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3 Steps to Living an Authentic Life Online

This guest post is by Geoff Talbot of SevenSentences.com.

Whether you like it not, social media is taking over Internet.

Research tells us that one in five of every minutes spent online is currently being spent on a social media channel. Business has always been about getting the attention of customers. That’s why the newspaper salesman used to peruse the busy city sidewalks, shouting at the top of their voices “Read all about it! Read all about it! Read all about it!”

The time and place may have changed, but the heart behind the messages that are being shouted at the minions who walk by is still the same.

Businesses, attention hungry artists and entrepreneurs who are building their own platforms are standing on the social sidewalks of cyberspace shouting at the top of their voices. “Look at me! You want this! You need this! Come buy from me.”

The problem is the people on the sidewalk aren’t stopping anymore, there is too much noise, too many interruptions, they’re just covering their ears and walking as fast as they can.

How can an authentic artist, a good business person, or a brilliant entrepreneur actually get traction in this noisy world?

Here are my three secrets for creating an authentic web presence.

1. Leave the sidewalk

You will never get any healthy attention on the sidewalk. It’s time to stop selling, it’s time to go into your storehouse and pull the curtains across the windows and lock the doors. You need to breathe clean air for a while. Some people would call this a social media detox; I think of it more as simply deciding not to swim in shark-infested water.

What is your storehouse?

Your storehouse is your authentic center; it’s who you really are, it’s the reason you went into business, picked up that musical instrument, or came up with that product line in the first place.

Breathe and remember.

The dog eat dog, rabidly competitive world of cyberspace can cause a person to forget their humanity; it caninizes them.

Sometimes we spend so much time on the sidewalk, we forget to look after our storehouse and it gets pretty messy inside. This kind of social media strategy, which focuses more on the market, more than it does on the product and the services you are offering will always end in burn out and decay.

No one else will tell you this BUT I think for the sake of your soul, you need to keep the doors locked until you’ve rediscovered the “real reason why.” The why is always greater than dollars, it’s above status and far out reaches any amount of social significance; the thing that captivated your heart in the first place?

What was it?

Almost certainly it will involve at least one of the following…

  • a deep desire to connect with other people in a positive way
  • a heart for justice or a desire to improve thing.
  • a profound love of creativity.

When you are alone in the quiet of your storehouse, drink deeply from the ancient river of your inspiration. Let the fresh waters wash over you and heal you from the rampant busyness of the sidewalk. Relax; you will know when it’s time to unlock the door.

2. Inviting others in

When you are refreshed and ready, your storehouse although now beautifully in order; it will begin to feel strangely empty, even though it is in fact full. That burning desire to share all you have with others will begin to grow inside you again, until you find it is almost impossible to resist. Yes it is time to re-engage, but it would be foolish to venture out onto the wintery sidewalks of cyberspace again.

What do I suggest?

Go into the kitchen and take your finest cut of lamb out of your refrigerator. Cook that lamb. Let rich aroma of that beautiful meat satiate every corner of your storehouse. Stoke up your fire in the hearth; warm your storehouse to the point of total comfort. Now go to the front door, open it and let the warmth and the rich essence of who you really are spill out onto the sidewalk.

You don’t need to shout anymore, your authenticity, the smell, the warmth of your genuine self, will do all the talking for you. In the cold, wild, attention-grabbing world of cyberspace, you have created a safe haven and a place of nourishment.

The tired, angry, frustrated and cold souls busily marching down the social media sidewalks are desperately in need of what you have to offer. One by one they come in, to escape, to breathe, to get warm again and to gain nourishment and strength. Your website, your business, your product or your song, is so pure in its authenticity that it is just what they needed, it’s literally saving their souls.

Perhaps this is real reason you went into business or picked up that instrument in the first place; to feed the hungry, to bring health to the sick, to be a friend to the lonely?

3. The best messages are whispered between friends

But how will people know if you don’t tell them?

