Advice — Emma Gannon’s nine ways to build a solid online presence to attract more connections
If you’re unfamiliar with the concept of multi-hyphenate working, allow us to introduce you to Emma Gannon. A writer, broadcaster, lecturer, bestselling author and host of blockbuster podcast CTRL ALT DELETE, she is a staunch advocate for building a career on your own terms; one that is flexible, varied and self-sufficient. Having grown a number of side hustles alongside her former day jobs in journalism and social media strategy, Emma evolved a following and identity that relied heavily on a well-considered online presence and establishing genuine connections. She has since published two books, was recently featured in Forbes’ 30 Under 30 list, and is becoming a role model for a new way of working – leveraging the rise of the freelance economy, the importance of professional communities and personal branding. Taken from her newest title, The Multi-Hyphen Method, here we share her wisdom on establishing and strengthening your identity online, drawing on everything she’s learned so far.
Building a good reputation in your working life is important, and now that most of our lives are spent online, it matters what people see when they type our name into Google. Of course we all make small mistakes, or write something we wish we hadn’t. It’s easy for people to unearth comments we made from ten years ago. Curating our online spaces is crucial to feeling in control of your space and how you are presented to the outside world. Here are some lessons learned along the way:
1. Avoid rash argumentative tweets
Have your digital footprint in mind whenever you want to have an online argument. It’s fine to have an opinion (of course!) but just ask yourself quickly: Do I want this to be accessible online for ever? Will it look bad if I then delete these comments? Even if it’s deleted, it’s technically still available somewhere. Plus people like to screengrab things. We live in a fast-paced time of communication, it never hurts to pause for a moment and ask yourself if you really want to be saying these things, or if it might look and feel better if you step away and take a pause. I find that sometimes I get annoyed by something I see, but I write down my thoughts in a journal. I feel better, because I have got my thoughts down on paper and they might inform a piece of content I make at a later date, and I haven’t got into a deep spiral of argumentative tweets for no reason. After all, it doesn’t solve anything, and only makes you feel worse.
2. Check before you post (ducking autocorrect!)
Again, this fast-paced era of communication means we fire things off left, right and centre. I’m a fan of tools like Grammarly, which help you craft emails with correct grammar and proof-reads it for you. We’ve all had autocorrect nightmares and they aren’t the end of the world. But some things are really crucial to get right. Just as it would be important for you to double-check a form you were sending off, checking your public content is just as important. If an error is spotted it can instantly put someone off. It still matters to check things and for things to be presentable even though we live in an emoji era.
3. Create your own catalogue of content
One platform that is working really well for someone else might not be the right one for you. You can’t force it and it’s worth taking the time to figure out which one helps you best express yourself.
• Do you like making short videos? – Instagram.
• Do you prefer short sentences? – Twitter.
• Are you better at curating other content? – Pinterest.
• Do you want your presence to be minimal and powerful? Create a static website (some websites are just a great simple design with a basic contact page which can be very inviting and mysterious).
Pick a platform that really allows you to thrive and show your work off, don’t sit across eight different social-media apps for the sake of it, it’ll be such a waste of your time and could dilute your message.
4. Self-promote, but have a balance
Self-promotion should always be about getting more work by sharing your piece of work. Always have this in mind. You are sharing your work for a reason, not just for the sake of it. Treat self-promotion as a strategy with an outcome. It will alleviate any moments of Is this showing off? If you have a purpose to sharing something (that you’re proud of it, want people to employ you off the back of it, or show that you’ve collaborated with someone who aligns with your views) it will always feel organised and real.
5. Invest in your visuals
Visuals are really important and if online searches might lead people to your page they will make a decision on whether to work with you based on what they read and see. Words are important but so are striking visuals. Invest in your design, colour palette, headshots and website usability. Visual branding should be a top priority. You could be the best at your job but with an old website that doesn’t work you could easily put people off at the first hurdle. I always invest in visuals because I know I will make that money back once I get the work through.
6. Have a classy email address
It can be strangely off-putting when you meet someone and look down at their business card and their email address is Fluffy[email protected] Ideally, set up your own domain name.
“No amount of good design is going to help if you don’t know the messages you want to get across.”
7. Check your personal pages are on private
It’s becoming the norm to split out your public pages and your private pages so that you are more in control of what can be publicly seen by all versus what you share with your friends and family (this is a good tactic for everyone not just celebrities who want to have private Instagram accounts, of which there are many). That way your public business page can have a clear direction and you can add personal touches to it as and when you want. Even when you achieve your work-life blend, it can be nice to have a space on the Internet that is just for you.
8. Build up a good first page of Google over time
Did you know that by opening a new incognito window on Google Chrome (for example) you can see what your page on Google would show without being logged in as yourself and it skewing the results? You can monitor how it looks, what sort of things are pulled in from your social channels – it’s good to be aware of how you display to others. Making time to secure good PR coverage about your business is a good strategy in terms of search. If your name or business gets mentioned in good mainstream online magazines it’ll most likely show in the first-page search results on Google and make you look good. After all, 75 percent of people will never scroll past the first page on a Google search.
Making sure you have a solid personal website presence is crucial too, by using keywords, consistency and good design. But knowing what you are wanting to achieve and the purpose of your brand is the first step. No amount of good design is going to help if you don’t know the messages you want to get across. Be aware of what photos you upload as your Google Images matter too when people search for you. (This section has reminded me of the creepy online tool called Awesome Baby Name, that allows new parents to choose a name for their child based on website domain availability and SEO. Shudder.)
9. Write down what catches your eye while online
Inspiration on how to fine-tune my online presence in a business sense normally comes from noting what impresses me as I’m surfing online as a consumer or viewer. If something simple catches my eye, or I like the colour of a logo, or a new website widget, or a short video, I make a note of what has stood out on my newsfeed. I’m not saying I straight-up copy anything, but I notice what is working for me as a recipient of the content. Most companies engage in some sort of competitor research and so should you. You are your own audience.
This extract is taken from Emma’s book The Multi-Hyphen Method, available on Hodder publishing.