How do you build your online presence and stand out from the crowd? I know very well that digital communications can seem overwhelming, especially when resources are tight and your free time is non-existent, making it difficult to build an outgoing online presence.
But where do you start? Here is a quick 4-step plan that anyone can follow:
1. Build partnerships
Starting an online presence is tough and it takes time to build a network. So the easiest way to gain legitimacy and build a base of followers and subscribers is to find one or two complimentary partnerships. This could be a think tank, association or a media group that agrees to work with you collaboratively. This way you will instantly gain access to their subscriber base. This was the main strategy behind Shell’s Comment Visions campaign, which forged long-term partnerships with Euronews and European Voice, in effect piggy-backing on their networks and followers to gain legitimacy and visibility.
This partnership led to the creation of a community of 1000+ influencers who regularly discuss energy and climate issues on the Comment Visions website.
Of course you may not have the Shell’s budget and resources, but this doesn’t stop you from reaching out to smaller think tanks, universities and media groups who share common views with you.
2. Email might not be sexy, but it works if it is done well!
Although social media is all the rage, email is still one of the best ways to reach someone, especially if we are talking to EU policy makers. That’s why it’s important to slowly build an email database and develop a concise, insightful and forward-thinking newsletter that is interesting and not spammy. So whenever you host an event, talk to policy makers and post articles online, ask people if they would like to register to your monthly newsletter. This should be automatic, and if you do this regularly you will have a powerful tool to reach your target audience in no time. As stated in the Comment Visions video below, “in-depth and frequent contact is key”.
Once you have a good email list, it’s easy to use online email platforms like Mail Chimp, which has great email newsletter design templates as well as unsubscribe management functions. But you also need to choose your content and message wisely, which brings me to my next point…
3. Develop interesting and shareable content
There’s nothing worse than an email newsletter or blog that is boring, technical and biased. Of course, you need to talk about the issues that matter for you, but it doesn’t have to be boring! So it’s important to spend some time (or a little bit of your budget working with a blogger or a freelance journalist, for example) re-packaging your policy discussions into interesting, insightful and shareable content. This way, even busy people will read your newsletters and posts on social media.
The idea is to raise eyebrows, propose new ideas and get the debate going, not to preach and push your opinion. Influencers want to know what each other are thinking, but they don’t want to be told what to think – they want informed debate and discussion.
And don’t forget that a picture and/or video goes a long way to get people’s attention!
Engage and join the conversation
In the virtual world you need to be pro-active like in the real world – you need to get out there and engage in conversations, comment on tweets, give your opinion and participate in relevant online forums. Too many people simply post their own opinions and wonder why no one is answering. So first find the right channels for you (don’t spread yourself thin and try to be everywhere – be selective!), check them regularly and add your comments/ideas once in a while.
Once you start organising your channels (like setting up useful Twitter lists on Hootsuite, a social media management tool) it will be easier to find the conversations, cut through the chatter and get involved in meaningful online discussions.
All in all digital communications should not be overwhelming and it also shouldn’t replace the typical phone call, meeting or networking event – but if it is done well it can be a great complement to your offline discussions.