A website – whether for your business or yourself – isn’t enough of an online presence, these days. When the masses look to the internet for information on just about anything, a quick search could bring up more negative results than good, if you don’t take a proactive approach. Social media posts, Yelp or Google reviews, or even a ‘trash’ site could come up in the results, well before your page.

Services like Bright Past exist to repair that sort of damage to your reputation, but the associated cost and time can be a heavy burden. It’s much easier to maintain a positive, constant online presence. Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram have all become ‘normal’ things, in today’s society, and firmly planting yourself in social media is free, and generally easy.

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Even if you don’t think keeping up with social media is in your wheelhouse, it’s pretty easy; posts about upcoming events, specials or deals, or even just pictures of you or products can all have a positive impact on your reputation. Skipping these simple steps can leave you or your business as a ‘sitting duck’, leaving negative comments or reviews to take over the search results.

What could be worse, however, is letting pride get the best of you. The only thing that could be worse than no presence in the virtual world, is a bad presence. Carefully wording any social media posts is a definite must, and keeping it pertinent to you or your business is essential – try to avoid ‘feeding the trolls’, as well. Just because someone tweets an insult at you doesn’t mean you have to engage. If you’ve ever stumbled across people arguing in a comments section, or thirty odd tweets of people just throwing insults at one another, you can understand how childish and petty it looks.

There are a variety of other social media sites that may be relevant to your specific needs; if you’re a professional, or run a tech or business-to-business company, consider LinkedIn, for example. Pinterest, Tumblr, and Instagram are all great for visual based affairs, such as designers, photographers, and chefs. Knowing where to place yourself online is just as important as being online in the first place.

Whether you’re marketing yourself or your business, figure out what your brand is. In the last few years, the idea of ‘personal branding’ has become more than just a trend, and for good reason. If you consider yourself or your business as a product, it becomes a little easier to positively market yourself online, and to maintain a consistent and recognizable presence. Bouncing back and forth between bland messages and strong posts could be detrimental to your image as a whole; finding a solid way to display yourself or your business is crucial to getting the most out of your social media accounts.

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It’s often advised to pick one to three words, and use those as your brand. Strong, professional, creative, generous, innovative – any combination that suits you or your business and perpetuates the image you want them to have. For example, a photographer may take a variety of jobs, ranging from weddings to fashion shoots, but if what they want people to recognize about them is their creativity, they may choose only to post abstract or surreal photos on their social media – not because they won’t consider other work, but because it has a strong, recognizable image that they can associate with themselves.

Consider starting a blog, as well. It may seem like blogs have phased out of internet popularity, but a few posts a month about topics relevant to you or your business can work wonders. Aside from being a good marketing tactic, a blog is more likely to be nearer to the top of a search for your business than a series of bad reviews; managing what’s said about you or company is an added bonus, and creates a mental connection between you and the business.

Perhaps one of the biggest benefits of keeping up with social media is the ability to apologize. It may seem strange, but if a mistake is made or a controversy started, having the platform to issue an apology to thousands can be hugely beneficial. Rather than trying to navigate the associated issues, you get the chance to publicly apologize, and hopefully steer away from the bulk of any negative impact.