7 Ways to Nurture Your Online Presence

We send off our writing projects, grateful they’re done. We forget them and move on to the next project.

This would spell doom when it comes to our online presence. The worst thing we can do is ignore our social networking presence and website.

I like miniature rose plants, but I only buy them at a deep discount because they die in a matter of weeks. One day, I decided to be a little more attentive. I took one plant and transplanted it. I’ve been watering and fertilizing it on a regular basis. It is now ready to bloom for the third time!

The lesson here is that I take a little time to nurture it and give it what it needs to thrive.

dead rose
Usually, my miniature roses whither and die.
healthy rose
Look what happens when I pay a little attention.

Here are seven ways to nurture your online presence so it continues to bloom:

Start Small

Unless you have a staff to monitor and maintain your online presence, start with a nibble instead of a chomp. Have a website of about three pages and choose two or three social networking sites that will best connect you with your target audience. This will give you a good idea of the time you will need to maintain things properly.

If you try to do too much too quickly, you end up getting overwhelmed and will do a poor job. You can always add things, but it is difficult to cut back.

Strive for Quality

If you always try to give your audience your best, you will stand out from the crowd. Remember that your online presence sets your reputation. Sometimes one well-written blog post a month is better than two poorly done daily. Just be consistent to meet audience expectations.

Add New Content

Social networking sites are great for telling what’s new with you. However, don’t forget to update your website, too. A website that is too static, that never changes, gets outdated quickly. Sites like Twitter are great for up-to-the-minute micro-posts. Facebook and LinkedIn are good for promotional posts and sharing. Blogs provide an opportunity to share information to a more interested, targeted audience. Websites are a more permanent presence providing a base of operations.

Don’t Reinvent the Wheel

Make it easy for yourself. Connect your updates. You can update your blog post with an automatic link to Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, whatever. You don’t have to spend time posting to each site. You can also tap into social media management systems like Hootsuite.

Just make sure the links actually update. I’ve had problems with my blog not being updated on LinkedIn and had to go back to reconnect.

Budget Time

Like exercise, we look at our online presence and say, “I’ll get to it later.” Schedule regular reviews of how you appear on the Internet. All it takes is an hour a month to check your look, what your analytics are telling you, and what you need to tweak.

Consider Professional Help

You may need to hand things over to professional content managers. This is a big step because you lose total control of your content, which may affect your online reputation (just ask Shaquille O’Neal).

There are several questions to answer:

  • Is it economically feasible? (Will you make more money concentrating on your core services and products than what you are paying for the help?)
  • How much should you hand over? (Can you have someone just write major content and provide images?)
  • Can you trust those providing the service? (Is it a real person or some faceless organization? Do they have your best interests at heart or theirs?)

When someone else is working on your online presence, it is vital to continually monitor what they’re doing.

Never Just Walk Away

Sometimes life forces us to end one thing and move on to a new adventure. Don’t just walk away from your online persona since it could be in cyberspace forever. Let your audience know what’s happening.

A while ago, I tripped over a blog post that really interested me. I went to the author’s site and realized she hadn’t posted anything new for three years. But she had left a message explaining why.  She didn’t just walk away, and I felt better that she hadn’t abandoned me.

Just remember that a little time and effort goes a long way toward making your online presence thrive.

This concludes the series “7 Critical Content Concerns.” Anyone in the Charlotte, North Carolina or Rock Hill, South Carolina area can join Annette for her workshop “Design Your Online Presence”  2 p.m. Saturday, November 14. The Forward Focused workshop is held in partnership with Sunscribe Publishing and Happy Accidents Painting.

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It’s Networking, Not Selling

carsalesman1I don’t like high pressure salespeople. I’ve been known to walk out of automobile service centers when they try to convince me my car needs more work than I know it really does.

Sometimes in social networking, “sales pitches” sneak in. Sometimes they just barge right through the door like a linebacker.

Of course, we all know that most people on social networking are there to promote themselves in some way. It’s the nature of the medium. Some offerings, like Facebook, are more overt about this self-promotion than others, like LinkedIn.

It’s a delicate balance to put ourselves out there in cyberspace and not come across like the stereotypical used car salesperson. We write about things we know or things we want to know. We want a wider public to know us and to know what we offer, but we can’t pound our readers over the head to get them to buy our services. First of all, that behavior gives readers a headache. Secondly, it is likely to drive them away instead.

Think about it. How many times have you followed a discussion in a group on LinkedIn and had someone pop in what is the social media equivalent to an infomercial?

“Look at me! I know we’ve been talking about X, but I can do Y and Z which you really, really need!”

Now, I don’t mean that, if we’re talking about X and you’ve written a blog about it, you couldn’t include link to it. That’s adding to the conversation.

