May 31, 2019

Four Ways to Create a Presence on the Internet

When you type your name into Google's search engine, what do you find? That's what colleges will see.

A social media presence can either help or hurt you. Whether you're applying for a selective program or building a reputation that will help you find a job later, it's important to present yourself as a knowledgeable member of the community.

Start by filling out in the blank in the sentence below:

"I want the world to see me as ________________________."

Here are some examples: "the owner of a growing yard care business," "a budding expert in food chemistry," "the go-to person for information about new home sales in Walnut Creek, CA"

All of the examples above can be self-fulling prophecies. If, for example, you start a blog and post pictures of and information about every newly built home that sold in your home town from 2017-2019, you will become an expert in your niche of the real estate market.

You won't have any trouble finding information for new posts, and if you do a good job, Realtors will start linking to your blog as a convenient source of information. Google will use those links to raise your rankings in its search engine. Colleges will perceive you as an expert because, for all intents and purposes, your dedicated work will have made you one. The blog might even kick-start your career.

Start by creating focus in your existing online presence. Privatize or erase any content in your social media accounts that would distract people from the image you'd like to create. Remove any posts that are politically motivated (unless you specifically want to become an expert in politics).

Doing this will leave you with no choice but to become better at the things you are allowed to post about. You'll have to interact with people who share your interests in order to keep your accounts on-topic, which will eventually lead to future job opportunities and project collaborations.

Here are four great places to build your online presence:


LinkedIn is specifically designed to help people build and search for online resumes. A well-constructed profile is also the fastest way to get onto the first page of search results when someone Googles you. (The first result when you search for my name is my own LinkedIn profile.)

This is the place to start if you have any prior work or research experience in your field. Here are some resources to help you create a profile that will get people's attention:

Why You Should COMPLETE Your LinkedIn Profile

Please Change Your LinkedIn Headline Now.. Here's Why and How

LinkedIn All-Star Status Rocks & How To Reach it in 7 Steps

12 Steps to Reach All-Star Linkedin Profile Status

How to Fix LinkedIn's Biggest Annoyances


More than any other option in my list, Twitter feels like the social media platforms you're used to. It has a slick Web site, easy ways to find interesting accounts to follow, and an app you can add to your phone if you feel like getting addicted.

Twitter's 140-character limit for posts will force you to express your ideas as clearly and concisely as possible. This makes it easier for people to respond to what you're saying when they're browsing on their phones.

If you have a longer idea to express, you'll have to break it up into a logical sequence of easily digestible posts, like this series about stock market volatility:

The best way to get followers is to be helpful to others:

  1. Post insightful material. Even if it's just research summaries like the one above, you're helping others who have less time than you do.
  2. Interact with others by asking and answering questions. This gets you involved in discussions where you can get noticed. Stay friendly and be willing to acknowledge both sides of every issue. You're most likely get a response from someone who has less than a thousand followers, so don't be a fanboy/girl.
  3. Be consistent. Post ten high-quality links a day or one high-quality article a week. You want to be noticed as someone who has done this for a long time by the time something you post does get attention.

You'll have to do it for a few months with slow progress - perhaps gaining one follower a week - until someone decides to share your posts. In the chart below, you can see that my own account added a large number of followers on May 22, with only slow progress during the rest of the month. Be obsessed with doing good work, and the followers will eventually come.

Finally, check out Alex Dainis's Twitter account, which she's using to market herself as a future college professor. Carolyn Bertozzi, one of my former professors, also has a pretty active Twitter presence.


Here's a high school student who has made a YouTube channel with study aids for college-bound students. She now has 68,000 (!) subscribers and adds a thousand more each month. It's not hard, but she's been doing it very consistently for years.

That channel - along with her stellar grades, test scores, and essays - helped her get into several Ivy League schools (but not all of them).


If you're the quiet type who likes nothing better than to write long articles and revise them until they're perfect, a blog is a great place to start. Unlike social media, a blog is completely under your control and can even be given its own "dot-com" domain name. My own Web site, for example, is a blog. Did you notice?

Keep in mind that, unlike Twitter and YouTube, there's no easy way for users to click and follow you, and you'll have to generate a lot of content in order to attract traffic to your site. For this reason, a blog is possibly the most challenging - and most rewarding - way to leave your mark on the Internet.

Start by posting a few articles or book reviews on your Blogger account. If you write one high-quality post a week for a few years, you'll have an impressive collection that you can refer to in your college application essays.

The Importance of Identity

People have short attention spans, so remember to keep your content focused. If you have two interests, create a blog for one and a Twitter account for the other. You can always link to both in your college application, but you'll never recover a follower who chooses to click away from your content.

Have a good time writing!


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