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"...it'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.
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