7 Tips to Creating a Professional Online Presence
by Monica Molstad Baresh and April Courville

The most basic key to an online professional presence is very similar to how you would act in person. R.E.S.P.E.C.T. Relationships. Encouragement. Sharing. Staying Positive. Education. Communication. Testimonials.

When creating a professional online presence, that first impression must be positive and memorable. First impressions are important in business and personal relationships. For example, if you come to work 20 minutes late with an unprepared presentation, you’ll quickly earn the reputation as the slacker.

Presenting yourself in a positive light, means your customers will remember you and your company in a positive light as well. For example, if you were selling fried chicken, instead of saying, “We have the best greasy chicken in town”, you would say, “We have the most delicious fried chicken in town!” We’ve put together a list of tips to ensure you’re getting your message across quickly and professionally.

7 Tips for the R. and P. of The RESPECT System

1. Invest in a professional photo of yourself. Your profile picture will be the first thing a potential customer or recruiter will see and is your chance to make a positive first and very lasting impression.
a) Always use the same photo so the media and potential clients will recognize you the next time they click on your site. Consider yourself a brand and your photo is an extension of your brand.
b) Do not use a photo from your cell phone or cropped photo, this inhibits the perception that you are a professional. Having a photo of yourself versus the company logo as your profile picture adds a personal touch. Yes, the logo helps promote the business but the photo brings it to the next level to create a professional presence. It says, “I am here and I am proud to stand by my products and services!”
c) If you were looking to buy a home, and you had to chose between two realtors, which would you consider more professional? The realtor with the camera phone image on their profile, or the realtor with a nice, polished headshot? A little investment goes a long way.

2. Create Social Media Profiles. Sites such as Facebook and LinkedIn are a powerful tool to extend your network and create a professional online presence.
a) You can make a great first impression by creating a homepage with professional photos of you and/or your business. Keep a balanced mix of personal and professional content on your site in order to add a personality to your business profile.
b) Audit social media profiles regularly and remove “non-professional or inhibiting content.” Most businesses are using various social media websites to create an online presence for their businesses as well as a professional presence. A great place to start is LinkedIn. It’s geared specifically toward professionals and networking. Facebook and Twitter, a blog, etc. are also other sites that are very easy to set up and can be linked together for maximum impact.

3. Update information on all websites consistently. You want potential clients to perceive you as a professional who knows their business.
a) A professional presence will not be obtained if you have several websites and none of them match the same information from the others. Consistency is very important!
b) Equally important is keeping the content fresh. Credibility goes out the window when your site content is out of date.
c) Don't overdue your online presence. Stick to a couple places- especially where people will appreciate what you have to offer. Just be consistent!

4. Keep it positive and professional. When responding online, keep it positive and professional.
a) Do not respond, “I had a horrible time with a customer,” and write what happened. This is not considered a positive online presence at all. You can share tips, praise co-workers, share ideas, or recommend other products, but stay away from anything negative.
b) Being involved in online conversations with a positive comment and sharing your knowledge also positions you as an expert in your field. People are more likely to trust an expert!

5. Make sure you set the privacy controls. A hacker can cause your positive impressions to go down the drain. Legally, this is also very important as the web, if open to the public, can be easily used to your disadvantage if unprofessional.

6. Create a positive, upbeat summary about brand you. Explain to a potential client the benefits you. Let them know what you are all about.
a) A positive and honest summary will create an online presence that is unforgettable.
b) Remember to put yourself in the shoes of the viewer or potential customer. A potential customer’s main concern is, “What’s in it for me?” Ask yourself what you would want to know if you were potentially interested in a product or service. Create your professional presence with the customer in mind.

7. Include contact information. This seems like a given, but make sure it’s complete and correct! Make it as easy as possible for a potential client or recruiter to contact you.
a) Your name
b) Address / Location
c) Phone number
d) Email
e) URL for your business
f) Professional Photo

Look at your the key places that you are online and make sure you have consistency and a great photo and you should be set to begin your personal branding with your online presence!

Author's Bio: 

To learn more about internet etiquette for your success, download your e-Etiquette Guide to the Internet using the RESPECT System http://bit.ly/eetiqrequest

Monica Molstad Baresh is the President of ImageThat! http://imagethat.biz and the Publisher of Glass Ceiling Breakthrough, an Online Magazine for Professional Women Who Want More Success Now. http://glassceilingbreakthrough.com