The internet can be a new entrepreneur’s greatest ally. Never has it been so quick, easy and cost-effective for business owners to research their markets, to seek out new contacts and to showcase their ideas. But it can also be a risky space. With search engines at their fingertips, potential customers, employers, partners and competitors can all too easily shine that lens back on you – which means that your online presence needs to be well thought out from the very beginning. Here are some areas that you should consider.
Social media sites vary in their usefulness for entrepreneurs. LinkedIn pitches itself as the social networking site for professionals, and it is undoubtedly a hugely effective site for corporate networking. You will almost certainly want to maintain a LinkedIn profile, and possibly even actively create content on the site, such as blogs or contributions to groups. Twitter, too, is useful in many business sectors, and it can be valuable to maintain a personal profile here rather than, or alongside, a business profile.
Other social media platforms, like Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest, will vary in their usefulness according to your sector – and here, again, you will have to weigh up the value of running a personal, business or both accounts simultaneously.
The important elements are to first make a strategic decision as to which social media you’re going to use, and then make sure that all of those profiles match up with each other. Different platforms demand slightly different tones of course, but it’s still vital for a sense of continuity to run through them all. Your biography and contact details should be consistent, for example, and profile photos should always be appropriate.
Your own website
A potential customer, partner or employee will almost certainly visit your website at some point in their explorations – and this is a great opportunity for you to showcase your experience and approach in more detail. ‘Meet the team’ style webpages give you a great deal of freedom and flexibility to explain your entrepreneurial journey and to convey something about the ‘feel’ of your business, so if you don’t already have one, it is well worth considering one.
No photo is better than a poor quality one, so either employ a photographer to take corporate-grade headshots or create a text-only profile. Including a link to your LinkedIn profile is a useful way of generating traffic between your website and the social networking site.
So far, so straightforward. These are elements of your online presence that you have complete control over. But what about articles in online newspapers or trade websites that you don’t?
First, you need to know what you’re dealing with – and this means Googling yourself. Trawl the first few pages of results to get a feeling of where you appear and what has been written – and then get some trusted friends or colleagues to do the same, so that you are repeating the process with slightly different search algorithms.
Hopefully, of course, everything that has been said will be overwhelmingly positive, but in the unfortunate case that there is unflattering or even irrelevant content coming to the fore, you need to think about how to replace it. Generating fresh, relevant content is the answer here, whether via blogs on your own website or social media sites, or engaging in some further online PR yourself.