Putting yourself out there has a drastically different meaning ever since the COVID-19 pandemic shifted our behavior from offline to online.
In the old days, putting yourself out there meant going to conferences and events to strike up conversations with strangers face to face. It was, actually, quite intimidating.
Now, it is about being public on the Internet to express yourself. Your words, mostly in text form, represent your belief, personality, and personal brand. It is, of course, easier than face-to-face because you can take time to craft your messages and decide how to interact with others.
And instantly, your voice can be delivered to hundreds, or even thousands, of people.
It is the best time in human history to put yourself out there. So what are you waiting for?
But you don't know how to start
Don't sweat it. No one knows how to put themselves out there overnight. It is a learning process, but I can promise you that it is not as difficult as you expect.
You fear because of a few reasons:
- You don't see the good side of social media platforms
- You think the Internet is huge and scary
- You don't think you're good enough to be "on the big stage"
- You have no idea how to start. The baby steps
And this is exactly why I'm writing this article. I've helped so many new entrepreneurs get started so I want to pack together 3 simple steps for you to get a taste of getting out there.
Let's not be overly ambitious. 3 is good.
1. See social media from another side
Before I started using Twitter, my impression of this platform was a place for former President Donald Trump to rant. The news kept quoting his tweets on the television; no wonder I had such an image in my head.
And for platforms like Facebook or Instagram, they were for our families and friends who posted way too many pictures.
In my mind, social media was a headache.
It was only when I discovered the Indie Hackers community and found out a lot of them are on Twitter, then I started seeing Twitter from a different lens.
Social media, especially Twitter, is more like the school hallway. Everyone is working on their own things, trying to be successful. And I can hear chatters as I walk down the hall. People are making friends and having casual conversations. Some of them are even helping one another with homework.
Whether you get the best experience on social media depends on who you choose to hang out with.
These conversations lead us to new discoveries, knowledge, and relationship that can help us become better people and run better businesses.
Instead of physically visiting a conference, which is honestly costly and time-consuming, you can now virtually tap anyone's shoulder and start a conversation at any time. It is a 24/7 conference hall.
With this realization, I learned that social media is the ultimate marketing channel. Forget about going to live conferences or events to put yourself out there. It is time to make lots of friends on Twitter.
2. Online friends are scary
If you're absolutely new to making friends online, you might be traumatized by memories like Chatroulette where they pair random users for webcam-based conversations.
"That was super weird!"
I can tell you that it is nothing like that. You can see it as going to a shady bar (Chatroulette) versus a classy bar (Twitter).
Plus, online friendships can be as pleasant as real-life friendships. You need to build trust, you need to help out, and you need to be a good friend.
The small step you need to take is to just make 5 friends online to get a feel of it. But it is likely that you have no idea where to start even if you know you want to connect with other entrepreneurs. For this, I recommend Twitter. It is my platform of choice.
- If you're into bootstrapping entrepreneurship, you can follow Arvid Kahl, Monica Lent or Preetam Nath
- If you're into venture-backed entrepreneurship, you can follow Gagan Biyani, Sahil Lavingia, or Paul Yacoubian
- If you're into builder-oriented entrepreneurship, you can follow Ben Barbersmith or Damon Chen
- If you're into agency-oriented entrepreneurship, you can follow Jeremy Moser
- If you're into being authentic and transparent, you can follow Aprilynne Alter or me, Kevon Cheung 😂
Pause here. While I'm asking you to follow these people, it is highly unlikely they'll become your friends right away. It is because most of them have established their brand for a long time.
You need to start with peers, people who are also just starting out on Twitter.
For this, what you can do is to visit the entrepreneurs I mentioned above. Find a few more that you have valuable learnings from. Then create a Twitter List and put all of them on it.
Then you can see their latest tweets and you can reply and start a conversation. You don't have to sound smart, just be yourself and share your honest opinion. More importantly, the people who are replying in the same tweet are likely the people you can make friends with.
If what they say makes sense and if they look like a good person, then follow them as well. Later on, when you see tweets from them, you can also engage.
Do it a few times a day (shouldn't take you a lot of time), and you've successfully put yourself out there on the Internet.
It is not so bad, right?
3. Now, let's make friends
So far, you've been joining chatters in the public hallway. That's fine. You're letting people see that you're also a student in the school. You're showing people that you're pleasant to hang out with.
Awesome, let's keep doing that.
But these hallway chatters bring you acquaintances, you still feel that they're not your friends yet.
This is why as you gain confidence, you can start chatting with people privately and getting to know them better.
Twitter direct messaging (DM) is perfect for that. When you have a few public interactions with someone, it is totally fine to send a direct message to them to learn more about their lives.
Here is a reminder. You always want to reach out to people you already have public interactions with. If you say hi to a complete stranger, your chance of getting a response is possible but lower.
At the same time, you should also start crafting some tweets to express your thoughts, ideas, opinions. Focus on sharing your learnings on whatever you're working on (this is called Building in Public), but always write it in a way that is easy for others to read. Lots of people write as if they're writing a diary for themselves, never do that.
When you follow these baby steps I've shared here, congratulations! You've successfully put yourself out there on the Internet.
My last advice is to take it slow and reflect often on whether you're being your true self on social media. Only when you're being yourself, then this can be sustainable.