If you live in a culture that emphasizes the “role of information in the development of democracy, cultural participation and active citizenship” (Koltay 212), you are likely familiar with the idea of web presence. According to the article “Creating an Intentional Web Presence,” an online presence can include “creating a personal website, engaging in social networking, contributing and sharing resources/artifacts, and attending to search engine optimization (SEO)” (320). You may have wondered why web presence is so often highlighted by academics and professionals as a success factor in the business world. Why is the development of a strong online presence significant and how can it impact your future? What you can do to influence your web presence?
The Significance of Web Presence
With the information age in full swing, we humans and our interactions with the world around us are becoming more digital. As the lives of people around the world increasingly interconnect through the web and come to drastically depend on the power of technology, building a strong online presence is also becoming a widely-demanded aspect of life. In other words, we are expected to maintain a relevant “digital fluency” in order to participate in the technologically advancing world of media and communication.
Digital fluency is more than understanding how to use electronics or being aware of new technologies. According to Lowenthal et al., digital fluency helps us understand how digital tools such as social media can be used “to address goals and needs in a variety of settings and contexts” (321) and “Part of this digital fluency involves effectively managing one’s web presence” (320).
The younger generation is especially familiar with developing a web presence early in their life. Children and adolescents in our culture observe huge amounts of messages coming from social media (Koltay 212) and participate in many social aspects of the web. There is rarely a time when young people cannot find someone they know or be found online themselves so that they could connect with the rest of the world, whether through Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, Snapchat, or another social media platform. These platforms allow individuals to express themselves and to recreate their unique identity on the web. For that reason, it is often this identity that becomes a “first impression” for other people.
The situation is similar in the business world. An online identity can belong to a university graduate or a firm from which you purchase clothing. Either way, the entity developing their web presence has a specific goal to accomplish. A person who is seeking employment must increase their appeal to potential employers. An entrepreneur or a manager of an existing business must manage their company’s publicity and relationships with customers. Accordingly, your web presence can have a large impact on your future.
The Impact of Web Presence on your Future
Creating and maintaining an identity online is important because your web presence is a representation of you and your values. Thus, the effective communication of these values is often necessary for career-related success. Just like strong web presence is a competitive factor for businesses, it also acts as a way to differentiate on a personal level for one’s career.
Lowenthal et al., in their study of professional web presence, state that “Research shows that employers regularly use the Internet to screen applicants. But unlike in the past where employers might only screen applicants to see if there is a reason not to hire someone, a growing number of employers screen applicants to find a reason why they should hire someone…[T]hat is, these employers are looking to validate information found in an applicant’s cover letter and resume…Thus, we believe that one of the worst things that can happen for an applicant fighting for an interview is for a search committee to find nothing of substance about an applicant from an Internet search. Some people even believe that an empty Internet search suggests that an applicant is out-of-date and/or lazy, has nothing to share, or worse, has something to hide…For these reasons, intentionally creating a well-crafted web presence, and corresponding digital footprint, is important not only for recent graduates but for any professional in a community of practice that values technology use and innovation” (Lowenthal et al. 321).
Poor communication of your identity through social media platforms can have an effect similar to that of an inadequate code of dressing when you are part of the professional world of business. A weak online presence can indicate negative traits and averts potential employers.
“Although what a lot of business owners don’t realize is that the majority of entrepreneurs underutilize all of the advantages of an online presence. It’s understandable given the rapid rate of change in technology” (Rampton).
Influencing Web Presence
Having discussed the significance of web presence, how can a person influence their presence online? Influencing, and creating your web presence in the first place, is not always easy. This is especially true if you are an entrepreneur or seeking employment in a highly-professionalized occupation. You must strive to show your employer that you are qualified for the job and that you can fulfill what the job requires; that you will bring to the company a combination of skills, qualifications, and virtues that will serve as an advantage for the company.
According to an article from Experian Ltd, building an effective web presence includes creating a website, starting a blog, building an email list, being active on social media, and managing your reputation (Hague).
The Forbes Agency Council posted an article on their blog where fifteen of its members point out the details of building your reputation and identity on the web. Understanding yourself is one important factor that you should begin with (Forbes Agency Council).
Forbes Agency Council. “What Does Your Online Presence Say About You? 15 Ways To Build Your Personal Brand.” Forbes. 1 May 2017, https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbesagencycouncil/2017/05/01/what-does-your-online-presence-say-about-you-15-ways-to-build-your-personal-brand/#6c2fcfbc297c
Hague, Katie. “6 Benefits to an Online Presence.” Experian, 23 August 2017, https://www.experian.co.uk/business-express/hub/blog/growth/6-benefits-to-an-online-presence/
Lowenthal, Patrick, et al. “Creating an Intentional Web Presence: Strategies for Every Educational Technology Professional.” TechTrends: Linking Research & Practice to Improve Learning, vol. 60, no. 4, July 2016, pp. 320–329. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1007/s11528-016-0056-1
Rampton, John. “5 Ways You Are Underutilizing Your Web Presence.” Forbes, 27 April 2016, https://www.forbes.com/sites/johnrampton/2016/04/27/5-ways-you-are-underutilizing-your-web-presence/#772396037526
Koltay, Tibor. “The Media and the Literacies: Media Literacy, Information Literacy, Digital Literacy.” Media, Culture & Society, vol. 33, no. 2, Mar. 2011, pp. 211–221. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1177/0163443710393382