When you are trying to build a business, and you enter the online space, you might look around to figure out how to start. One great way for you to do this, is to look at successful people and try to figure out what they did to get to where they are.
Side note: this is a great way to get started. There are some things to watch out for, which I will get to later.
Some of these people you find might share their stories and how they got to where they are. Almost all of them, will in some way, tell you, the key is to be yourself…to be real.
Here is where I often laugh. I find this piece of advice on its own, completely useless. When you look at it closely… what does that mean? How do you apply it to the online space?
What do you have to offer?
Being yourself could look totally different online than it does with your lifelong friend that you just had coffee with this morning. What if you are someone who is quiet and thoughtful? That won’t sell online on its own. No one wants to watch you sit there deep in thought.
Which leads me to another point. When you are in the online space are you a writer? Are you a live broadcaster? A teacher? What do you have to offer? And what are the steps to figure out the answer to that question?
The biggest thing you need to understand, is that you need to get started somewhere. It won’t make sense at first. You will feel really unsure. You will most definitely look around and just say “what on earth am I doing?”
It won’t make sense at first. You will feel really unsure.
At this beginning point. Don’t worry too much about what you have to offer and just start experimenting. Try a Facebook live, try making a youtube video, try writing a blog, try posting on Instagram. What did you enjoy doing most?
Do more of that. Let it develop.
Pinpoint something you like to do and how you like to share doing it. Keep doing it. As you gain confidence and authority in what you are doing, talk about it more. Share it.
Whatever you get started with, will most likely seem really silly to you even in just a few years time. But the key is, it will get the ball rolling for the next thing.
The same way you had to go through the process of discovering yourself while you were growing up, you have to do the same thing online.
Learning from others
Ok, so now, you are in the online space. You are producing content. You might have a following. You might have engagement. But you look over, and you see someone doing something just like you. You think they are doing it better. Or maybe you think they have a better personality. Maybe they have more followers or higher engagement. What are you doing wrong?
You start to wonder if what you are doing has any value.
Learning from others is helpful. The online world is huge, and it has rules, patterns, tips and tricks. Some people have gone before you and have figured out some of this stuff… OR… they have been on longer and have been consistent and real with their audience and have learned along the way. So watching them is useful.
However, when you look at other people, and learn from them, don’t:
- forget you don’t know where they are in their journey.
you especially can’t compare yourself to someone further down the road, while you are just starting out.
- lose your own voice.
comparison, looking around at others and trying to emulate what they do can quickly cause you to lose you. This is one area that you do have to remember to be yourself, make things yours.
Trying to figure out where your problem points are, is a good thing. Being online, you will constantly be learning. Just remember, that part of your “problem” could really just be time.
This is where consistency and honesty becomes so key.
Fact: The internet is a hungry beast. It is always craving content.
While we are all consumers… we are all consumers… some of us are content creators. Now you are too. Think of this as your job.
You’re time online is not only spent for our own satisfaction, but to find how you can better serve others in the things they see on their feed from day to day. And that’s a really important way of looking at it. You might want to be online to just be you or to share x, y, z… but you are serving an audience.
As a content creator, you have to set some goals:
- Find our audience
- Know our audience
- Find our voice
- Provide quality content
All of these goals are achievable, they just take time, work, consistency and a whole lot of you.
The internet is constantly evolving. With new services, programs and platforms, we are always changing how we interact and connect online.
How your audience interacts and what they want to see is always changing as well. Part of you learning how to be real online is learning how to read your audience.
If you have the idea that people are against the internet because it’s impersonal and we need to be working on our face to face interaction. Put that thought out of your head right now.
The amount of community being built online at the moment is staggering. The number of people I myself have connected with through Instagram alone is wild. And I love it.
The amount of community being built online at the moment is staggering.
All these platforms provide spaces where we can meet people with similar interests, in a way where you know that about them right away, because everyone is sharing. If you were to meet this person face to face, you might never know.
This connection is powerful. Being aware of it is even more powerful. There are people who want to meet you, who want to get to know you.
Safety and privacy
I need to briefly cover safety and privacy, because just like in the real world, it should be taken into consideration.
In a world of oversharing, you want to make sure and be aware of the information you are pouring into the inter webs and how they might be being used. If you are a family and you are posting your kids:
- what are they wearing?
- are you sharing their names and ages?
- are you constantly sharing your location?
Its not a fun thing to think about but I personally know people who have had to take down accounts because of oversharing and how certain followers chose to use that information. It’s always a good reminder to be careful. Even if you don’t have kids, be mindful.
It’s also good to remember even just for the sake of creating boundaries. You will discover that people love hearing about your life. People want connection. They want to be inspired. They want to know they aren’t alone. All of this is great. But you need to know where the line is for yourself on how much of your life you share.
It’s great to be real. But even if you have a tiny following on social media, your content is public. Anyone can see it. Always remember that.
What do you have to offer?
Remember, your primary purpose as a content creator, is to serve your audience.
Think about all the time you spend on social media. Think about your favorite posts and favorite people to follow. What do they do for you?
That funny video you just had to share with a friend, that really touching story, or maybe a tutorial to do something you’ve always wanted to learn how to do. All that content was created or curated by someone serving you something that benefited your online experience.
What you have to offer should be a mix of influence by your audience and what you love sharing. Let them help guide you based on what they engage with, what they ask you for along with what you really enjoyed.
Having an online persona
Earlier, I mentioned the idea that if you are quiet and thoughtful, it might not sell in the online space. That is not to say that you cannot be successful. On the contrary, I think the internet is a great place for introverts to shine alongside extraverts. But you will have to take some steps outside of your comfort zone to some extent.
Enter, having an online persona. When I use the word “persona,” I don’t mean you have to become somebody else (although some people choose this route)! What I mean is, find some other part of you, often times, it’s the professional part (think customer service, or how you would behave at work) and practice interacting with your audience.
Customer service is a great place to start. Its professional, engaging and even personable. Grow this part of you and you can slowly become more personal and comfortable with your own online presence as you practice.
You will get more comfortable and you will start to find your voice.
So, now we’ve covered the fact that there are a lot of components to building an online presence. You know now that your job as a content creator is to serve your audience.
How to be real is really up to you. When you grow into the persona you choose to present online, is it as an entertainer? Is it as a writer? Are you uncharacteristically funny? Exploring a side of you that you feel like you can’t be in-person? Or are you raw, every day.
Regardless of how you do it, the key is to provide content for the people, but to do it your way. What makes it yours is all about how you deliver. The value added to the content and what makes it different is you.
You can break it down into these three points
- Find out what your audience wants/needs.
- Create good boundaries.
- Deliver it your way.
I’d love to hear from you guys, have you been on the online space for a while? What has been your experience, and how do you keep it real? Let me know your thoughts in the comments!