Dennis D. McDonald ( consults from Alexandria Virginia. His services include writing & research, proposal development, and project management.

First Steps: Establishing a Professional Presence on the Web

By Dennis D. McDonald

A friend, a professional engineer, asked me for tips on establishing a “web presence.” This is what I wrote:

Before you jump into creating a “web presence,” you first need to figure out who are the people and organizations you’d like to “hang out with” on the web. Then, research them to see what you can find out about where they already are — which companies have blogs or forums (that you can post comments and discussion items on), which people have blogs of their own or memberships in networks like Linkedin and Facebook, etc.

This research will give you lists of people and organizations you will want to interact with - potential customers, potential employers, potential gatekeepers, and just plain friends. Study the people and organizations and the presence they have on the web — what you like, what you don’t like, etc.

You might consider, initially at least, to concentrate this research on your geographic region. Be prepared to be flexible about that since, as you may already have found, web based networking can easily lead you to form relationships around the world.

Then you can start deciding what your web presence(s) should be, perhaps a professional looking and sounding blog (basically, a personal web site) with ancillary memberships in various networks, plus a list of web sites and blogs that you will visit regularly (or subscribe to) to see about posting comments in order to initiate and respond to conversations.

You should also have a list of people and organizations you subscribe to, either via newsletters, via stored searches (e.g., Google Alert searches), or “news feeds” you can subscribe to and read using a special feed reader (e.g., Google Reader).

Perhaps your professional association already has a site or discussion forum where you can discuss topics of interest. This also is part of your web presence. Whenever you leave a comment somewhere on the web you should also leave a link for your web site so people can link back to your blog.

Keep in mind that a blog is an interactive device. You can post ideas and text and audio and video items in the blog. There are also “comment” features which means that people can leave comments and discuss the items that interest them. It’s not like you’re hanging out a static resume; it’s an opportunity to interact with people based on the series of individual items that you’ll be posting.

Join as many online networks related to your goals as you want. Keep in mind that your membership in these organizations will only work if you actually participate and it’s easy to spread yourself thin. (To see what I mean, see A Map of My Online Networking Tools: Part 1.)

There are many different ways to start a blog, and some are free. I have a monthly paid account with Squarespace and I don’t accept advertising. Squarespace is a remotely hosted service. I can update my blog from just about any web browser on any internet-connected computer without installing any extra software on the computer.

I recommend giving some thought to the image you want to promote and how what you write will contribute to that image. Your blogging vendor should be able to supply a set of different templates that you can customize to fit your preferences. My advice: keep the blog simple structurally, content-wise, and appearance wise.

Three more items relevant to “web presence” are also available.

The first is a list management or contact management system that you can use to keep track of people and your outgoing and incoming communications. Perhaps you already use gMail, Outlook or something like that. I use DabbleDB, which is a very flexible password-controlled web based database management system that I can access from any web browser.

The second is a way to bookmark and tag pages and sites you come across that you find useful. There are several available. I mostly use which is one of the bookmarking sites that you can get at from any internet connection and web browser. I also use to keep track of comments that I make on other web sites and blogs. (You can, if you like, mark selected bookmarks as “private” so that they cannot be viewed by others.)

The third is a way to get regular news about topics, people, or organizations. You can store Google Alert searches, for example, and have the results emailed to you whenever something occurs in a web based news story about a person or company you are tracking. Another way to get news is to use a service such as Twitter which enables you to send and receive brief (140 character) text messages to and from selected groups of people. This usually works best when the people you’re interested in following — and who might be interested in following you — are part of the service.

This should be enough to get you started. If you have comments or questions, send me an email at or use the comment space below.  Hope this helps!

  • Copyright (c) 2008 by Dennis D. McDonald 


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