Many of the tools you use as a professional or entrepreneur will be specifically related to your unique profession. The most important tools all professionals should leverage are those that enable them to analyze their performance and accept payment.
Using Google Search to Run an Online Identity Audit
Though there are plenty of consultants, companies, and tools that promise audit your digital identity for a nominal fee, you can easily do so yourself using Google Search. If you are not willing to take the time required to look into your digital footprint independently, you are probably not going to be willing to do the work required to amend it accordingly.
Though we recommend reading our full guide to running an online identity audit, the basic process involves:
- Googling various iterations of your name
- Recording the first three pages of search results (or more- you choose how thorough you want to be)
- Clicking through to every result related to your name
- Taking screenshots of pages displaying information about you
- Analyzing your collection of screenshots to gain an overall impression
- Determining the type of person your present digital identity portrays
- Determining the characteristics of your ideal digital identity
- Taking note of that which needs to be corrected, updated, removed, and added
- Taking note of other people who rank higher in search results for your name and developing a plan for overtaking them
Using Google Alerts to Monitor Your Online Brand
Once you have a general idea of where you stand as an online professional, you can stay abreast of new content related to your name and your business using Google Alerts.
To set up a Google Alert:
- Visit Google Alerts (make sure you're signed in to your Google Account)
- Type in your name
- Set "Result type" to "everything"
- Set "How often" to "As-it-happens"
- Set "How many" to "All results"
- Have the alerts delivered to your gmail account
Note that if you have a common name, you may wish to get alerts on a less frequent and more selective basis.
Keywords we recommend monitoring include:
- Your name
- The name of your business
- Specific, long-tail (that is, less common) keywords relevant to your area of expertise
Following these keywords enables you to not only stay abreast of chatter about you and your company, but also to keep tabs on what other people are saying about subjects with which you want to be associated.
Analyzing Your Facebook Presence Using Wolfram|Alpha
Google Search is excellent when it comes to giving you a broad overview of your digital footprint, but is not so effective with summarizing your social media presence. Thankfully, you can glean a surprisingly large number of insights by utilizing Wolfram|Alpha's Personal Analytics for Facebook.
To utilize this feature, you will need to sign up with Wolfram|Alpha using Facebook Connect (this gives them access to your history and public interaction on the site).
- Basic personal information
- Basic places
- Facebook activity (times, types, and weekly distribution of photo upload, link, and status update activity)
- Check ins
- Weekly app activity
- Weekly interface activity
- Most liked and commented on photos
- Friends' genders
- Friends' relationship statuses
- Friends' ages and rankings of those with the highest and lowest reported ages
- Friends' locations
- Friends' local times and distributions of local times
- Friends' birthdays (including zodiac times)
- Friends' most common names
- Friends with the most mutual friends
- Friends with the most friends
- Friend network (in an interesting map form color coded by top social insiders, social outsiders, social connectors, social neighbors, and social gateways
- Friends who give you the most likes and comments
Use this information to gain a better understanding of your strongest contacts on the network (i.e. those who interact with your content the most), your most influential and well-connected Facebook friends, the general demographics of your Facebook friends, and the types of posts you make that garner the most interest.
Social Media Monitoring Tools to Keep Tabs on Social Media Chatter
Though it is important that you have a finger on the pulse of online communities in which your clients and colleagues are active, you should not spend all of your time jumping from one network to the next. Proper use of a social media monitoring tool can enable you to monitor important discussions and keep up with friends and contacts while minimizing time spent on individual social networks and reducing distractions.
Our favorite social media monitoring tools with free options include:
- TweetDeck: Only works for Twitter, but is simple, straightforward, and offers very convenient filtering and notification options
- HootSuite: Limited in free form, but covers multiple platforms
- Google Analytics Social Reports: Perfect if you want to use a monitoring tool only for analysis and not to engage with users
For more tips on using and selecting an ideal social media monitoring tool, visit our detailed overview of the most popular free and paid services.
Google Analytics to Monitor Activity on Your Online Properties
Just as Google Search, Wolfram Alpha, and Muffle are helpful tools when it comes to managing your career from an external standpoint, Google Analytics is a helpful tool when it comes to managing your career and digital properties from an internal standpoint. Analytics helps you understand when, from where, and how people interact with your various web properties. It is free, easy to set up, and well worth your time and attention.
Should you not be familiar with Google Analytics, set aside some time to review the webinar below or read through Google Analytics' learning resources.
Apps for Accepting Payment as an Online Professional
Should you run an independent business or do consulting work on the side, you will need to be able to accept payment. Though checks and cash are still popular, more and more people are expecting to be able to pay anyone and everyone with a credit card or some other means of online money transfer.
Here are some of the most popular and functional options:
- PayPal: A simple, ubiquitous, and popular means of sending payment (using PayPal balances, bank accounts, or credit cards) online
- WePay: An alternative to PayPal with easy-to-use features that revolves around credit card payment
- Amazon WebPay and Amazon Payments: A payment tool complete with a well-known brand and shopping cart tools
- Dwolla: Ideal should clients be willing to create and pay through Dwolla accounts
- Square: One of the go-to lightweight payment systems for brick-and-mortar sellers
- Checks: Old school but fully functional
- Bitcoin: An alternative to consider should one of your clients be unable to pay via check or money transfer or use other online payment mechanisms due to country restrictions
- Popmoney by Citibank: Convenient if both parties involved use Citibank
View our full guide to tools for accepting payment for more detailed overviews of each option.
Business loans and VC funds are not for everyone, and there are not many straightforward online tools for raising funds from them. There is, however, a helpful tool for garnering funds for independent projects from the world at large. Kickstarter is not for everyone, but it has made quite a difference for some- in fact, 44% of projects people share on the site have met their funding goals. Kickstarter also offers the benefit of external funding with no strings attached. People who raise funds through Kickstarter maintain 100% ownership of their projects.
Kickstarter may be worth considering (re: garnering some seed capital) if:
- Your work has widespread appeal
- You have a robust and engaged fanbase or social network
- You are good at bringing a strong message across
- You are able to package your project in a very visually appealing manner
- You are willing to heavily promote your work
Keep in mind that you will only get funding through Kickstarter if people help you reach whatever funding goal you set within the specific timeline you give to a campaign. Should you have a goal of raising $20,000 and only raise $18,562, you will get no money whatsoever. Setting reasonable financial goals is key.
For an overview of other popular crowdfunding platforms, visit our comparative guide to crowdfunding platforms.
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