Every business owner knows that having a website and social media accounts is crucial for reaching customers in today's digital world. Most startups do a pretty good job of creating an online brand for themselves, but maintaining that brand presence takes a considerable amount of time and energy. You might think you can let your online brand just drift along, but putting in the effort to manage it — and doing it well — is worth it in the long run.

"Today’s consumers are increasingly likely to first encounter your brand online than off, and even those who get their first impression of your brand in print often follow up with a Google search," said Susan Jacobs, director of marketing and client services at law office supply and service provider, All-State Legal. "That means your company will need to make sure potential clients get a favorable first impression and that the material they find online bolsters it."

Whether it's responding to social media posts or handing out a business card with your company's links on it, continuously managing your online brand — even when you're offline — is an important key to business success. Jacobs shared why she believes online brand management matters, and what you can do to improve yours.  

[6 Steps to Branding Your Business]

Everyone Googles. Since practically everyone Googles the name of a company or individual they're considering doing business with these days, it's important to make sure online searchers get results that bolster your company's credibility. That means managing search engine results. One way to do that is to find ways to make it easier for prospects to get relevant, positive results, such as creating links that instantly connect readers to curated search results. These links can be embedded in email signature lines and other online communication.

Email still rules. Trend spotters have been predicting the death of email ever since Generation Y began using social media as their preferred personal communication tool. But email is still the primary mode of communication in the business world, which is why you should make sure your company's outgoing emails support your brand. An email signature line that directs recipients to a website with more information on the individual who sent it and the company is a great marketing tool.

Social media matters. Personal social media pages fall into a gray area since they technically belong to the individual, but they can be an excellent branding opportunity for an employer. Whether you're building a consumer goods or professional services brand, it pays to deliver a consistent message using all platforms, including social media. If your company includes executives who view setting up a professional profile as a chore, you can offer to give their LinkedIn page a makeover in exchange for adding a corporate brand to the current activities section.

Business cards drive first impressions. The business card has been around for generations, but it's still a first-line impression builder, particularly in the professional services sector. You should carefully manage business card branding for your company, but it also makes sense to think beyond the paper rectangle. Create a business card that is a bridge to an online repository of information about the professional and the company. A QR code imprinted on the business card can make that happen.

Printed material can have a major impact. Like business cards, printed material such as proposals, brochures and presentations can be a great vehicle for conveying key branding messages on paper while also providing a digital bridge to an online hub of information about the individual and company. This is an excellent way to convey key facts about the individual's relevant expertise while also giving readers a more complete impression of the company's strengths, depth and areas of specialty.

"Too few business owners take an integrated approach to brand management, making sure the branding campaign is seamless across all platforms and that there are links between digital and physical materials," Jacobs told BusinessNewsDaily. "If you want to maximize brand value for your company, ensure that you make the most of every opportunity, constantly managing your online reputation in the digital realm as well as on paper."

Originally published on BusinessNewsDaily.