Sometimes I come across a link for a blog that I think I will find interesting and get great information. But once I get there, it’s just someone hawking their wares. It’s not only a letdown, it’s an irritation. It’s the kind of thing that makes me grumpy (and a lot less likely to visit anything else they might post).

It’s important to remember that people don’t want to be pushed into making an unnecessary choice, nor do they want their expectations played with. Sometimes the soft sell is a lot more effective.

Sales is a relationship game and most people won’t enter into a relationship with a pushy, obnoxious person. The best way to get what you want is to give your readers what they want – and even looking for a little more.

A Wordsmith’s Top 10 Reasons for Giving Thanks

It’s that time of year, and I am thankful for so many things (like any time the New York RangerThanksgivings win).

Yet, as a writer and editor, I find myself grateful for being able to “play” in the world of words.

Here, in a Letterman-esque way, are ten of the language-associated things I am most thankful for:

10. Word processing software – until you are forced to write using only a typewriter, you really can’t appreciate what a blessing this is.

9. Laptops, tablets, and mobile communication devices – I like to write in my office, but it’s nice to know that I don’t have to. It’s also great to be able to research and communicate anywhere at any time.

8. A constant curiosity – I love learning new things and sharing them with others. This makes me easy to entertain. I can sit and watch the birds interact in my back yard and be perfectly happy, especially when I can write about it in my journal afterward.

7. A large vocabulary – with so many options in the English language to say something, it is nice to have at my disposal a vast array of words from which to choose just the right flavor. (Thanks, Mom!)

6. A work life that lets me “play” – being an editor, writer, evaluator, and instructor has put me squarely in the middle of all that I enjoy: words, phrasing, teaching, and ideas.

5. The freedom to write – it is nice to be able to write what I want and express an opinion without having goons from the government hauling me off to an anonymous, no-woman’s land where I will never be heard from again. (Thank you to all who have served in the U.S. military for that!)

4. Other “grammar freaks” – it’s nice to know there are other people out there who have a compulsion to correct poor grammar and writing. They can truly understand my situation. (Power to the grammarians!)

3. The Internet and social media – these technologies are modern miracles of communication. They allow me to research, read, write, and connect on an easier, higher level. They constitute the Jacuzzi of communication for me, allowing me to immerse myself in a way previously impossible.

2. New connections and acquaintances – through this blog, networking, and teaching, I have met many people who have generously shared their viewpoints, tips, and love of writing.

1. Old friends – I have remained in contact with friends and even reconnected with some who have drifted away over the years. They are my support system encouraging me or telling me like it is whenever I need it. They are my gyroscope helping me stay oriented on my writing path.

My hope is that we all stop for just a moment in the midst of our busy lives to truly appreciate and give thanks for the good things in our lives. Happy Thanksgiving to you all!

Pause Before Posting

Poor grammar professorI was reading a LinkedIn post the other day concerning education in America. The writer was well educated and experienced. Most of the people responding had alphabet soup after their names.
The conversation was civil, and the replies showed deep thought.

Those participating were obviously concerned and looking for answers.

With that elevated level of discussion, anyone would expect a display of strong writing skills. There were a few minor mistakes in the original post. Considering its length, the mistakes were, if not acceptable, at least excusable.

In the replies, there was a discord between degreed people discussing problems with the educational system and the grammar and usage mistakes they made. There’s a real problem of credibility when someone decrying the state of the schools in this country doesn’t know the difference between then and than; its or it’s; there, they’re, or their.

“Come on! It’s the Internet. People make mistakes.”

Look, I understand the nature of the medium, but that doesn’t mean I ignore the irony. If anything, the speed and pervasiveness of the Internet makes it much more important for a writer to pay attention to the impression she projects.

So many times we rush to get in on the conversation. Yet this is a written conversation, and it requires adherence to a set of rules.

Educated posters who make mistakes in grammar are like opera divas who sing off key. So how can we avoid this dissonance?

Revise

Take the time to look over posts and correct mistakes before clicking the post icon. This is hard to do in the heat of a conversation, but even a short reply should be looked over for mistakes before sending it off into social networking land.

Read it out loud

One of the best tips I ever received and am always happy to pass on is to read whatever is written out loud. It is truly amazing how many mistakes and awkward sentences a person can avoid by doing this.

Know your grammar gremlins

It is important to be familiar with the writing mistakes we make, so we can be sure to correct them. We can’t destroy our writing reputations with careless, consistent errors.

Slow down

Speed is the boon and bane of the Internet. We rush to get our two cents’ worth out there at the risk of our credibility. It’s easy to type out and post a reply quickly, but that doesn’t mean we have to. Take a little time to clean up those posts. The Internet will still be there.