Fast Company

Your Online DNA...Social Networking for Business Part 2

Innovation in today's business environment calls for accepting the need to be visible online. You will be searched and researched. This relatively new process for learning about vendors, prospects, employees and others is one of the earmarks of our online age.

In my last post, I discussed how to research and choose an appropriate online network or social network for exposure to you, your company or your products and services. Hopefully, you took the leap and got involved in one or two of the available networks.

As you did so you were prompted to fill out a profile. Your online profile is most likely the visible part of how you are identified to the community. It is your individual or corporate tag line. When you are filling out personal profiles, you have to be extremely aware of the implications. When you visit online research tools like Alexa, you see the top five sites in North America are social networking sites. Myspace, Facebook, Youtube etc. The traffic these sites maintain allow for incredible visibility. If you place a profile on one of these sites and feature less than complimentary pictures, statements, threads, or contributions from others, you are risking your professional reputation or that of your company. I am familiar with one professional sorority for instance that has strict rules regarding the presence of certain pictures surrounding certain activities on Myspace.com when posted by members. In other words, personal activities shown on a personal Myspace.com profile page are expressly prohibited if you intend to stay in the organization.

Additional considerations in the development of online profiles surround the message you want conveyed to the broader group. In the case of this author, he uses a professionally made head shot for the photo used in most all profiles. The use of a professional headshot sets the stage for initial impressions made by the profile. The profile will be the first place for a first impression. Online profiles are where first impressions take place. When someone googles your name, what do they see? Is it nothing. If so, that is okay. You will soon see, as I do on a regular basis, that when you can't be found online, certain people hold you out as suspect. Online profiles, corporate presence, and visibility are now so pervasive that it is common for a person to be found online. You have an opportunity to control what people first read and see through the use of accurate and well thought out online profiles.

Depending on the sites or communities in which you take part, you will have opportunities to build fairly specific profiles that will include contact information, corporate addresses, email addresses, your role in the company, your company profile, and sometimes its history. Be thorough and thoughtful as the information you share will be discovered by people researching you and your company. This is exciting because the indexing of these sites begin to lead to organic traffic to your site. In short order, you can facilitate a press release,we will cover that in future articles;, build a profile in a heavily indexed social network, post a video, and you will have organic web traffic,i.e. traffic you did not have to pay for, coming to your site. Obviously all of this is predicated on the premise that you have something worthwhile to share or offer.

One of the more common mistakes I see made comes from the Opportunity or Home Business community. The profiles and subject matter offered is nothing but a pitch and as a result, the individual and company are diminished. You have to build your personal brand through the profile. You have to elevate and raise the bar through your profile. Give the process some considerable research and thought. Visit sites that promote those skills.

On a final note for this section, make sure you have the authority to establish profiles for your company or division. You would be in a world of hurt legally if you did not have permission to establish the online network account, build the profile, or grow the online presence of your company. Some of your online profiles, comments, releases, blog threads or contributions can become very, very difficult to get rid of in the online world. You don't control these networks in most cases, you simply belong to them.

In our next visit, we will discuss content and how important your contributions are to the future of your career and company. Helpful sites for the online business networker are numerous. Two that come to mind are http://15secondpitch.com and http://logomaker.com Both of these sites may help those just starting out because they do very important things to the new social networker. 15secondpitch allows you to go through an automated sequence of building a 15 second pitch through answering well thought out questions built into their site. Its free and very useful. Logomaker allows you or your small company to go through a well thought out process for building your logo and even allows you to use the logo free for online purposes like websites and profiles.

Sherman Mohr serves the entrepreneurial community through consulting for Castle Venture Group, a Private Equity firm based in Brentwood, Tennessee.

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