If I want to find you online, can I? Five minutes of searching for my name on Google, LinkedIn, or Twitter should easily produce options to learn a bit about me, what I do, and - most importantly - how to reach me. And if a simple search like that doesn't yield results, I'm in big trouble.
Following on a great post by Trent Seely early this year on this concept for finding a new career, I think it's important to point out that the same need to be found and reached applies to those of us who need to constantly grow our network of connections and online reputation to grow our careers.
There's a lot of talk about search engine optimization, content creation and socializing online to grab attention so your target customer finds you and becomes interested in you. But what if a customer already knows who you are and wants to buy what you sell? Can they find you and connect with you?
We Meet Our Needs in Different Ways
This won't come as much of a shock, but most people don't look for people or businesses in the phone book any more. Organization-based business directories that are isolated from the mainstream services like Google+ Local or LinkedIn are of limited value. People who want to find you will go first to the tools that have given them the best results in the past and it's been a long time since the yellow pages has been the trusted resource it used to be.
Google Search is still #1 and should find something on you that will allow me to connect with you. Is it your LinkedIn profile? Your about.me page? Your business website? A news item you were featured in? Whatever it is, how many more clicks will it take me to send you an email or find your phone number.
Social Search is basically searching for keywords or user accounts on any of the online social networks (Google now being one of them). On Twitter you can find me and you can find posts in which my name was mentioned in a tweet. From there you can mention me and I'll hear it or send me a private Direct Message if we are already following each other.
On LinkedIn you will find me and 212 others with the same name as me. Because my photo, business name, location, and industry are all listed in the search results, you only need to identify one of those things to identify me, click my profile, and send me a message.
Google+ and Facebook are very similar in that people tend to be a lot less diligent about keeping their profiles complete and current on those channels. This is not wise since Facebook currently has the largest population of any social network and your Google+ profile is most likely to be found in a Google search, the granddaddy of search options.
Non-Existent - Cannot Be Found or Connected With
I worked with a large, international consulting company in 2011 and conducted a high level audit of 30 regional leaders before an off site session with them. I created a 10-point non-scientific scale (based on a few measuring scales like Klout and PeerIndex) to give me a sense of where they are at so I could help them. At the top end of the scale was "10 - Thought Leader, who has a large, niche audience, whose content is often amplified, and trusted." At the bottom end was "0 - Non-Existent- cannot be found or connected with."
From this senior group of consultants, in a company dependent entirely on the strength and reputation of their people, no one scored above a 2. Described as "2 - Observer - accounts on 3 networks, little to no activity." It isn't until 4 on the scale that "strong profiles" that allows people to connect easily emerges on the scale. Consider the challenges a business like this will face in the coming years as online reputations are increasingly important and their greatest asset - their people - have no online reputation to speak of.
It's Not Social But It's a Start
I have counselled many times that just getting accounts and not using them is not good for business. People won't want to connect with you on a social channel if it is obvious that you don't use it.
However, having complete profiles with the options turned on for visitors to connect with you directly is an open door for those who know already that they'd like to talk to you. And that's a great start.
Do you still find it hard to find some people you want to hire or connect with online?