Sunday, June 21, 2009

Effectively Organized: Translating Your Personality and Values into an Online Presence - Part III

I have also made the following promise to myself. I think this point is a hard one for women to keep, but, in business, "Don't be afraid to say no" when:
  • You don't have time
  • You examine your priorities and find the opportunity doesn't match
  • You need to manage expectations and cannot provide as quick a turn-around as is being expected
  • Or, if you examine an opportunity in light of your personal values and you find they conflict with your value or belief system.
Think about what will be acceptable vs. what won't be acceptable to you. Use principles (which are flexible based on the situation) vs. rules (which are made to be broken anyway). For example: If you receive a custom order for an object you don't feel comfortable creating, it's helpful to understand that
  • It's not necessary to convert everyone to your way of thinking
  • It's not necessary to be defensive--often a simple explanation will suffice
  • It is good social and business sense to show respect and kindness for the other person's point of view
There may be a potential future article on the art of saying no, but women (especially mothers) are often extremely accommodating. However, successful business is sometimes an art of saying no to the wrong opportunity or saying no to the right opportunity that presents itself at the wrong time. It is also about creating boundaries around what you will or will not convey in your online presence.

The main point I would like to convey, is to give at least some consideration to the forms and ways you participate online and how they reflect you and your values. Let your online presence be a genuine reflection of the pieces of you which you choose to convey in the online format. So, who are you in real life? How does that translate into your online presence?

Monday, June 15, 2009

Effectively Organized: Translating Your Personality and Values into an Online Presence - Part II

Something that helps me to make decisions regarding my online interaction is by trying to correlate my online presence as to what it would be like if I had a little boutique store in an adorable town like McKinney, Texas.
  • My blog is the conversation I have with customers
  • Flickr is the eye-candy and window-dressing
  • Artfire is the functional shop
  • My website is the historical store of conversations and information
There are constantly new activities and things to do on the web (blogs, Twitter, Facebook, MySpace). When evaluating a new "thing to do", I use two basic questions to guide me:
  • What is the IRL equivalent of this online activity?
  • How would I behave IRL (in real life)?
Personality-wise, I'm introverted, so I evaluate a scenario or situation from all angles before making a decision. In a nutshell, I don't jump on every online bandwagon that is happening. For example: I'm still trying to figure out whether Twitter has value for me. My initial thoughts were, "what's the point?" However, I said that about phone texts a few years ago. Why would you ever text when you can just call them? Now I rarely call and almost exclusively text. Regarding Twitter, I don't have a lot of time for extras or time to figure out whether it works for me. I'll let the kinks get worked out of the format and let the dust settle before I decided whether or not to participate. Right now, Twitter doesn't fit into my online presence. However, it may have a place in the future.

The other part of doing business that can have a potentially discouraging or downer effect on your business and online presence: negative feedback or complaints. My goal is to be a good business citizen and do whatever is within my power to create a positive satisfied customer through honesty, integrity, quality, and genuine concern for my customer's happiness. However, at a certain point, you do have to realize you can't be everything to everyone. It helps to plan to be accommodating yet firm. Small businesses who exemplify this are the small businesses I mentioned in the opening. I've watched their blogs, their public interactions and they consistently convey a kind, respectful, yet firm, attitude toward the public.

Another consideration: I have made a conscious decision to NOT participate in areas that can breed negativity. Etsy forums are touted as a good way to bring in new customers. Unfortunately, I find the minimal moderation a breeding ground for negative situations and train wrecks. Just as I don't put myself in a situation where a barfight might break out, I don't participate in unmoderated or poorly moderated forums.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Effectively Organized: Translating Your Personality and Values into an Online Presence - Part I

As I have begun exploring my online presence, I realized it was important for me to take a step back and consider how to translate my in real life (IRL) personality and actions into an online presence. First, creating a genuine reflection of yourself is an important activity in creating a connection to potential customers through an impersonal format. Also, there are various aspects of conducting a business that require forethought, planning, and wisdom and really are a reflection of you: your personality and your values. Giving this some thought as you establish your online presence will help you create a genuine connection with customers you may never meet in person. It will also prepare you for various scenarios that you will undoubtedly encounter in the course of doing business.

I have observed some valuable characteristics of successful artists and small businesses (Noisy Plume, Kelly Rae Roberts, Urban Maille) such as an unflagging positive attitude, kindness, and respect. On the other hand, I have read blogs or other forum conversations and observed some behaviors I decided I want to avoid. This is not a definitive article of "should and should not"'s more of food for thought for how you can translate your IRL presence into your online presence and some examples of how I arrived at some of my decisions.

One of the major aspects of the web I have given considerable thought to was the impersonal and anonymous nature of the web. For this reason, there are reasonable precautions that one should consider when establishing an online presence. There is a seedy side of the internet that you can and should take precautions to protect against: copyright infringement, design copiers, hackers, scammers, stalkers, and trolls. For example, don't put yourself in harms way of an unmoderated forum, document your ideas and words to protect your copyright and original designs, change your passwords frequently, use robust passwords, spend the money on anti-virus programs, invest in a secure website, use a post office box for your business address, and ignore the internet trolls.

Beyond the seedy side, there are additional considerations that should be considered regarding the impersonal nature and potential anonymity of the internet. One of the main things to keep in mind is that the internet removes a significant layer of communication--the non-verbal aspects of body language, facial expressions, and tone of voice. In the years since I've been online, I have made mistakes in communication assuming that my humor (which can sometimes be sarcastic) or genuine concern would be conveyed in an email. It's not. The context that comes from a personal conversation (body language, facial expression) or voice conversation (tone of voice) is completely removed. All communication is completely dependent on message and message only. Because of past mistakes, I now read and edit over and over until I feel my message is clearly dependent on the words alone.

Also, the internet has a long "memory." Even though the internet is dynamic and fast-moving, whatever you post online is a form of documentation. If you don't want something to come back and bite you, it's worth taking the time to make sure the message you convey reflects the image you want to present.

This is the first is a series of articles that I publish as part of my newsletter. If you want to read the rest sooner, sign up for my newsletter. The next two installments will be published the next two Mondays.