Building an Online Presence – A Beginner’s Guide

social-networksHow do you become relevant? How do you get your name out there? How do you get your opinion heard?

These are some of the questions I get asked almost on a daily basis now. My colleagues, acquaintances and even strangers seem to be getting more interested in finally building a proper online presence. Especially in the world of academia, getting your name out is crucial. It can not only land you a job eventually but it can help build a public persona that is more valuable than a permanent position at times (think positions like adviser to think tanks and media houses, both of which pay significantly better than an academic position). Based on this growing interest in building a brand name for ourselves, I thought I would do a special post starting with a quick guide to building an online presence.

Why the online presence?

The world we function in now operates on the assumption that if you even matter slightly, you will have an online persona/profile. The first thing people are mostly likely to do after meeting you or hearing your name is to google you. Based on that initial search, people start making up their perceptions about you.  It is a super shallow way of doing things, but this is the world we operate in. So instead of criticizing it and arguing why this is not the right approach, it is easier and more fruitful to build a potent online presence.

But how does one go about building an online profile?

9b8ef9f947f43209535a4e2e1c052688Start with getting yourself a twitter account. Twitter matters. I got the job of my dreams partly based on my twitter presence. Realize that if you are using twitter for professional purposes, focus on your niche areas and build a following around those topics over time. Get involved in discussions and tweet regularly. One of the biggest mistakes people tend to make is not utilize their twitter accounts on a regular basis. Understand that having a hardly updated twitter account is worse than not having an account at all. So update it regularly and choose your niche wisely.

Secondly, start a blog. It sounds clichéd but blogging does a lot of good people tend not to realize initially. Blogging helps you clear your thoughts and hone your ideology. Because you start writing regularly, you start questioning your own stance on issues. Over time you start having crystal clear positions on issues that you were previously unsure about. In addition to that, regular writing helps you build a certain writing style. Most people lack a signature writing style because whenever they write, they do so either for purely professional purposes or for purely personal reasons. Blogging helps you break that mold and frees up your writing style. Crucially, blogging gets your name out there. WordPress blogs are indexed on search engines, so your blog posts show up when your name is googled. Why does this matter? Well think of it this way, if five people were applying for a position and only your name has search results with page hits, who do you think is going to have more credibility? Even if your writings are on your private blog, it still makes it more credible as compared to someone who has nothing online.

Thirdly, have a half decent private website. Irrespective of what you do as a profession, having a decent private website with your profile and your writings is going to be helpful. In most cases people convert their blogs in to their private websites. A step up from that would be to have a personal podcast on your niche areas. For example, I am a political scientist and I am working with a colleague of mine to start a podcast that discusses grad life and current issues in International Relations on a regular basis. But these are add-ons to the basic online presence.

These are just some of the basics. I am hoping to do a longer post on building an online presence and really spending time on it in the future. Hope this helps people starting out.

Here are some helpful links to get you started:

Bloggingwww.wordpress.com is the best place to start. Although I started from www.blogger.com I prefer WordPress because it is easier to work with and maintain.

Social Media – Start with www.twitter.com and build an account. Then if you have a smart phone, join www.instagram.com as it is really helpful in presenting a human fun side of your persona to the world. The whole trick to having an online presence is to be likeable professional who gets the work done and has a somewhat interesting life. I hardly use www.tumblr.com but some people find it to be the easiest platform to work with. And it might sound boring but having a good clean cut profile on www.linkedin.com in this day and age is a MUST. So spend some time setting up each of these profiles. Understand that each profile you have online presents a different aspect of your personality and put together all your profiles should present the best image of you.

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