I'm grateful to introduce Ksenia Anske, one of our guest bloggers and part of the Green Ants team of early supporters. Her experience and insights in the world of online presence, writing and being relevant is invaluable and I'm very fortunate to have her share her thoughts with us. - Stijn Hendrikse
You are online, whether you want to or not. You have no choice, as a business. Your website, your Twitter, your Facebook, your everything. When you're new, you're excited and you set out to impress everyone with your debonair charm and irresistible magnetism that will lure droves of customers to buy your product and hail you on every corner and praise you to their friends and the like. You think, perhaps, that there is a magic wand that you can wave and glitter will fall out of it and all the online dolls and trolls will hurry to your site. Unfortunately, it doesn't work like that. At first it might, because you're new and shiny, and people are curious, but it will stop soon. The interest will face and you'll be left disgruntled, trying to buy more ads and lists and spam more people with more email newsletters that they didn't sign up for.
There is only one magic thing here.
Hard work over days and weeks and months and years. Relentless. Determined. Focused. There will be triumphs and mistakes and pitfalls and rises and thing you will do that will make you go red to the roots of your hair and maybe even grant you a call from your mom, inquiring what the hell is that article about she just read in the paper. Well, maybe it won't be that bad, but still.
When you start out online, you shout into nothing.
And that's okay.
Keep shouting. Just keep shouting things you're passionate about as a business, and soon you will see a small crowd forming, curious to figure out what it is you're so worked up about. At first those people who will pause to see, won't care. They will maybe glance at your website for a few seconds and move on. Your job is to keep generating content in line with your brand promise and message and product values. Never falter. Believe. Keep going.
Don't expect something magical to happen if you employ the many automation tools out there. They simply make noise. Imagine this. If you are auto-tweeting something, and the smart auto-tweeting tool tweets it at 2 a.m., because with its genius mechanism or algorithm or whatever you call it, it senses it's prime time for this topic in India right now, because they have lunch, you won't gain much from it. Imagine someone from India were to tweet to you, asking you a question. And where are you? You're in bed. You think, well, that's just one tweet. Who cares?
Wrong. You should care. Or don't tweet at all.
You must care about engagement. You know, human conversations? Just because you're online, doesn't mean you can hide behind your pretty business mask. Those days are over.
Forget about automation, about all those tools and apps and tricks and softwares and clever plug-ins that let you generate content and then blast it into every corner of the sparkly Internets.
YOU NEED TO SPEND TIME ONLINE.
That is where the magic is. Oh, you thought it was easy? It isn't. If it was, every startup would've formed and exited with a bang in a few months, making tens of millions of dollars to every founder and employee and investor and grant them all golden watches and teeth and whatever.
Spend 4-6 hours online, every day, or hire someone to do it. Hire an intern. They love being online. Hire young people, recent college graduates. Hire someone who gets a kick out of it, and then set them loose. Just make sure whatever they talk about is filled with passion for your business and product. For that, treat them well and tell them the story of your startup to fire them up and to have them believe in your mission. That's all you have to do.
Here are the three things you have to do, to cultivate a magical online presence:
1. Be yourself.
Nothing could be easier, and yet it's one of the hardest things to do. Why? Because of your fear. When you're starting out, you are intimidated by all those other startups and successful companies already online, some of them very successful and with a huge following, so at first you start copying them, hoping it will work. It never does. The only thing it will do to you, it will frustrate you and your customers will sense you faking it. But you sort of have to do it, to experience it on your own skin and to learn from it. It's okay. Other businesses had that too. Be yourself, and people will feel it. All you have to do is show up every day.
2. Be consistent.
By this I don't mean talking about the same things all the time. I mean, consistently show up. If you blog, blog once every week, or twice every week, or every day, or once a month. But create a schedule and stick to it, and show up consistently. With time people will start expecting it, and that's exactly what you want. Experiment with rhythms. It will take you a while to find them, but never give up. You'll find your perfect balance. The problem is, by then you will change and you will have to change again. But so is life, right? Keep being present, keep learning, and keep changing and growing accordingly.
3. Be human.
Please don't be a robot. I see these "robot" messages all the time and they turn me off. The automated tweets that are sent at peak times on Twitter, automated posts on Facebook and Google+ and LinkedIn, posts of articles that somebody else wrote. It's always a turn-off for people because they break through this barrage of formality to get to know the real person behind the business. I keep hearing people talking about the perfect combination of business and personal mix online. Like, do 2/3 of personal tweets, and only 1/3 of promotion. There is no such thing. The barriers between customers and business are crumbing with lightning speed and there is no other way for companies but to be human to gain any kind of trust and following.
So, once again, your to-do list for your online presence:
- Be yourself.
- Be consistent.
- Be human.