The quickest way to raise your online profile is to …

The quickest way to raise your online profile is to …

HOW many of you regularly search for yourself on Google? For those of you who have, how many of you were disappointed that you didn’t appear? Or worse, appeared negatively?
For those of you who haven’t done so already, can I suggest you do? Today. This isn’t about boasting rights; it’s not even vanity; it’s insanity not to. Your brand reputation–and that of your business–are just as important online as offline, and regular reputation management and monitoring are crucial to ensure you are digitally distinct.

Digital marketing, and how you and your business engage with a global and local audience, are the next big thing. Consider the number of years it takes to reach an audience of 50 million: radio–38 years; television–13 years; the Internet–four years, the iPod–three. Quite a pace really, but the stunner is this: iPhone applications hit one billion in nine months.

Then look at the size of the social media opportunity; if Facebook were a country, it would be the fourth largest in the world, nestling between the United States and Indonesia. 

According to a new survey by Babson Executive Education, 86 per cent of professionals have adopted social media. 

So being digitally distinct from your competition is the holy grail of Web 2.0. To help you on your way I discovered an online tool that calculates your Google quotient, diagnoses what you need to do to boost it, and then sells you a raft of services. You need only do the first two.

The Online ID Calculator asks a few questions and calculates your online effectiveness based on a combination of volume and relevance, is how many results, are they positive, and how consistently do the results communicate what you want to be known for.

If you squeeze yourself past the Digitally Disguised rank (for those who have no matches at all on Google), you might be Digitally Dissed (results which are negative or inconsistent with how you want to be known), Digitally Disastrous (lots of info, but little relates to what you want to express about your brand), Digitally Dabbling (a little good stuff but not enough yet, the easiest fix) or you may be right up there among the Digitally Distinct. According to the calculator’s creators, this is the nirvana of online identity.

It’s not just about being distinct, however. There are significant advantages of digital marketing beyond the brand building. Reputation management expert Neil MacLean of Reputation Plus says there are valuable benefits from relationship building, search engine optimisation, knowledge management, communication and differentiation.

It’s all about creating content that will help customers find and trust you, says MacLean, who reckons it’s more commercially beneficial to see testimonials and comments from satisfied customers atop the search engine ranking than finding your home page there.

So how important is your Google quotient? According to Andrew Grant, it is the difference between survival and failure. Grant, group MD of digital agency Nation1, says that to be digitally unaware is to condemn your business to defeat.

Grant understands there is also a commercial angle to digital marketing, and despite the doubts about the financial value of Twitter or Facebook, promises to make you more money for every penny you spend on a digital campaign. At the core, he explains, is the fact that non-digital principles still apply, you need a unique proposition to differentiate within your industry. It would help if you worked out what makes you distinct and then execute that digitally.

So while digital marketing and deploying social media tactics sound like guerrilla tools for the young entrepreneur–for Generation Y rather than for the Baby Boomers–it’s not so. The tried and tested marketing principles devised by Porter et al. are the same for online marketing. And the first thing you need to do, according to Stephen Hunter of Radiator, is meticulously researching the shape and size of the market before you decide on your strategy. There are multiple tools, but you don’t need them all, he says, and you need to be sure which are relevant to your market and customer before you spend a fortune on your campaign, the heart of which is the website. Successful online ventures will attract quality leads to the site and convert them.

“You must measure the impact,” says Hunter, who explains that everything you do, from web text to images, straplines, landing pages and keywords, impacts your brand. “If you don’t, you can’t refine and improve, and your competitors will catch up.”

The quickest way to raise your online profile is to start a blog, suggest MacLean, and encourage employees to blog and Tweet too. It’s challenging to do well, he says, it’s essential to do honestly, but it’s then easy to distribute and publish. 

Grant agrees. Employees are brand ambassadors for your company, and if you have four, 40 or 400 employees, then that’s 400 marketers who could raise awareness about you on social media sites. 

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