Get Ready for the New Year by Building Your Online Presence

A sailor creates a post on Reddit.
Chief Navy counselor Grant Khanbalinov uses his phone to create a new post on Reddit. (Zachary S. Eshleman/U.S. Navy photo)

In the spring, we often refer to the purging of useless items and deep cleaning we do on our house as "spring cleaning." Similarly, the new year is a great time to inventory your online activities, profiles, relationships and overall presence to ensure you're positioning yourself in the best way possible.

During your time in the military, you may have used social media differently than today. Active-duty service members might use platforms such as Facebook to stay in touch with family back home, build camaraderie with fellow troops or share their feelings about being deployed. Newly transitioned veterans may have started a LinkedIn account but not done much with the platform since. And randomly posting images or comments to sites such as  Instagram or Twitter are not impactful unless tied to a strategy.

During this month of holiday celebration, take the time to think about your online presence from a strategic standpoint -- whether you're still active duty, preparing for separation or already in the civilian workplace. Follow these tips:

Personal Branding

Your personal brand and reputation come to life online. Employers, networking contacts, peers and friends view your social networking profiles, comments and interactions to form or confirm their impression of you.

As you assess the platforms you're currently on (or considering joining), be sure you're working from a focused strategy. Think about how you want to be perceived, who you're targeting to connect with, influence or inspire, and what your goal is for being online.

Related: Search for Veteran Jobs

The online community has a short attention span. They will believe what you tell them about your passions and interests, until you prove otherwise. Use this to your advantage. Instead of commenting and posting about myriad topics, causes and concerns, focus in on a select group of topics you want to be known for. Align those topics with the areas your target audience is interested in to show that you are credible for your contributions.

Relationships and Contacts

When it comes to social networking, not all relationships are considered equal. Should you connect with your crazy cousin on Facebook -- the one who posts all those inappropriate cartoons and memes? Do you connect with your boss on Instagram? Can you ask your key client to join your network on LinkedIn?

Think about online connections in terms of their value to you and your career. You can socialize in person with anyone you choose, but when you connect online, that relationship is public and open to scrutiny. Consider how it looks to be connected with people who post inappropriate content, who "spam" your network or who mention you repeatedly in their irrelevant posts. Could this be hurting your reputation?

Seek out connections where you can mutually benefit. When you connect with colleagues, peers, vendors, clients and friends online, you will be asked to return benefits to them as much as you ask for them to refer you, endorse you, share their information and insights. The best online relationships are win/win connections.

All Platforms Are Not Equal

Each platform online boasts unique values and communities. LinkedIn is a business and professional site. Facebook is social. Instagram is about sharing images and videos with like-minded individuals. Twitter is a news and information feed.

Use each of these platforms as they serve your strategy. If social networking feels too cumbersome, but you seek to be found by employers, then LinkedIn makes the most sense. If you're starting a new online business, you might find Facebook or Instagram to be the best ways to reach your target market.

Putting your online presence through a spring cleaning is a great activity to do over the holidays. This way, you'll start the new year with a clear focus, an enhanced vision for your efforts and a new enthusiasm for building your brand and reputation online.

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