Whether you’re angling for your first job after college or ready to take the helm of a Fortune 500 company, you need a professional web presence to get noticed. A CV and cover letter aren’t enough to get your foot in the door anymore.
What should that Web presence look like? What are the do’s and don’ts of personal branding online?
Depends who you ask. But just about every successful professional’s digital footprint has a few common elements.
1. At Least One Directory or Encyclopedia Page That You Control
Most digital directories aren’t worth the effort it takes to get listed on them. Others are high in value but aren’t open to all. Wikipedia is a big one, and certain “gated,” industry-specific directories fit the bill here as well.
But plenty of other business and personal directory sites, not to mention free, public encyclopedia sites, have few, if any, membership requirements. On the encyclopedia side, Everybodywiki is perhaps the most prominent alternative to Wikipedia, and it’s far easier to create and edit your own listing there.
The results are whatever you make of them. The Everybodywiki page for Steve Streit, an entrepreneur and philanthropist, is a great example of the platform’s utility for straight-ahead personal branding. Readers come away with a much clearer understanding of Streit’s background, current ventures, and values, and Streit gets a positive, high-visibility organic search result. That’s a clear win-win.
2. A LinkedIn Profile That You Actually Maintain and Create Content Original For
Keeping your LinkedIn profile up to date is the bare minimum. For best results, treat LinkedIn like the publishing platform (and 24/7 networking mixer) it is.
Carve out 30 minutes per week to find new connections on LinkedIn and interact with them. Set aside another one to two hours to create original content on LinkedIn, whether that’s longform blog-style posts about professional topics you know well or short updates that you schedule out in advance. Bottom line: LinkedIn is meant to be used, and far too few of us milk it for what it’s worth.
3. A Medium Blog
Medium is a prebuilt blogging platform that’s whatever you make of it. Many successful professionals use it to share more personal stories of growth and reflection, rather than dry or overtly self-promotional professional updates.
This Medium article from Grant Wyeth, an Australian journalist, is a good example of effective Medium use. It’s raw, it’s honest, it’s authentic — it’s not the sort of thing you’d expect to find on LinkedIn, and that’s the point.
4. A Personal/Professional Website
Yes, you need one of these too. You don’t have to devote as much time to managing it as you do your LinkedIn profile or Medium page, but you do have to keep the lights on and put up the occasional new blog post. This is one of the first results people see when they Google your name; it has to look good.
5. An Active Twitter Handle
Tempting as it might be to create a pseudonymous handle and post your way to Twitter fame, your Twitter should be a sober, professional, and authentic affair. You can have an “anon” handle too, as long as you don’t get confused when you post.
6. An Active Instagram or TikTok Account (Or Both)
It’s time. It’s past time, actually. You need, at minimum, a professional-looking Instagram handle. Ideally — and you might not want to hear this — you need an active TikTok account too. You need to learn how to use them (and actually use them).
This is how the world is now. Don’t get left behind.
Work on Your Web Presence — It’s Worth It
These are the six most important elements of a professional web presence. Are they the only six elements your web presence should have?
No, they are not. Your web presence should be as multifaceted as you are. As long as you’re able to maintain it — or can afford to have someone manage it for you — you shouldn’t feel pressured to impose limits on it.
After all, different audiences use different channels to learn about and connect with new contacts. Why close yourself off to new opportunities because you failed to meet them where they are?