How to get started building online today

I sometimes have folks around me ask what they should do or how they can get started if they have an idea or want to start building a following online. I’ll never tout myself as an expert in this area but I have gathered plenty of information on the topic and found certain points to be of great value.

Recently I was asked a series of questions that follow a similar pattern of questions I have been asked in the past. I finally decided to map them out here for reuse.  The intent here is to hit on points and feelings we all have when ‘GETTING STARTED’.  This list is not all-inclusive and will grow over time in subsequent posts. I hope this helps some of you finally take the steps toward building presence online.

I’ve always said I think everyone should have their own little corner of the internet and I want to help you get started. If you have any questions along the way please contact me here.

Dear ,

Let me answer your questions succinctly enough to give you direction but vaguely enough to not take any of your original ideas and thought from you. It is important to build your own process that fits your needs and lifestyle while using some tried and true methods.

So...

First Question: I guess my main question at this point is really where to start?

You’ve already started. The sheer fact that you have this loaded question means you already have begun the process of gathering your next actions. You have an idea for a product, service, or program of sorts that you want to build on and share. Most people don’t get concerned with where they should start without already having a drive or passion project. You are asking this question because you have had this drive for quite some time and finally have decided to take the steps and commit to working on it. This issue is the daemon inside you pushing you to get there as quickly as possible.  You now feel overwhelmed.  You might want to know what tools, apps, or services to go with to help you reach your goal or which direction to take it in. The truth is there are so many and there is no single set or subset of tools that is right for everyone.  The next steps you take will be decided based on your particular vision of how you want this to go.

Which leads me to answer your next question.

How many and what social media avenues do I go with?

To quote Black Sheep:

The Choice is Yours. You can get with this, or you can get with that.”

But even before picking your social media avenues, your main focus should be figuring out who you want your target audience to be. You have to be very specific. You will never appeal to everyone and since that is the case, you may never appeal to a certain demographic that is using a particular app or service. The main thing to remember is that your goal will be to provide value to a very specific age range with an interest in ‘x’ in order for them to achieve ‘y’. By providing value, followers and potential customers will find you in whatever social media avenue you choose.

Keeping all that in mind you will still want to become familiar with the workings of each of the big players (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn) over time because you may find that is where your audience spends most of their time. First, start with what you are familiar with. If that means email, then email someone you know and ask if they know anyone that has an interest in what your topic or service will be, find out what they use to follow people and get information about the space you want to be in.

For purposes of this article let’s say you already are using Facebook and/or the response from the email you sent was also to use Facebook. Now you can start searching for products, personalities, and services in your space. You can ‘Like’ their page and choose to ‘Follow’ them. If they are a person, you can follow them without becoming friends and you will see their public posts and things they share from others that aren’t public. If they have a Page dedicated to themselves or their product you can see their engagement with their ‘fans’ and engage back, read and respond to comments, get their questions and maybe even answer them. Showing knowledge and authority here will help you build rapport with the audience you are already seeking to serve.

While you are doing this, you should dedicate an hour or so a week to learning a new application. If you already have an account for one of the others then start there. If not, just pick one that suits your personality. LinkedIn is more business articles and posts. Instagram is more personal with the use of photo and video. Twitter is a good place to be no matter what, even if you don’t post regularly because you can easily search and find related topics.

It doesn’t matter your topic or space, you can begin to search ‘hashtags’ (the ‘#’ sign followed by a term or phrase. i.e. #pizza) for terms involving your topic. Every #hashtag is a link that will take you to results filtering posts that include #pizza allowing you to go down a rabbit hole of other #hashtags associated with those posts.

On this journey, you can find/follow/friend people that are already in your space and have a following. Here you will find the same people that may be recipients of your product or service.

What's my vision for this?

That is really for you to decide. You have to figure out who you are trying to serve and why you are being called to serve them. What unique skill or perspective do you have that others will find of value? Why is this important to you? What will keep you going every day?

Setting out on this journey for pure profit is a recipe for failure. You can do anything (for a short period of time) if just for profit but if your heart is not in it, you will soon be owned by it and at that point, you will no longer want to do it. The same is true for doing something out of pure passion. Just because you are passionate about something doesn’t mean you should try to derive profit from it. Not only will it take the passion away, you may ruin the passion altogether.

Dan Miller has always stated (and writes about it here) that there needs to be three legs to the stool. Passion alone is not enough to make this worth it. Can you make money from this? Are you passionate about it? And do you have a unique skill, talent, or perspective that will draw customers to you? Dan has a great podcast called “The 48 Days Internet Radio Show” and you can find/listen to it here as well as other tags for other business and entrepreneurial podcasts I listen to here.

I need a website and a logo -- both things I really should have had all along anyway considering I am already doing X!

Having a website is important. You will find a faction for every point of view on that in today’s entrepreneurial world. I’m in the camp that thinks you should have a website tailored to your interest or topic as soon as you get the itch to do something. They are very inexpensive and you can always start with free. There is also tutorial after tutorial out there on how to build one.

