4 Rules For Networking And Promoting Yourself Online

Whether you're promoting an article, a new service or your business, remember you're actually promoting yourself.
October 06, 2011

Recently, someone asked me what I had done to promote an article I'd submitted to a website that garnered more views than comparable articles on the same site. I responded that it wasn't anything I had done recently, but it was what I had done to promote myself up until that point.

Although the Internet has made it easier to reach potential new clients and readers, the flip side is that many others are trying to access the same group you are. The intimacy level is also different in online communication. All this means is that there's more to think about when using this relatively new medium.

Here are four things I consider when promoting myself online.

1. I don’t sell products or services, I sell myself

Almost all the business I receive comes via referrals from friends, family, prior customers and former work colleagues. These are also the people most likely to read and recommend an article or blog entry I've posted. So, it's necessary for me to build non-business relationships before embarking on business relationships, whether online or in person.

This is a lesson I learned a few years ago when I was considering joining the local chamber of commerce. A number of seasoned veterans told me not to expect to do business with any chamber member for a year after becoming an active member of the chamber. I needed to not only join the group, but also attend meetings regularly, take on small leadership roles (to demonstrate my leadership skills and ability to accomplish tasks) and allow them time to get to know me before I would become a trusted business partner.

Since learning this lesson, I am even more patient when building relationships, especially on the Internet. When I'm online, I have penetrated a new acquaintance's private space. My e-mails and feeds are interlaced between communication from family and friends, and there is a chance they are reading my communication from the comfort of their home—while on vacation or in their office. Furthermore, there are others just like me vying for attention in this space at any given time. Because of this, my new reader may be even less likely to consider me as a trusted source. So my first duty is to make them comfortable with me.

2. I post in my verifiable niche area only

We all know that on the Internet, people can be anyone they want to be: a Nigerian official, medical doctor, decorated soldier and even a successful entrepreneur. For this reason, when writing and promoting my business and myself, I stick to who and what I am and avoid exaggeration or embellishment about my qualifications. My education and business background is in signal processing, computer design, telecommunications and engineering management, and those who know me well professionally and academically consider me an expert in these areas. I do not use words like "coach" or "guru" to describe myself. These terms are unverifiable, and using them makes me appear less trustworthy.

3. Timing is everything

Articles and blog postings are more likely to spread if my contacts share them with their acquaintances. Because of this, I send out this information when I know most of them are using social networking sites. Facebook has a tool to see how many of your friends are online. When at least 10 percent of my connections are online, I put up links for my current postings.

4. I use social media and social networking sites effectively

Social networking and media sites are communication devices just like radios and phones. Learn to use them effectively. I use social media sites like Twitter and YouTube and promotional sites like PRLog for one-way communication. In other words, I use them for feeds and broadcast. I communicate everything positive and informative about my professional life.

I use social networking sites like Facebook and LinkedIn for meaningful two-way dialog, similar to what I would do if I were a host on a call-in radio show. I demonstrate my knowledge in certain areas by starting discussions on topics that are in my area of expertise as well as business-related trending news items. By doing this, I also help new acquaintances feel less like I am focusing on them. This gives them an opportunity to become comfortable with me as they see me interact with others.

Since I've started using these steps, my website's Alexa ranking has improved dramatically, my articles have received more traffic, and I have formed closer bonds with key business and decision-makers that could be the future leaders of their field.

OPEN Cardmember Clyde A. Lettsome, PhD, PE, MEM (aka Frugal Techie) is principal engineer and technical business analyst of C.A. Lettsome Services, LLC. He uses his experience to help businesses and consumers make economical and logical sense of today’s technologies.