The pandemic has only accentuated and accelerated a trend that was already ongoing: life moving online. Worldwide, people have spent on average 145 minutes a day on social media in 2020, according to Statista. Needless to say, a lot more time is spent on the internet when we take into account the number of hours of work online. For public speakers, this shift implies that online spaces become a great place to reach audiences and event organizers, get audience feedback, and interact with followers and peers.
As online profiles speak for the people behind them, online interactions gain a different social dynamic. As a public speaker, you have to ensure your online presence is as good as your personality in real life — a consistent continuation of your stage performance. This may sound easier than it is in reality. There’s a translation process involved in the creation of an online presence that means you have to have a clear idea of what your unique selling points are — from skills and expertise to personality traits — as well as find the best ways to make them shine through in the online world. Creating your professional public speaking channels is about personal branding as well as the invaluable source of knowledge your channels can become. It’s a great place for you to showcase yourself and your expertise and be an authority in your field.
In this article I will look at the two aspects involved in creating an online presence. Firstly, I will sum up the steps needed for building a consistent and coherent personal brand. I’ll start by breaking down the process of creating a personal brand into a few simple steps that will make this venture seem less intimidating. Secondly, I will give you a few tips and tricks on how to regularly create content that keeps your audience engaged, and ways to reach a wider audience.
Before you set out to build an online presence, Google yourself. Are you happy with the results or do you think you could do with a bit of a boost? Do these results reflect who you are, what your values and interests are, and would they appeal to the right people? If the answer to any of these questions is no, then it’s time to get to work.
Build a personal brand
As we move further into branded cultures, personal brands become as necessary as air for any public person. As a public speaker, you’ve probably already created an image and it’s now only a matter of translating it into online currency. The multitude of channels you have to navigate will pose challenges to maintaining a consistent brand image. However, if you take the time from the beginning to clearly define a personal brand and online persona, things will fall into place naturally.
Define your strengths and unique selling points.
Grab a notepad and a pen and let’s dig in. Start with defining your strengths and unique selling points. If you find it difficult to tell what makes your expertise unique, look at other public speakers’ profiles and compare your expertise to theirs. Write down the differences and decide which ones define you more. If you’re still not quite sure, ask others. It can be someone that doesn’t know much about your field or what you do. Explaining this to them in general terms will help you figure out how to communicate better and make your brand accessible to people from different backgrounds. At this point, talking to someone who knows nothing about it can be just as useful as talking to peers. When you’ve narrowed your ‘strengths and selling points’ list down to a few things that make you stand out, it’s time to think about how to build your story.
Find your virtual tone of voice
In the virtual landscape, your tone of voice is the equivalent of stage presence for a speaker in real life. As a public speaker, you already know by now the importance of being genuine and personable. It’s much easier to do so in real life, simply because humans have more practice there. If you don’t know where to start when trying to find your tone of voice, look back at your talk scripts and try to identify elements that make them unique. Do you use a formal or informal tone of voice? Do you follow grammar rules religiously, or do you use slang now and then? Does this tone of voice suit the channels on which you are planning to build a presence, and most importantly, is it aligned with the values you stand for? To work on your tone of voice, start by writing down a short bio or a few social media captions using a different tone each time. Practice until you find one that communicates your message clearly and has that je ne sais quoi that makes YOU shine through.
Establish your visual identity
Visual identity is yet another important part of your brand persona. In a world where audiences are bombarded with content everywhere they go, it’s not enough to produce high-quality, well-researched content to capture the attention of people endlessly scrolling through their feeds. This content needs to be packaged for the different channels. Arresting visuals and a consistent visual style that your followers quickly associate with you will signal your content and ensure people don’t simply continue scrolling past your posts.
Content is king
What to brand
We’ve spoken so far about how to brand yourself, now let’s take a look at what you’re actually branding.
First things first: learn how to communicate your expertise clearly and efficiently. Both clarity and efficiency are important online because people’s attention span is reduced. No one expects to scroll through Facebook or Instagram and come across content that requires them to dedicate too much time and energy. This is the real challenge of this translation process, turning something very complex into piecemeal content that can be consumed during a lunch break. Practice writing short captions for each long-form article. Summarizing a very complex topic into short captions may be more of a challenge than you think, but you need to learn how to grab people’s attention quickly.
Plan, prepare, publish, and promote
Before you decide how you’re going to publish your content, as previously mentioned, you should make a list of your areas of specialization and the topics that go with it. This list will be the basis of the content pillars you create. Keep adding to it over a few days or even a week until you have an exhaustive list. Make a calendar and plan the research and writing of a few long-form pieces that can go on your own blog or on other platforms as guest articles. And remember that promoting your content on social media and posting regularly is just as important as creating it.
Maintain and continuously improve
Last but not least, an online presence requires maintenance work. The good news is, you are a content creator already and your work is about continuous learning and improvement. All you need to do is learn how to share your results with those interested. As you research your next talk, think of how you can repurpose the content for social media or your blog. Take on the role of an educator and keep the public informed. Trust that you have something valuable to give and be confident about what that is. Although it is a lot of work to maintain an online presence, it’s not something that you create from scratch, but rather it is based on who you are and what you do.
Outreach is queen
You’ve worked hard on a piece of content. You posted it on your blog, shared it on all your social platforms, and sent information about it out in a newsletter. You’re getting more traffic on your blog and website. But you feel stuck in an echo chamber and you want to get a sense of how others receive your contribution. There are ways for you to reach outside of your followers’ bubble. Here are a few of them.
Use paid ads when an opportunity arises
Paid social media ads are a great tool if you want to reach a wider audience. If you’ve produced a great piece of content and get a lot of positive reaction from your peers and the public, you can make it known to more people. Paid social media ads are a great way to find lookalike audiences based on your existing audience. After all the hard work you put into creating content, it would be a shame not to use social media to tap into new audiences and increase your outreach.
Be active on social media, forums, and other blogs. It’s not only about the voice you develop and the content you create. You can enter a dialogue with other experts in your field, which is ultimately the most beneficial thing for your personal development and for making a difference in your industry. If you find people that you resonate with, don’t be afraid to approach them and partner with them, whether it’s for cross-promotion, an interview, a podcast, or co-writing a piece. You will learn so much from this and can also increase your audience base through them.
Maintain a database
Last but not least, keep a database. If visitors come to your website it’s because they’ve found something of value to them. Now is the perfect time to encourage them to sign up for your newsletter to stay up to date. A simple pop-up before they leave the page will do the trick. You will be able to grow your database and that can become a unique selling point, one that every event organizer will be impressed with.
There are three keywords that define a strong online presence: consistency, regularity, and experimentation.
When it comes to visual identity, tone of voice, and message you have to be consistent and confident in your values and expertise. Keep your audiences engaged and establish yourself as an authority that they trust and follow for insights by posting regularly, keeping up to speed, and being an active and recognizable voice in the field. Lastly, don’t shy away from trying new things, whether it’s creating new types of content, trying out new channels, or finding new ways to engage with people. Only by putting yourself out there will you be able to use the power of your online presence and set yourself up for success.
This was originally posted on SpeakerHub Skillcamp.