presence, at least not directly, but you have little control over the site and what capabilities it might have.
YouTube might frighten people away from it because they are intimidated by it. They may think it’s complicated or that it requires too much money to do it right. Neither of these is necessarily true. Certainly, you can go all out with special effects and such, it’s not required. Sometimes, basic, “no frills” videos come across better than the most elaborate production.
Additionally, the site provides some fairly basic and easy to use editing tools. All laptops come with a webcam now and webcams are not that expensive if you needed one for a desktop computer. Digital video recorders and even cell phones can record videos. While they may lack the polished look of professionally done videos, they are perfect for quick Q & A interviews and short presentations, such as you might make while attending a convention or trade show.
To make yourself really valuable, you need to provide something that nobody else has to offer. Typically, that means a new take on a topic or breaking, exclusive news. Related to that is being able to recognize the Next Big Thing,
It means taking a chance that what you’re introducing becomes popular and many times, you may be wrong. If you’re right enough times, you’ll succeed. Here’s a great example. The video below discusses a new social media platform called Dashburst. It’s a great way to curate content from a variety of sources. It can help you become a real provider of quality information that people will want to see for themselves. People like learning about new sites/services and being able to provide them with valuable information on it would be helpful to your reputation.
The Right Tools
One thing that everyone will agree on is a shortage of time when it comes to trying to build their reputation and influence online. There are two websites that I couldn’t do without. The first is hootsuite.
This site will help you manage your various social media sites and allow you to schedule postings far in advance. While Facebook lets you schedule things on your page, Twitter doesn’t do that. With hootsuite, I can schedule future tweets, including my #TipoftheDay announcements. They’re a great way to get people to want to visit you often and attract new visitors by using a commonly used hashtag.
The second is paper.li; an e-news curator. It gathers information based on the criteria that you determine and re-posts it on your social media sites. It tags some of the people whose content it collected. This in turn, often leads people to following you on social media and having them share your newspaper to their followers, increasing you exposure.
While I have used similar sites, usually Tweeted Times, I like paper.li for its ease of use. I use it daily to create an E-newspaper that gets posted to my Twitter account every day. The frequency of the distribution can be different than daily, but I think that once a day gives everyone time to see it and respond to it if they choose.
There is no doubt that postings, especially on Twitter, with images, get better engagement levels than those without images. While I make most of my own images myself using only PowerPoint and Paint (I made the coin toss image above that way), I do need more images. I get most of mine from Stock Photos for Free, but there are plenty of sites that people use their images without paying for them. Just be sure to follow any requirements of the site with regards to giving the creator of the artwork their due credit.
One of the best new tools that I’ve started using is the ability for PowerPoint (2013 or newer) to export a presentation directly as an MP4 file. This type of file is compatible with YouTube. It takes a lot of work, but it’s not hard. Simply create the presentation and use the narration feature (if you wish) to include your voice. I made this video in about five hours, mostly doing the narration and adjusting the timing of the animation to match up with my voice.
The media can be a tremendous asset for you. Start by creating a contact list of email addresses and get in the habit of sending out press releases as needed. Don’t do them needlessly or they will be treated as spam. Effective use of press releases can lead the media to contact you as a source for future articles. If written properly, some media companies may even use your press release as the basis for an article. To encourage that, make your press releases informative and have them tell a story. By making it easy for the company to tweak your press release to turn it into a story, your likelihood of getting exposure in this way is increased.
The Right Steps
LinkedIn isn’t the only social media site that promotes networking. All of them do it well if you know what you’re doing. The easiest way is to share other people’s content. That might just encourage them to share yours to their followers. However, every so often, I do it just a bit differently.
Instead of sharing their content directly from their social media account, I go to the original source material and post it onto my own account as if I were the original provider. To give credit where it’s due , I tag the person that originally posted it and include “H/T” before their tag. Look at the image below for some examples of cases where people gave me a hat tip on Twitter
This lets them know that I shared their content and let’s others know that I give credit where it’s due. The other thing it does is create a new thread that leads back to me, not to someone else. That’s important to help build me as the “original” provider of the material. I’m not claiming to be that, so long as I use the hat tip but as far as social media goes, all crumbs lead back to me.
Interviews are a great way to not only produce some good blog articles, but it can help grow your reputation in a big way. When you do an interview, it should not only provide good content, but it also creates additional people who should share your content. Just be sure to tag them when you post it online. That makes it more likely that they will see your posting and that they will share it to their followers. Additionally, they will want to share your material with a new thread since it helps building their reputation and influence. They will hopefully tag you in the post so that you might share it to your followers – a step you should most certainly do.
In this article that I wrote a few years ago for the Social Media Club, I interviewed several people (via email) and turned all of their responses into one blog article. This created content where five other people helped me spread the word, as it helped them at the same time.
When using the Internet, especially social media, keep it professional, but don’t be afraid to let your personal side shine through. As a professor, I can tell when one of my students is trying too hard to write a paper or as has happened, plagiarized someone else’s work. It just doesn’t come across in their “voice.” Even in written form, the patterns of speech should be similar. Social media is just that: social. Keep it professional by avoiding inappropriate content. A mayor in Pennsylvania learned that the hard way recently when he posted racist comments on his Facebook page and was asked to resign as a result. People will be looking for your digital footprint especially as your reputation grows or when you apply for a job. Make sure that they find things that will promote you, not hinder you.
About the Author
Joe Yeager is the founder of Safety Net of PA, LLC and has been a cyber safety advocate for several years. He is an adjunct professor at Philadelphia University, where has been teaching several classes that involve using technology to improve the quality of their schoolwork.
As the founder of Safety Net, Joe provides a variety of presentations on improving the online experience, both in better educational performance and in cyber safety. It was after his own daughter came across inappropriate content online that got him involved in helping others in the area.