Defining Your Presence Online

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Published on March 26, 2018, at 11:16 p.m.
by Darsey Norton.

The need for a strong online presence is increasing as social media platforms gain popularity. Between Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Tumblr and others, people and businesses are connecting now more than ever.

It is estimated that in 2019, there will be around 2.77 billion social media users around the world. Those nearly three billion users are searching, connecting and interacting not only with peers but also potential employers.

With added accessibility came a new form of competition and a need for personal branding online. It is important for young public relations practitioners to recognize this trend and establish a consistent and professional online presence and network.

Photo via Creative Commons

Two of the most popular platforms for young practitioners to connect with professionals are Twitter and LinkedIn. Twitter allows for quick and accessible two-way communication. While LinkedIn serves as an online resume and tool for students and professionals alike.

Mike Little, an instructor in the College of Communication and Information Sciences at The University of Alabama, offered advice on creating a strong professional presence online. He advised all students to have an active and professional LinkedIn profile.

“LinkedIn is the number one tool that recruiters use to find people. It’s the number one professional networking site and practically everyone is on it. It is like the Facebook of professional networking,” said Little.

Little believes that the easiest and most visual component of your online personal brand is your social network profile photo.

“Imagine you have already landed your dream job and I go to that company’s website to the meet our team link, and there’s your picture. What does that look like? That’s what you want,” advises Little.

Little noted that college students should be wary about using photos that make them look too young or inexperienced.

“Anything that has a marble column or background says college student, and you might want to think about taking another shot,” said Little.

The next step in developing your personal brand online is to write a profile, summary or bio statement to use across social platforms. Dr. Laura Lemon is an assistant professor at The University of Alabama and teaches students how to communicate their personal brands online.

“You first have to think about what your personal brand is. Determine your own unique selling point and from there come up with a brand statement that is a brief summation of who you are, what you do, and what you stand for,” said Lemon.

With a developed and professional personal brand online, young PR practitioners can utilize social platforms to create lasting connections.

“I advise students to connect with everyone they know and respect right now. Reach out to seniors about to graduate; you never know where they might end up. That is a good way to start expanding your professional network,” said Little.

Photo via Creative Commons

Although Little stressed the importance of connecting with professors and peers, he also noted the value of expanding one’s professional network with those outside of the college realm.

According to Little, “The typical college student should be involved in undergraduate professional organizations. Anytime there is a speaker who comes they should attend the event, introduce themselves to the speaker and ask to connect on LinkedIn.”

While Little said that LinkedIn is a great platform to start a professional online presence, he also made it clear that young practitioners should make use of other social media sites, such as Twitter, in order to facilitate professional online communication. Little’s sentiments toward Twitter were also reiterated by Dr. Lemon.

“Twitter allows you to get engaged in dialogue in an industry that is of interest. You can follow chats, tweet at professionals in the field that you are interested in and offer suggestions or advice. It allows for more real time personal branding,” explained Lemon.

To further explain, Lemon offered a personal example of a time she utilized Twitter to start a professional conversation.

Photo via Creative Commons

“I listened to a panel at a conference and heard the senior vice president and chief communications officer for Target talk about the value of internal communication, which is my area of interest for research. I tweeted at her after the conference, and she responded right away,” said Lemon. “Without Twitter, I wouldn’t have had that kind of access to start a conversation.”

While Lemon stated that a practitioner’s Twitter should be professional, she noted that it is also important to maintain some personal expression.

Lemon explained, “You want to be able to share who you are and what you represent. The idea is that if you can brand yourself, know your unique selling point and package yourself in a professional yet unique way that you can then go and do that for an organization. That is what companies want to see.”

Lemon encourages young professionals to use all tools to engage with other students, professors and industry professionals.

“Despite the technological advances we make, human connection is still the richest tool we have. Your network, whether it is online or in person, is going to be the richest tool. LinkedIn and Twitter just provide a mechanism that makes it easier for us to build our professional network, but it’s still about having that personal relationship,” said Lemon.

PR Student Chat provides an outlet for PR students, professors and professionals to connect and discuss PR trends in real time. To tap into the conversation and develop an online personal presence, join the #SMStudentChat on Twitter March 27.

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