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What You Don’t Know about Your Online Brand May Hurt You

Article by:

Rusty Shelton
EO Austin
Rusty Shelton - EO Austin

I sat down to meet Matt f​or the first time at a coffee shop. Our mutual friend thought we would hit it off because we both work in the PR industry. Prior to the meeting, I did what I always do: I Googled Matt and reviewed his website and social media, immediately forming a first impression of the person I was about to meet.
Before he ever sat down, I knew about Matt’s recent trip to the Cayman Islands and his thoughts on the GOP debate. I also knew about last year’s client, who was unhappy with the work his agency did (and the lack of response from his agency regarding that complaint). I am sure Matt did the same review on me prior to walking in the door, each of us forming an opinion about the other that was going to be difficult for either of us to change.

Have you ever thought about how often people are forming opinions of you based on what they find online? In today’s digital environment, the first place most people will interact with you and your brand won’t be in person (even when you’re meeting them in person!)— it will be via your website, social media and the first page of a Google search. Do you know what kind of impression you’re making? If not, it’s time to do an online brand audit. Here are four tips to help you get started:

Inspect page one of Google. The first step is to get a clear view of how well you own page one of Google on a search for your name. If you can’t be found online by your customers, you’re losing opportunities every day. If you don’t own your name as
a URL, stop reading this article and reserve it for US$10. Those who have a website in place with their name as the domain have a decided advantage because they own that online channel and have complete control over the information on it.

Understand whether you own or rent the real estate found on page one. Many of you may be thinking, “Page one looks great!” because the hits all connect back to you. But are those hits a bio on your company website, your Twitter account or a mention in the media? These are all nice wins, but they sit on a platform that you don’t own or control. There are three categories of information connected to your personal brand online: owned (your website and blog), earned (media coverage and customers’ reviews) and rented (your social media channels). Anytime you don’t “own” the top result, you’re leaving your first impression up to others. Wouldn’t you rather introduce yourself?

Treat your social media infrastructure like an online press kit. Understand that many people will find your social media channels first and use them as an on-ramp
to your brand. Because of that, these rented channels make up your virtual press kit, and you must make sure that your branding, messaging and visuals are consistent. Furthermore, provide value in every space where you are represented; remember to regularly refresh the bio and content on your social media channels. And, if you have social media accounts that are decaying, get current or get rid of them.

Go beyond your name. The most basic level of an online brand audit is a review of a search on your name, but in many cases, potential customers or journalists will start with a search via topics like “accounting services in central Ohio.” It’s harder to land on page one of Google for a “search by” topic, but there are ways to increase the odds. Become more discoverable by being timely with content. Start with information making news, or that which is part of a trend in your industry, and offer an opinion or viewpoint that your readers might want to share with their networks. Be intentional, timely and topical to widen your expertise net. It could land you on national television.

Rusty Shelton is an EO Austin member and the CEO of Shelton Interactive, an award-winning digital marketing and
PR agency, as well as the co-author of “Mastering the New Media Landscape: Embrace the Micromedia Mindset.” Contact Rusty at rusty@sheltoninteractive.com.​​​​

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