Online presence is the way your brand appears on web. It is a combination of the website, social media profiles and pages, plus all the interaction you have online. It also includes the reviews and other things people say about your brand around the web. Even if you don't have a website, social media profiles or any interaction on web, you still will have an online presence. Unfortunately you have no control at all over that presence and it's completely in the hands of your clients and competition. Building actively your own online presence is how you gain control over how your brand is presented online. You cannot control all of it and trying to do so will only get you into trouble. For instance you need not to try and remove bad reviews or unfavourable discussions or even join them. You might for example think that posting good reviews yourself or taking part on the conversation pretending to be a customer will only hurt your brand when you get caught. You have other means to take control over your web presence.
You need to figure out who you want to reach, what sort of results do you want your online presence and it's different parts to yield and which profiles and platforms you are ready to manage. The last part means you don't have to and most likely cannot be present everywhere and you will need to decide how much time and effort you can and are willing to give for maintaining your online presence. At the beginning you will have to give it more time, but even later on you'll have to keep on posting content and moderating the content the others post to your profiles and pages. You will also need to respond in a polite and constructive manner to the feedback, comments and mentions.
The selection of where you will be present depends on many things, but most of all on who you are trying to reach. If your potential and current clients are (likely to be) on Facebook, then that's one place you will have presence. Your website is the hub of your online presence and the main place where you will channel all the traffic from your social media profiles, pages and other places on web. Additionally it's where you direct people from offline too. Your website needs to be informative enough for your clients and other interest groups to find the most information about your brand, products and services. It also needs to help them to find out how they can contact you when they have further questions or concerns. Your website doesn't have to have a blog or other similar content, but blog posts are a great way to show off what your brand is all about and to create more traffic. When done right it also helps with search engine visibility.
Part of your web presence is assessing how you want to be presented. For starters you need to think about the keywords. Don't be silly about it though, just listing some keywords is not going to help you much. You will need to weave those keywords into your content in an organic way. This is where a blog can also help, when you can create articles surrounding a subject for which you will want to be recognised. In addition to thinking about the keywords and other wording your web presence also includes for instance the colours of your website, images and fonts you use and other visual details. It is highly important your online presence fits your offline presence, although some offline elements may not easily translate online. The look of your print materials is not usually applied to your website or other parts of your online presence. Additionally different platforms require different kind of an approach. The content that works on your website will not work directly on Twitter and what works on Twitter may not work on Facebook.
Taking control over your web presence requires activity and work. Luckily you don't have to do all of it yourself. If you don't yourself have time, interest or skills for the online presence management you can always hire someone to do it for you. Even if you have the time and interest needed you can get help with getting started, planning your online presence and designing a website and other parts of it.
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I'm Mervi Emilia Eskelinen, an artist and online presence strategist from Finland. I coach and consult indie businesses and bloggers to find focus with their branding, marketing and web. I have almost 20 years of experience, a bachelor's degree and some fun certifications in everything about digital media and marketing.