One important thing to note is - you don’t need anything fancy. Some research even shows some more of the basic pages do way better at converting leads into followers or customers. Can you get going without a website? YES. And you absolutely should. Don't let NOT having a website prevent you from getting going. Get started today! Anyone can start building a business or following from the device in their pocket. Every major app makes that available right at the tip of your finger.

Don’t worry about a logo if you are just starting with a website. There are ways to get great logos and designs for very affordable rates. You could use Fiverr for instance to get something very basic and cheap ($5 cheap). Once you have an idea of the direction you are going and what might appeal to your customers, you can use something like 99Designs or DesignCrowd.

When it comes to building a website, most can be created without a lot of custom development. In the early stages, you probably don’t need anything like fancy user portals and backend databases. If you have created a PowerPoint within the last 20 years, you can create a really decent website with tools like WordPress, Squarespace (my site), or Weebly. Remember it doesn’t need to be real flashy to start. Just a landing pad – a place to call home on the internet and share info about you, what you do, how you can help, why it’s important, and how people can get a hold of you. This includes links to all social platforms you end up using.

Stay tuned for more tips and resource on how to the tools I just listed. If you can’t wait and want to get started, CONTACT ME HERE and fire off any questions you may have.

Am I even interesting enough to follow on social media?! Can I at least fake it?

No need to get caught up in vanity metrics like ‘Follows’, ‘Likes’, or ‘Hearts’. We aren’t trying to be the next Katy Perry. We are just looking for our ‘1000 true fans’. I could go on about that but you’ll get it by watching that video. The gist is you only care about the people that will really connect with and appreciate what you are doing. Remember the 'Pareto Principle' (80/20 Rule). 80% of your profit/success will be derived from 20% of your customers/followers.

You already are interesting enough to gain some followers - even if it is only close friends and family. People admire when someone shows their true self. Not everyone has the balls to be open and honest, even though everyone is going through the same things. You will become even more interesting when you start providing value to your target audience about your vision topic WHILE being true to yourself.

You have a unique perspective that people will begin to appreciate and share the moment you give them an 'Ah-Ha.' You might be a new father writing about trying to get started doing something on his own or you could be a stay-at-home mother that has a fantastic new way to keep the house in line and make a killing online 4 hours a week. Those aren’t unique situations. The internet is filled with people just like that. The difference is your story and how real you are when you share it.

One way to start becoming interesting is by sharing great content that is already floating around your space. If you can follow some lesser know people already in your space and share some of the content they are creating, just by the inherent nature of social media, you will start to gain followers because they will find your share when searching using the same methods I mentioned earlier. Add comments, hashtags, accolades, additional commentary or unique perspective to what someone else has already shared and you will start to become sort of an authority for at least where to find good information.

PRO TIP: Search for your topic of interest on Quora, Medium, and Answers.com. When you find an article or comment thread you know you have something of value to offer, do it. Make sure your profile is filled in with contact information and a solid 'about me'.

Creating your own unique content takes time. If you are that busy stay-at-home mom or father struggling to find time, you will have to prioritize enough time a week to make one post and share it. Having a plan and sticking to it is the only way to get the ball rolling. It won’t be easy right away. Keep a log in the Notes app on your phone of every idea for a topic that could become a blog post. Even if it would only be one or two paragraphs., if it connects with someone, that is all that matters. As you start building a following, ask individuals in their feed what they want to know or learn more about. Ask them publicly. People (for the most part) love @mentions, being heard and getting comments on their posts.

 There will be a huge learning curve for this...

Yup! That is the fun part. It is also the most frustrating part and hard to contain. If you are even bothering to start out on this journey you are probably already wanting to have a ton of stuff done yesterday. I know the type.

JUST SLOW DOWN

Easier said than done, but take it slow. Try to spend an hour or two a week just learning and consuming content. Dan Miller also has a great formula for that you can find here.

YouTube and Google are your friends. It’s amazing how many people I come across that still don’t realize this but you can literally ask Google the question you have in your head (no matter what it is), just type it as you'd say it, and within the first 5 results you will likely get your answer. You will learn tricks and phrasing over time that will help you because more advanced at finding exactly what you are looking for especially in your niche market. You may even find the one go-to place for all the questions you might have.

One thing to keep in mind is that a lot of people in this arena will try to sell you their tips and tactics. You are far from needing to pay for anything at this point. Just search for the vast amount of amazing free tips already out there, but be mindful of opinions. Find information that suits your needs but also look for articles that counter it. For instance, if someone is saying Facebook is the ONLY tool you need, purposely search for a counter argument to get both perspectives. There will be pieces in both articles that you might be able to use for yourself in your project. Remember, there is not one way to do this.

Wrapping up

There is a lot of information here. There is a lot of information everywhere. Just remember to take your time and not get frustrated or overwhelmed. Set yourself up for small wins along the way and just get started.

“The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.” 
– Chinese Proverb

Ross Wickman

Comrade Technology, Sioux Falls, USA

Husband, Father, and owner @ComradeTech. I help people better understand technology on the http://TechnicallyLivingPodcast.com . Not to mention a http://BusHitMyHouse.com