Part of the Secrets to Succeeding with Social Media series by Blacksburg Belle

The phrase “in real life” (IRL) drives me a bit batty. It’s the phrase that social media addicts, bloggers, and otherwise connected folks use to describe the interactions they have outside the internet space.

“In real life” suggest that online life is fake.

“In real life” sets up a barrier between what you do away from the computer (or mobile device) and what you do in front of it.

This is a false dichotomy.

If you’re looking to create influence online and a larger following of engaged “fans,” it’s time to forget about IRL. You only have one life to live – and if you’re building a business, a good part of it will be spent online. Your life is a whole and should be represented that way, as clearly & passionately as possible.

getting really real.

April asked me to write about building a following in social media because I’ve done a fairly good job of it, relatively speaking. I have 4200+ followers on Twitter, almost 1900 fans on Facebook, a growing email list, and a respectable subscribership for both of my blogs. There are a lot of people who choose to connect to me and consume what I have to offer.

Since beginning my online business in January 2009, I have never felt more “real.” Online, I connect with people who truly care about the real me: what I have to offer, what my interests are, who my family is, how much ice I like in my lattes. Online, I have the freedom to be who I really am, without question, without shame. If you don’t like who I really am, you quit following me – no offense, but there will be someone else to take your place.

My life online is just as real as my life offline – if not more so. I don’t hold much back online, I don’t craft strategies for getting more followers, I am who I am. Being real is the key to my success.

So how do you connect with real people in a real way?

  • Talk back. Everyone wants a conversation. Initiate one. Answer questions, respond to ideas.
  • Ask questions. Just as important as providing answers is asking real questions and expecting real answers.
  • Share your mission. Yes, real conversation is great but, at some point, you’ve got to get real about your mission. You wouldn’t have a face to face conversation without telling each other what you’re all about. Attracting people to you requires communicating your message.

Finally, keep you barriers low. The least “real” part of social media is just how easy it is to connect with real (cool) people. Outside the web, I’m a pretty hard person to connect with – I’m so darn shy. Online, we can connect with one keystroke.

If you’re looking to make friends, build a following, and grow your audience, make sure its ridiculously easy to connect with you.

Growing your online network isn’t about tips, tricks, or strategy. It’s about getting real and forgetting the false barriers we put up between our real lives and our online lives. Growing your online network is about being real enough that people want to share you with their friends.