If you have a business, the sooner you get your story out on the Web the better—and no matter where you work right now, it would be a disaster to underestimate the benefits of representing yourself as an independent brand.
Did you ever see A Knight’s Tale with Heath Ledger? Imagine you just arrived in a new town and are getting ready for a jousting competition. What will get the crowd rooting for a stranger?
A great herald. You need a rousing introduction to get the crowd on your side so, win or lose, you end up with more fans. What the herald says and how they say it can make all the difference.
Virtual jousting contests are more likely these days, and in the 21st century you can act as your own herald on the Web without anyone raising an eyebrow. Most people who want to do business with you will look online beforehand to see what they can find out. So take some time and put yourself out there in ways that you can be proud of. Let people learn about you and what you bring to the table right from the source.
Building credibility and legitimacy online takes some time and effort, but if you are willing to do the work it will be worth your while.
When it comes to finding great tools to get the word out about your professional self or business—what better place to begin than Google?
Get one. Set it up in your name, the business name, or in whatever way you want to represent yourself. Note that Google has a separate business listing (see Get on the Map below), but you need an account to set it up.
Be aware that you will get a Google profile page that can include the account name in your webpage address so choose carefully. For example, Tracey was able to use her name on a Google account, so her profile page is http://www.google.com/profiles/TraceyHolinka. My name was not available, but I still set up a gmail address and listed my name on the profile page. I just don’t let Google use the Gmail address as part of the webpage address. My account listing appears if you search the Web for my name, but the address is not as cool http://www.google.com/profiles/114068838124346087627. Oh well.
What are people saying about you on the Web? In the blogosphere?
Well, Google knows. So ask by signing up for Google Alerts. After you have a Google account, you can set up alerts on any word or phrase that might appear on the Web or in the blogosphere and be notified when it does. Whenever Jo Golden, Chaos To Clarity, or any other term of interest appears on the Web, Google Alerts lets me know. That way I stay informed about any potential infringements on our service mark or mentions of me. Granted, I get notified about the use of those words when they have nothing to do with me too. No matter, it is well worth the effort to check it out.
Get on the Map
Think old school phone book on steroids.
If you have a business, then you need to get your business listed in as many relevant directories as possible. You want people in your market area to find you. Start by listing your business at Google’s Local Business Center so that you get listed on Google Maps. Check out Yahoo’s business listings, local directories, and any others you might use to find your competition—because you should probably be listed there too.
A great many services offer free listings in addition to their fee-based premium services, or they may request that your business website or blog to link back to their directory. Check around, sign up, then go back and follow up to make sure that the listings are actually posted correctly.
Once you’ve done all that work, take a breath. Then resign yourself to the idea of checking them every so often to make adjustments to your descriptions, services, contact information, etc. Sometimes the profiles you put up can get corrupted or display oddly, so check back and feel comfortable knowing that your brand is looking good out there.