How to build an online presence that will pay off in the real world

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A mistake I make all too often is that I write about things that have no substance — they’re fun for me to write, but don’t give you, the reader, anything solid to consider after you finish reading. I can write about what I would do if I could relive an hour of my childhood or what kind of a story a certain image might provoke, but the truth is that outside of expressing some personal creativity, the bus stops at that last period.

I recognize that blogging posts like these doesn’t build my personal brand and doesn’t represent me in the way that I would like to be perceived online.

This is the issue with a lot of the content that gets posted to the internet. We live in a generation of picture-swipers that have a hard enough time deciding which filter to use on Instagram, let alone reading to the end of a 1,000 word blog post.

But building an online presence is more than just writing good blog posts or saying all the right things on Twitter. If your medium of choice is Instagram or Snapchat, you can still follow some key considerations that will help you build a strong and successful brand. The big things that need to be considered are:

  • Authenticity
  • Value
  • Inspiration
  • Specificity
  • Plausibility

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Authenticity

Being authentic in your blog or social media is paramount in establishing a good online presence. If someone is hilarious in real life, but blogs like a robot I am not going to be all too interested in what they have to say. That’s not to say funny people HAVE to be funny online, but you have to be true to who you are. If the real you and the person you’re portraying don’t add up, people will see through you. As sad as it is for me to say, the reason the Kardashians are as successful as they are is because they are as vain in real life as they are on social media (I say this as someone who has never kept up with any of the Kardashians, but I don’t think my saying they’re a little full of themselves is too far off base).

Value

Value begins and ends with letting go of ego and having a genuine desire to improve what it is you’re doing. In order to make something more valuable, you have to continue learning, improving, and challenging yourself to make a better product. Being derogatory to your friends was great in college, but there is no place for it if you are trying to establish an online brand. Unless you’re Rob Delaney, save the fart jokes for the bar and make an effort to put out a consistent voice through social media that makes your brand appear world-class to other users.

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Inspiration

If you just want to post pictures of your dog and fill out those “which animal cracker best defines your childhood” surveys on Facebook, more power to you. I’m going to block you from my feed, but by all means, Nilla-penguin, live your life. However, if you want to have people pay attention to you, you have to add some value to someone’s life. Tell stories with a purpose, comment on people’s blogs ONLY IF YOU’VE READ THEM. Inspiring people come from all walks of life, and you don’t have to be a revolutionary to be inspiring. Start with being yourself and be kind to others, and you’ll be surprised at how people will pay attention to you.

Specificity

When I first began blogging, I was all over the place. I wrote about poker, running, my dog (who still might make an appearance here or there)… I did some “creative fiction,” talked about my marriage, and about how poor my golf game gets in the winter time. The point is, I was lost and just reaching in every direction trying to get views. Specificity doesn’t mean you have to talk about one subject only for the rest of your life, but have some direction and stick to it. If ESPN started showing election coverage, they wouldn’t be true to their audience. Think of your online presence in the same way. Decide who you are and focus your content on that across all social platforms.

Plausibility

Plausibility means how likely is it that what you represent or have to say is realistic or applicable to the real world? Building a powerful brand online means what you say have to have real meaning to a wide audience on the other side of the screen. I could tell you why Israel is the next hotbed for rare diamonds, but how many people would be able to fly out to Jerusalem and start asking around for some buyers? Probably not many. But, if I tell you that waking up five minutes early and doing 50 push ups will jump start your metabolism and give you more energy throughout the day, that is something you could actually do. (For the record, doing 50 push ups will jump start your metabolism and I really couldn’t tell you left from right about diamonds in Jerusalem.)

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So once you have figured out how to be online, the trick is making the most of it. The simple truth is, you have to be diligent and keep your eyes open for opportunity. The best way to do this is to connect with as many other influencers as your can by reaching out and doing your best to network online. Explore every open door that might lead to another opportunity, and never be afraid to say “yes.”

The process is not a fast moving one, but little by little, you’ll see that by being authentic to who you are and having a consistent message will open doors and lead to real opportunities in the real world.

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Writers Prompt #12: An hour as your 10 year old self

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Traveling back to 1995 for an hour would, first of all, mean I get to go back to my Detroit Lions Starter jacket (that I wore in South Florida because when it’s 70 degrees in January, burrrr), Airwalk shoes, fantasizing about the T-shirt wall at Spencers gifts, and checking the value of my baseball card collection in every new edition of Beckett magazine. I’d be checking my pager to see if Zach “911’d” me to get to the basketball court, or if I should go to the aquatic center or the ice rink tonight (because those were the hella dope places to be).

But if I only had an hour to spend, I’d probably leave my Magic the Gathering cards at home, tell Sonic the Hedgehog that he’d have to get those gold rings without me, and I’d call as many friends as I could think of…

Bike gang, y’all!

There was something cool about riding bikes in a group that made me feel cool. I imagine it’s the childhood equivalent of what motorcycle gangs feel like when they ride on Sundays, only we didn’t throw the motorcycle wave around everywhere we went.

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Sup bro? Sup bro? Image courtesy of http://www.motorsport.com

Rival bike gangs were serious business, and if we had to meet at the sandpit for a fight after school next week well that’s just politics.

So if I only had one hour to be 10 years old again, I’d be outside, with friends, doing something that made me feel confident. I don’t think that riding bikes was every my favorite thing to do at the time, but looking back, it was the thing that best defined who I was as a kid. And the best part is, while I don’t ride bikes anymore, being outside with friends doing the things I love to do most is still something that defines who I am as an adult.

Writing Prompt #09: Safe Spaces

So I’ve been bad about keeping up with my D2S Writing Prompts, so I made a point to get back on board this week with the following piece about defining your safe space and describing what it means to you. ENJOY!

I think a lot of people think of a safe space as their own little quiet corner of the world, but for me, my safe space is anything but quiet. When I need to think — really be alone with my thoughts — I put my headphones in and get outside to run.

We all have our routines, whether it’s work or family or our schedules. Those things are fine, but to be able to think about things creatively, we have to do things a bit off-kilter. For me, I need to run. I start out by finding a good station on Spotify. I will usually lock in to the music for the first part of the run just to ease comfortably into my space.

After a few miles when I start to get tired, that’s when I do my best thinking. I start to forget about the music and my heavy breathing, and I can just put my legs on autopilot and coast. I think about things I want to write about or ways to handle certain problems I might have at the time. I’ll think about my plans for the weekend or which PGA player will win the tournament this weekend. I’ll replay hands from poker games I played years ago and try to figure out what I could have done differently or how I might do that again the next time I play. I think this time more so than any other is like a hard reset for my brain. I purge out every thought I’ve had over the past few days and and just able to exist in the moment.

I can honestly say that I am at my best when I run. I’m not the fastest runner, nor do I have dreams of bigger races or PR’s. I run because it allows me to be myself. I run because it allows me to feel free, and freedom is the safest place in the world to me.