Words by Dannie Fountain of LE Consulting. Images by Verdigris Photography and Design.

I see you out there. You’ve been around the block a time or two and you’re certain that this whole “online entrepreneur” thing is for you. You’re ready to take your YouTube channel to the next level. You love casually sharing your “beauty faves” on Instagram but you’re not sure how to make money doing it. Believe it or not, it’s all about your online presence.

In my experience in Marketing & PR, there’s this unspoken agreement that “presence is everything.” Publishing houses won’t take a second look at your book proposal unless you have a strong online following. Traditional media won’t let you on air without their number of “ideal followers.” The list goes on and on and it can feel pretty discouraging. However, there are a few different avenues you can take to build up a strong online presence. Here are my favorites.

Authenticity = Strength. The biggest struggle we face in the online world is that it seems like there are five other people saying what we want to say. However, there is nobody else out there saying it the way we want to say it. Not sure what I mean? Consider this: Rifle Paper Company and Sugar Paper L.A. are two of the trendiest stationery companies on the market. One might even say they do the same thing – printing gorgeous designs on beautiful paper for people everywhere to use for note taking, mail sending, and so much more. In fact, if one had looked at the other as they were starting to build their companies, they might have given up, especially considering how saturated the stationery market is. However, these two brands are able to coexist side by side because they manufacture their specific take on the stationery market. Rifle Paper Company prints luscious florals and whimsical doodles on gorgeous weighty paper. Sugar Paper L.A. takes a lighter and breezier approach while still using the same luxe feeling paper. Each has its own target market and so they coexist. The same is true for you – your voice is different than what’s out there, you just have to stay true to you.

Slow and Steady Wins the Race. It may be a cliché, but it’s true. It’s better for you to slowly build an engaged following that cares about what you’re sharing vs. quickly gaining the numbers only to lose a hundred followers every time Instagram purges spam accounts. Followers matter but engagement does too – remember that you want your engagement to be over 4%, ideally closer to 10% if not higher. Engagement is [total comments and likes]/[total followers].

The Eyes Have It. Is the presence you’re putting out online consistent across all platforms? It may seem a little strange, but take your brand (or your own personal style) and mood board it out. Pick some consistent themes that you can implement across the internet. First, identify whether your style is more light or dark. Then identify angles, lighting, and overall look/feel combinations that appeal to use. Finally, choose a couple things that you want to be your theme (i.e. the LE Consulting brand and accounts consistently showcase lemons throughout). By sticking to a consistent style of imagery, you’ll help others be able to quickly identify your content.

Speaking of Content. Having a consistent tone matters too. Are your captions and posts usually more conversational in nature or do you lean towards a more formal tone? Writing in one consistent tone will help build a relationship with your followers that will keep them coming back for more (and help with your engagement!).

Finally, the most important thing to focus on is setting realistic goals. Unless you’re Kylie Jenner, you probably won’t hit a million followers in your first year working on your online presence. Working towards a combination of follower and engagement goals will keep you motivated and will ensure that you’re building a quality following on the way.

ABOUT DANNIE

Dannie Fountain is a marketing consultant and the Founder of LE Consulting. She has worked in marketing for brands such as Whirlpool, H&R Block, and Mr. Kate. Her greatest passion is traveling the world – she’s been to 15 countries (4 continents) and half the US so far, with trips to 8 countries and 3 states planned in the upcoming months. She’s a certified scuba diver and has her student pilot certification and those skills are evident in her well-rounded approach to marketing.

Always up for a collaborative project, Dannie is the author of the upcoming book The Side Hustle Gal, releasing Fall 2016. The book features contributions from entrepreneurs throughout the creative community and focuses on processes and a support system to make part time entrepreneurship easier and less stressful.

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