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 A website that is too static, that never changes, gets outdated quickly.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.


Pair Beauty with Substance


“Oh! You won’t believe our new website. It’s beautiful and so professionally done!”

The young woman, a member of a local nonprofit, was very enthusiastic about the organization’s new website, so I eagerly looked it up when I got home. She was partly right.

The site was visually stunning. The photos were superb, the colors were well used and balanced, and there was just enough animation to be interesting without being annoying. It was everything we like to see in a well designed web site.

Then I started to read.

There were serious (and I mean serious) word use and grammar errors. It’s not like they were buried deep in the content, either. Some were right there in flashing headlines.

It was like opening a beautifully wrapped present only to find a moldy, half-eaten PBJ inside.

On the other hand, you could have the best content in the world, but if it looks like garbage, it will be treated like, well, garbage. In that case, it is like wrapping a diamond in wrinkled newspaper that had already been used to wrap fish.

No matter how stellar the words are, we need to dress them up nicely to get people to look. (This can be a struggle. Take it from someone who has discovered that WYSIWYG isn’t always what you get.)

But getting people to look isn’t enough to make it “professional.” The content — the message — has to be clearly and cleanly written. After all, the purpose of a website is to show people what we can offer them. If we can’t explain it clearly (and without blatant errors), they won’t stick around long enough to discover the gems we offer.

This tension between content and design isn’t new to the Internet. It has been around as long as people have presented writing to a public. There has always been a need to balance beauty with substance.

The good news is that, in our electronic age, it’s a lot easier to fix.

Now all I have to do is try to figure out a gentle way to tell all those nice people that they need someone to copy edit their site…

The Mighty Hyperlink Can’t Do It All

The hyperlink – it’s the biggest difference between writing for the web and writing for print.

The hypesuperhyperlinkrlink allows the reader to click for further information. This might not seem like much of an impact when it comes to writing, but it changes the nature of how people read. And, when people change the way they read, the way we write needs to change.

When writing for the web, we don’t have to be specific because the details are in the hyperlinks. If I’m reading a piece about how to use hyperlinks, but I don’t know what a hyperlink is, a good web writer would include a link with an explanation or even one demonstrating how links are used. The reader then has the option to explore more information or not.

When writing for print, the writer can’t offer such an option (unless the reader wants to deal with innumerable footnotes). As a result, the writer must weave the details into the content.

Web reading is more like scanning. With print, the reader requires a deeper concentration. Each form has its place.

Writers get into trouble when they confuse the two. Writing too much explanation or detail into a web piece will quickly lose readers who want their information down and dirty. Not providing enough detail in a print version leaves the reader confused and looking for more.

The hyperlink has dramatically changed access to communication along with the way people read. Yet it doesn’t work in a print environment. The hyperlink can’t do it all.