The age-old saying goes “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.” Many of us have been told this since we were kids, and some of us even tell it to our own kids now. It’s an explanation for why we should dress presentably, speak politely and possibly obsesses about the firmness of our handshake.
The trouble is that it’s just not true anymore.
Like so many other common sense maxims, the internet has challenged its validity. Today, before you meet a potential client or interview with a prospective employer, your whole digital life is being examined. You’re being searched on Google and being cyber-stalked on Facebook and LinkedIn. Your past employment, personal demeanor, and sometimes even your contacts are being rifled through and considered as a reflection on what it’d be like to hire you.
These days, you never get a first chance to make a first impression.
Fortunately, you can be in control of a lot of what people see when they search through your online presence. If you can invest a few hours working on your digital presence, you can build a platform that gives you control over your online persona that will quickly become the first thing everyone sees when they type your name into search engines. A few years ago, marketer Chris Brogan developed a simple presence framework that can help you take control of your online presence and make sure that your future prospects find exactly what you want them to find.
The key to mastering your online presence is to build a framework around two main elements: home bases and outposts.
Your home base is the main place you want people to find when they search for you. In many cases, this is you or your company’s website. It should hold your biographical information, your portfolio and anything else you consider to be part of your professional brand. It can be a self-hosted site, or a professional-looking site with a personal domain that is hosted with a particular company. (Shameless plug: Behance’s ProSite makes a perfect home base for those who don’t want to host their own site.)
The purpose of a home base is to represent your brand in a place that you own and have full control over. Sites like Tumblr or Facebook may seem like enough, but in the end those sites get to decide how you appear and how people interact. You know your audience better than Tumblr, and only you can build a platform perfectly suited to interacting with them.
Outposts are places where you have a presence that’s in line with your brand and that guides people to your home base. Outposts vary in how much information they hold, but are a place to share samples from your portfolio and to connect with others in your community, industries, and even potential clients. Outposts are where most social networks come into play.
From Facebook fan pages, to Twitter accounts and yes, Behance, everybody has a different preference for where and how they’d like to interact with people. You don’t need to be on every social network, but you should be on every network your target audience might look for you. You’ll need to analyze which networks you need to have a presence on. Outposts can also be the places where others are featuring your work or writing nice things about you. The purpose of all of these outposts should be to refer interested people back to your home base, where they can see the total picture of what you have to offer.
As you build up this two-tiered platform, and stay active on all your outposts, you’ll notice how your home base and these outposts move up in search engines rankings and social networks. Eventually they will become the default places where others seem to find you. In addition to finding new potential clients, or job opportunities, building an online presence using home bases and outposts will ensure that you’re displaying a consistent personal brand to the world and you’ll take back control of your first impression.
How about you?
What works (or doesn’t work) for you when creating your online presence?