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5 Easy Ways to Improve Your Online Presence

1. Get over your fear of self-promotion.
Just do it. Now. Done? Good. I get an email newsletter from professional coach Martha Borst every week. It has her photo at the top and an image of her book cover on the side. I don’t see that and think, “Oh God, there goes Martha promoting herself again.” I think, “Damn. Martha is so good at staying in touch with her audience. I wish I were that organized and professional.”

2. Use your name as your brand.
Did you know you can change your Twitter user name without losing your followers? So if you chose “@hotchica6” and now you have 3000 Twitter followers, it’s not too late to change it to “@HilaryHiggenbottom.” On your Facebook page, once you have 25 likes, you can choose a customized URL (and you can change that URL until you have 100 likes, at which time it’s locked in.) Go out there now and change all your IDs to Hilary Higgenbottom, or whatever your real name is, hotchica6.

3. Post your contact info.
It doesn’t have to be your personal e-mail address, but create SOME way for people to get in touch with you, and post that on your website. (Post it like this to avoid spammers: Hilary (at) Higgenbottom (dot) com.) There’s nothing more irritating than spending half an hour searching someone’s site in vain for a way to contact him. It’s not only frustrating, it makes the author appear aloof and unaccessible. Someone may want to ask you for an interview or compliment you on your latest article in the New York Times, and they may not want to do that in a public forum.

4. Get a professional photo taken of yourself.
You will post your picture everywhere—on your website, on your blog, and on the profiles of all your social media networks, and you don’t want that to be a blurry full-length photo of you and your dog. Wear something simple that isn’t black or white or patterned, put some make-up on, do your hair, and fork out $300 to have a professional photographer take your picture (make sure that includes the digital copies of the photos.) Better yet, have multiple pictures taken of yourself in a variety of settings (at your computer, doing a reading, etc.) Mary Robinette Kowal and Michael Hyatt do this well. Every time you refresh a page on their websites, their photo changes.

5. Interact with your audience.
Whether it’s through a blog, a professional Facebook page (where anyone can “like” you), or a Twitter account, make yourself accessible. Gone are the days of J.D. Salinger and Thomas Pynchon. Readers not only want to know about you, they want to talk to you. And they want you to respond. You don’t have to spend all day on social media, but take a couple hours out of every week to connect with your audience. Your efforts will pay off in increased work (Editor Alan Rinzler credits his steady editing work to his blog) and book sales.

If you want to learn more about how you can improve your online presence through blogging, Facebook, Twitter, and Google+, I have a Social Media Madness class beginning this Thursday, Feb. 2 at the San Francisco Writers’ Grotto, and there’s room for a couple more students. Also check out Lorraine Sanders’ one-day Journalism Basics for Bloggers as well as the full roster of winter classes.

And now what about you? What is one of your favorite social media tips?

23 comments to 5 Easy Ways to Improve Your Online Presence

  • Kittie Howard

    You're right, sooo right. I'm getting there – look back and wonder why I didn't do X sooner and it motivates me to move ahead.

  • Kristan

    OH how I wish my last name were Higgenbottom!

    I do need to get on that professional photo thing…

  • J.L. Campbell

    Lots of useful information here. Thanks!

  • I agree about the Twitter name. I find it difficult to keep up with a person's real name vs. his or her Twitter handle. If I want to add a writer's name to a tweet, I hate having to search for Joy Smith's @lovepeacejoy twitter handle. I changed from @StacyWrites to my name @StacySJensen and I felt like I was "growing up."

    • meghancward

      Well, and my feeling is that if I go into a bookstore and see a book by Todd Whitman, I'll never know that he is the KungFuKitty I know and love on Twitter. Better to use our real name.

  • […] 5 Easy Ways to Improve Your Online Presence, by Meghan Ward – “Just do it. Now. Done? Good. I get an email newsletter from […]

  • Superb advice. Especially about the Twitter handle.

