Being Present Online: It’s harder than ever, but it’s still as important as ever
This is a talk I gave at Workplace Trends in October 2015
Here is the script
1 “If all my possessions were taken
from me with one exception, I
would choose to keep the power of
communication, for by it I would
soon regain all the rest” Daniel
Having an online presence
has become as easy as writing a
letter or an email. Being able to
confidently express oneself and
connect to others
2 is extremely useful, both for the
individual and their organisation. If
social media was just weirdoes in an echo chamber,
who we didn’t need to worry about
or talk to, that changed on 21
August 2015 with Twitter results
being prominently displayed on
the first page of a Google search.
And we all search, right?
3 Someone searches for an event and
you can be part of the conversation. Useful, no?
Someone searches for your name, and they find
and engage with what you’re actually saying,
at that moment. Amazing when you think of it.
Yet, people don’t, and some try but with wrong
approaches that can really spoil
your day. Surprisingly, I agree with
4 Guaranteed to start your journey off badly:
Being taught by people with the
wrong idea. Because trying to find
your feet in a new medium, like a
new language, trying new things,
you definitely don’t want it to be
fun, fulfilling or feel safe. You want
targets andkey performance indicators.
5 Presenters often
aim to confuse you, in order to
make you buy their services. ‘See
this? It’s far too complicated for
you. Don’t you worry your little
head, we will do this for you.’
Outsourcing your voice is never the
answer (also, we can tell.) Nobody
can speak for you and make your online voice
6 Bosses aren’t able to lead on this
very well – but then, look at what
they’ve been faced with for the past 5 years.
‘Digital everything.’ Widely different
messaging on social media, digital communication,
online engagement. That message
mostly owned by marketing/communications
specialists. Whose career consists
of speaking for others.
7 Speaking of digital. My industry itself
is bad at using different words for
different things. Using computers to
speak to other humans is a thing
we all need to be able to do,
wherever we are. It only gets
hugely confusing when it’s mixed
up with everything else people
do with computers – program them ,
buy them, put them on things.
8 Today’s adults have grown up with
tech like this – resulting in I ‘don’t
do technology’. My mum really tried
and bought a computer when it was
a big beige box. Now she is
drowning in scare messages from
the media. She won’t even get an
email address to use skype on her
tablet because she might do
9 Trying to connect with people whose
accounts are run badly feels like
this. You talk to an automaton, to
someone’s marketing or sales
people, who have a one-track mind
when ‘engaging’ with you. They
can’t and won’t treat you as a
person, because of what can be measured.
Those numbers look good only on paper.
Nobody likes being just a number.
10 Social media platforms not focusing
on what’s useful for their users.
Twitter pushing the celeb angle. The
celeb thing is horrid on both sides –
you’ll never get a reply, and celebs
never read all their mentions,
because, ugh, pedestrians. Social
can and should create new voices
not just ride on the shirt-tails of the
11 So yes, it’s difficult, and your
confusion and frustration is valid.
Here’s some inspiration to get better
at being a person online despite
all this. I’m starting form the why –
the technical know-how is something
you also need to adopt. You’ll get there faster
if you focus on the skills you actually need
and leave out the ones you don’t need to worry about.
12 I have nothing against mindfulness etc
but this isn’t about that, or trying
to change anything about yourself,
being more in the moment. It is JUST
about being connected to fellow humans
through tech. The humanity comes in
because we are humans. Inspiration and
connection are results of being honest and open –
online is just a new space to do this.
13 Trying to talk about social media you get
‘oh we have a strategy in place’, but
there is so much value in doing this well,
for us, that it is worth still having these
conversations and not let marketers own
the space. They have failed at giving
these platforms real value – now we
need to look beyond short-term gains.
14 Communicating online, you don’t need
to say more or other things than you would
in person. It just needs to be you
at the controls. Online and real life aren’t any
different – online is real life, amplified –
and if you’re going to feel good in your
online space, you want to be there with the
right sort of company and build close connections.
15 This might surprise you and go against
everything you’ve heard over the
past five years: The goal isn’t
marketing yourself – it is to do
what you’re doing, and doing it better
because of being connected to other people.
Marketing approaches result in nobody listening to anyone,
because it just isn’t interesting or fulfilling.
16 Being online as yourself,
communicating as the person you
are, you need to trust that other
people are that too. The platforms
we use to have these exchanges
this will change, the need to be
confident and able to talk online
won’t. The reason we don’t stop
talking about Twitter and hope it
survives: It’s open, and it’s all-encompassing.
17 Having an online identity you own,
that is uniquely and fully yours, is
the only way to build genuine
relationships. And working online is
only possible through genuine
relationships. How do you start? By
being genuine yourself, and
building a network of real people
18 We don’t live in a culture that
appreciates getting good at things.
Shortcuts are all the rage. This, like
every other new language, you can
get good at with practice, and by
allowing yourself to grow into a new
As a start, try connecting to the
people at this event through the hashtag.
19 Write a post about the day
you’ve had and post it, knowing it
will be read by people you trust,
because you’ve spent today together.
and rapport often start with real life events
and grow through sharing online.
That is how you can build relationships
with people you’ve met and people you would
have liked to meet.
20 There are some technical skills you
will need to adopt over time, but on
wp.com or other blogging platforms
you can start right now. It all starts
from your identity. The internet
being all about people is not going
to go away. Substance and real
personality are the next big thing.