To say that it’s important to enhance your online footprint as an entrepreneur is an understatement. Your online footprint is what will help you build brand trust, expand your client base, and raise awareness about your business. This is not to say that you can’t succeed without an online footprint, however in this day and age, expanding your brand into the online space (even if you don’t offer online services) is very beneficial.
As a personal branding expert, I often discuss why it’s important to cultivate a personal brand and optimize platforms like LinkedIn, so it’s always surprising for me to see how many entrepreneurs don’t know how to create an online footprint. If you do not know how to maximize your online footprint, you are likely losing business. When you’re not a heritage brand, your online footprint is even more important when you’re trying to engage potential customers and build your professional reputation online.
Demonstrate a professional brand image
If you’re offering professional services, you’ll want to demonstrate a professional brand that’s consistent across all channels. This means creating uniform content on a company website, LinkedIn business page, Google, Yelp, and social media. The more channels and social platforms you utilize, the more reputable and trustworthy your brand becomes. If someone is unable to find a source of your work, including examples, contact information, and recognition, they’re unlikely to trust you as a brand and a professional. If you can’t establish trust among consumers, you won’t have a successful business.
Optimize your LinkedIn profile
This is the first step of leveraging your network to engage potential customers. If you’re not on LinkedIn currently, create an account now. This is one of the most widely used platforms in career development, so underutilizing LinkedIn could be detrimental for your career. You’ll want to make sure your profile is fully optimized, but on top of that, make sure that your contact information is prominent, especially if you’re interested in getting hired for your services.
Highlighting your expertise and how you can help others is also one of the most important aspects of engaging potential customers. Speak directly to your target audience and show examples of your work and your professional achievements to show potential customers exactly what you can do for them.
If you are offering professional services and are a registered business, create a company page on LinkedIn where people can learn more about your business and see that it is legitimate. Creating a company page on a trusted platform like LinkedIn helps build trust in your own brand.
Use referrals to your advantage
Referrals, recommendations, and testimonials are a huge part of building online trust to enhance your online footprint. When a trusted friend tells you about a business, you transfer that trust to the company. Use LinkedIn recommendations, Yelp reviews, and customer testimonials on your website to help build trust and highlight your achievements. If real customers can attest to your quality of work and what you have accomplished for them, you will begin to establish yourself as a reputable resource.
As a side note, building up your presence on sites like Yelp will immensely help you because consumers trust that you cannot buy good reviews on that platform. Yelp uses algorithms which test and verify the reviews before posting them, which creates another level of consumer trust. When you’re using a trusted platform, it can appear more legitimate than simply writing down a customer testimonial with no verification. Additionally, Yelp has great SEO, which will also work in your favor if your website doesn’t get a lot of foot traffic.
Maintain consistency across channels
Creating a cohesive personal brand is extremely important for developing your career, and using consistent branding across channels helps build your professional reputation online and increase your credibility. Think about it this way: If you search for a person or business and see multiple platforms and channels come up with the same information and visuals, you can assume that this brand has put in the time to create a consistent branding strategy. If you see different visuals, as well as inconsistent verbiage and service offerings across platforms, it’s harder to believe that the brand is professional and trustworthy.
When considering how to build your professional reputation online and enhance your online footprint as an entrepreneur, focus on a few main factors:
- Providing resources such as contact information and examples of work
- Creating a consistent brand across channels
- Creating brand trust through reviews and testimonials to establish yourself as a reputable source of work
The more information you can use to frame yourself as a trusted business professional, the better. This will help you build trust in yourself and in your business. Note that this is not the time to share a bunch of personal information, but information about you as an entrepreneur, your business, service offerings, and professional contact information.