    I'd also like to suggest posting it in an obvious spot on your website and blog. The "share" function on a blog doesn't credit you by your Twitter handle. If I can say "great blogpost by @meghancward" that's better than just your name in a Tweet, because that way people can follow you if they like the tweet. (I had to look it up to get that "c", so it's worth it to put your handle over your "follow me" button. ) I actually removed my twitter button and put a widget of my Twitter handle to link to my Twitter profile. It's not as cute, but it gives more information.

    • meghancward

      Great idea, Anne. I wish I'd been quick enough to get @meghanward. I guess we both have that problem 🙁

  • KLM

    I laughed at your first bullet. I would absolutely cringe at the idea of sending an email newsletter with my picture on the front page but I think nothing of it if I see someone else doing it.

    I wish I could use my full name on Twitter but it cuts me off with one letter to go. So unless I want to be Kristen Lippert-Marti, I have to shorten it. So @KlipMart it is. Other than the occasional confused person who thinks I sell scissors or hedgetrimmers, it seems to work OK.

    • meghancward

      Ha! I never read your Twitter handle as "Klip Mart" before now! I always hear "K Lip Mart" in my head. You should totally open a hair salon in a strip mall 🙂

  • […] 5 Easy Ways to Improve Your Online Presence from Meghan Ward: I wish I’d had these tips a year ago! […]

  • mainecharacter

    I totally agree about having a way for people to contact you. One author has a glaring typo on his site, right where you wouldn't want it, and there's no way to tell him.

    And keeping in contact with one's readers, whether by e-mail, newsletters, or blog comments, is so important. I've written to authors and gotten a nice note back and gone out and bought a bunch more of their books.

    Of course, I don't have a website, blog, Twitter, Facebook, or even real name or photo, but hey, I do know those two tips work!

  • lindseycrittenden

    Well, it took me a few days but reading this again reminded me to make my blog contact info spam-proof. I'd be getting "likes" and comments from suspicious sounding readers, and wondered if they were spam. Your tip confirmed my suspicion. Thanks again, Meghan!!

    • meghancward

      Lindsey, I've been getting spam comments like crazy lately. I can't figure out why. Stuff like, " I very much enjoyed this post. You really are an expert in your field." etc. They're pretty obvious to spot because they're so generic and usually have spelling errors.

  • Autumn

    Very nice tips. I am just thinking about starting out and I have huge fears of making myself known online. I haven't been able to grasp the idea of moving from the safety of anonymity of a "hotchica6" ID name. It is a catch-22–I want people to know me, but do I really? I am such a neophyte about social media. Thanks for your encouraging and helpful tips. I will look for classes in my area about social media. That is great that you are offering one.

    • meghancward

      Autumn, Where are you located? You can always take my class remotely if you want. I can send you everything by e-mail and answer all your questions, etc. If you have any interest, send me an e-mail. I know it's scary at first, but you'll be glad you did it later!

  • Boy, I wish I had some tips of my own, so thanks for these. It took me some time to build an audience for the Big Litowski, and now that I've published "Tainted Souls" as an ebook and want to get the word out, I'm having to build an audience again for my new website in my own name. I'm not even sure how I got an audience for the Big Litowski in the first place. Oh, well. Here I go again.

    • meghancward

      Steven! Great to see you out of the Big Litowski closet. I haven't seen your new site yet. Will take a look tonight. (I bought your book, but have a massive stack in line ahead of it, and I'm a slow reader.)

  • Ann Best

    Great list, Meghan. I've done it all. I changed my blog name way back to my own name. But I think I'll go into Twitter and see if I can get rid of the number after my name. I think this happened because Ann Best is too common. I should have done Ann Carbine Best. I see your comment above. I've got a massive stack of books I've bought too; a lot of them Bloggers' books, some of which I've dipped into and they're mostly very good. I'm a slow reader too. There just isn't enough time in a day … and the older you get, as you'll discover, the faster the time goes!

    • meghancward

      Ann, if time goes any faster, I'll need some roller skates to keep up. Hope you're having a great week.

  • l0ve0utl0ud

    Great advice, Meghan! And you look great in the professional photo on your blog! 🙂

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