equivalent exchange

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No idea what you’re doing online? That’s kinda a good thing.

The Internet is Earth from space. No borders or boundaries, encased in a nice little bubble, hovering in a vacuum by means which we still can’t properly explain. It just is.

A lone alien looking down on Earth and everything going on on it might ask, ‘Why do I want to interact with you? Why do I need to?’

He doesn’t need to. The alien can choose not to interact with Earth, stay on his planet, and lead a rich and fulfilling life. But what if he wants to talk to them? What if he wants their attention? Then he has to spend some time learning their language and customs.

Well. At least enough to be able to play charades.

You don’t have to build an online presence unless you want to. And to be honest, you have to want to in order to be successful at it. Approach it as an alien being discovering a new planet, as a traveler visiting a new country, rather than a person approaching a new piece of technology. The web is bigger than the pieces of technology we communicate with it via. It is a planet of it’s own.

The web is not new, and it never stands still long enough for anyone to know exactly how it works, all the time. As a frequent user, I now enjoy not knowing what I’m doing. I make jokes about it all the time (see dog image!). It means I’m minimising my chances of being perceived as an arrogant bastard who thinks she knows it all. I’m always learning something, as much as I moan about it having to sometimes.

Always traveling somewhere new.

‘No idea dog’ is printed out and blu-tacked above my desk at work.

You are allowed to have no idea what you’re doing. If you ask for help, and you do it politely, people will help you. The Internet, despite the wrap it gets from other mediums, and despite the trolls that are out there (but really, is anywhere free of trolls?), is generally a friendly place.

Ask twitter a question, it will almost always answer.

So that’s the great truth of the Internet, as I see it. I’m not an expert on it – very few people are – I just know what it means to me, and how much joy I get out of using it. We don’t know what we’re doing and we like it that way because it gives us opportunity to discover and evolve.

Still want to join in? Or, still not sure why you should bother?

You bother if you want to communicate. To learn. It’s not so much about marketing yourself as it is listening to others and responding. The net gives you free feedback, if you ask it a question. It enables you to connect with people all over the world.

Most of it is 100% free to use.

Yes, but where to start?!

1/ Fill out some forms.

  • get a reliable email address. One that wasn’t given to you by the company you buy your Internet connection through, as these will disappear if (when) you change Internet providers. Your email address is your lifeline. When all other sites and communities close, people will email you. I recommend gmail. You can read about signing up, and sign up, here.
  • let people know how to find you. Tell your friends, your fans (if you can), add your email to your business card. Give people the option of talking to you this way.

 2/ Give as much as you hope to receive.

  • follow the big wigs in your industry on twitter. For authors, for example, this might mean to follow Penguin, Random, Bloomsbury, etc. Follow them and see what and how they post. Learn from them. They pay quite a lot of money to hire marketing people to use these services on their behalf. If you can learn how they interact with it, you can emulate it yourself – or, they may give you new, better ideas on how to use the service yourself.
  • follow fansites and communities who support what you’re passionate about. Watch and learn how they interact with social media.

3/ Don’t be afraid to comment.

Anyone who says anything online wants to be heard. A comment tells a post writer that that another person has listened to them. People like people who listen, who give value to their opinion.

You will be surprised how comments will result in return comments, which in turn, gets people interested in you and leads to word of mouth promotion.

4/ Have some fun with it.

We are human (yeah, ignore my alien analogy from earlier for this bit ;P ) and we have emotions. We are allowed to be silly, or funny, or sad, or angry. Be professional (so, no drunken or career-tarnishing rants), but above all, let people see that you are human.

Be knowledgable and be yourself. To be an expert in your field, listen to other experts, exchange with them, and post your own expert advice. Link to things you believe in, articles you agree with, photos you love. Have fun. You’re human, you’re allowed to have a laugh, and it humanises you to your followers.

But I don’t know how to do any of that!

Google it. Youtube search it. Ask family and friends. Phone your internet-loving niece or nephew. Have an 11-year-old show you.

Ask and you will receive. Ignore and you won’t, and nobody will know about all the things you have to offer. They won’t mourn your absence because they weren’t able to access you to begin with.

Do not expect to be an overnight success. You will need to work at it and build your presence. Build trust. Just like with any relationship.

Above all, remember – you are allowed to have no idea what you are doing.

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