My blog entries have generated some interesting conversations (and feedback) from friends/associates which has generated a variety of fantastic ideas for future discussion. Throw in recent requests to present this content at networking clubs and I find it’s taking me a little bit longer than I anticipated to get these posts “just right”…

For this entry, I wanted to spend some time talking about general guidelines you should consider as you establish your “digital presence” — as they should be applicable to almost any social network tool you may use.

Digital Presence — Where Do I Start?

Over the past month, I have had conversations with both individuals and small company owners looking to leverage Social Networks, but really didn’t know where to start (or understand the basic dynamics). As I listened to the issues they raised, I evolved a starting list of questions (and actions) that should be applicable to anyone interested in building a strong digital presence. While this is by no means an exhaustive list I think its a good starting point, and more importantly, actionable!

Who, What, and Where…

The first step is to determine who you are representing and what you are trying to accomplish. Some starting questions that should get you started include:

  • Who are you? An Individual or a Company?
  • What image are you trying to project?
  • What do you want to say  / Who are you trying to reach?
  • Establish yourself as a Subject Matter Expert (SME).
  • Sell a product, Provide product information or inform/educate the consumer.
  • Where do you want to place your messages?
  • As you can see, establishing an effective digital presence takes some thought and planning.

    Once upon a time…

    As I talk to people about Social Networks and Digital presence, I tell them to approach this as if they were “telling a story”. Much like a story you are explaining to the reader:

    • The character (you or the company).
    • Background and/or key events (how you got here, what is driving you).
    • Things you are thinking about (almost like a sub-plot to the major story).
    • Current events that are impacting you.

    By applying a “story line” to your thinking, it should help you keep focus on your message as well as identify and develop appropriate content.

    The “Rules of Engagement”  May Be Evolving,  But Best Practices Exist

    In addition to your “story line” some other thoughts/suggestions to consider are:

    Individual

    1. Some things to consider include:
      • What you post is public — anyone can see it (and comment on it).
      • Attack ideas, not people.
      • Consider your language and how you deliver your thoughts.
      • Be consistent (and thoughtful) in your message.
      • Think twice, write once (similar to measure twice, cut once).
      • Protect your account (surveys / applications could be rogue and hijack your account!).
    2. Articles that demonstrate how individuals have gotten into trouble based on social network postings (these are specific to Facebook though I am sure there are others).

    Company

    1. The rules for a company are different, largely because the company can’t afford to send a “negative”  message that could potentially hurt future revenues. In addition to your companies “story line”, consider:
      • Think about the companies image/purpose. Are your messages consistent.
      • You should have content planned in advance (my suggestion — at least 1 month) which helps you keep thinking about the story.
      • Determine approval processes for approving content that is going to be published, and who is responsible for posting the content.
      • Competitive Intelligence — Be careful of company intelligence you share.
      • Confidential Information — For public companies, make sure you aren’t releasing “material information”.
      • Watch the Internet for responses to your content. While there are paid services that do this, some free tools you can use include:
    2. Not to single out Domino’s Pizza, but they have had some interesting (and recent) experiences with social networking, that reinforce some of the practices I list above
      • Domino’s YouTube Incident  (a very good read):
    3. Domino’s new pizza roll out (be prepared to get feedback — both GOOD and BAD!)
    4. Summary

      While not a complete primer on Social Networking best practices, my intention is to get you thinking about how to effectively the messages you send with these tools. I welcome comments/opinions and/or suggestions to help grow this list!