The temptation to shout and move back out onto the sidewalk is very strong BUT shouting nearly always forces a person to cower, step back, or put their hands over their hands. There are very few people who can shout effectively, and why would you want too, when there is a much better way.

The best messages are almost always whispered amongst friends.

It’s the private conversations in cyberspace that will really; truly dictate the success of your business or career.

When you feed people, when you connect with them on a level that goes deeper than simply a product, a business or a song they simply cannot help BUT share their experience with others. And this is the true and democratizing power of social media; not that it connects strangers with strangers; but that it connects friends and that enables friends to share truly good things with each other.

So what does this all mean?

What are the practical implications here?

When there is a lot of shouting, people long for quietness. When there is a lot of incessant selling, people long for generosity.  So be authentic and genuine, but also be judicious and intimate. Don’t give pearls to pigs or they will trample what is truly good into the manure of the sty.

In today’s brave new world, perhaps the best way of spreading your message is to insist on keeping it a secret.

Geoff Talbot is a social media consultant based in Portland, Oregon and the creator of SevenSentences.com, an online community for creative people.

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Comments

  1. zahib says:

    Hey Geoff, good analogies about your authenticity. In addition I would add, when business people looking to sell their products/services begin to shift their mindset from strategizing how they can “Get” attention and shift it toward “Giving” attention. Then it opens up the doors of authenticity and creativity and you end up “Getting” more attention then you expected.

    Thanks for the post.

    • Geoff Talbot says:

      Hi Zahib,

      Yes that is great call, thanks do much for your comment friend. It may seem peculiar BUT the less we make our lives about ourselves or our business the more rewarding our business/lives will be. It’s a fight to lose your own agenda for sure though…

      Thanks
      Geoff

    • I agree, and well put. Give attention first to people and discussions that really interest you. And it’s important that you’re genuinely interested and not just trying to make a sale.

  2. Dave Rowley says:

    Your analogy of the storehouse is wonderful. I’ve recently had a long period of pulling back from my online presence. I kept my old blog up but rarely posted to it for a long time. I did most of my writing by hand, in notebooks, and that really changed the direction of the work I’m doing.

    The whole process was great for my writing and I ended up canning the old blog and starting again, with a new focus. I’m hoping to find a middle way, one that keeps me posting and engaging online, while giving myself plenty of solitude for regeneration.

    • Geoff Talbot says:

      Hi Dave,

      I totally relate to this, thanks for sharing so honestly. As a writer, I find pen and paper to be quite refreshing from time to time. I guess the middle ground is a discipline/balance thing… Time Ferris’s book “The Four Hour Work Week” helped me a lot with this.

      Thanks
      Geoff

  3. You are right Geoff! At least every single moment is spent on social media channel; It has been my worry about and there you are, you in actual fact saved me! I found your site content very helpful to me much and can’t wait to thank you for that. Very inspiring especially the points about leaving the sidewalks; very encouraging and for sure, no one else will tell you this and for the sake of our soul, we need to keep the doors locked until we rediscover the our true and right reason why we went out there to be business people! Thanks much for sharing, I look forward for more!

    • Geoff Talbot says:

      Hi Carla,

      How lovely of you to say so. I am very much a work in progress. We visit and revisit things often. I think a regular social media fast probably helps keep things in balance; kind of like servicing your car on a regular basis.

      Thanks
      Geoff

  4. I love the first point. I like the way you give the reasons why we should climb down the sidewalk. It is true that most of us have indeed spent most of our time on the sidewalk living our storehouse messy! The product is what we are selling! We should focus more at quality; this is because it is what pulls the market to us. If there is quality then there is the market for us to sell the product. This is inspiring and I appreciate a lot for the post! Thanks.

    • Geoff Talbot says:

      Thanks Tabetha,

      I really appreciate your kind comments on my post. Yes, it is important to realize that most of us are not selling “selling.”

      Geoff

  5. Shelby Roth says:

    You are actually a great inspiring person Geoff. I went through your tips and they are really inspiring, educating and very encouraging! I bet the tip about the best message being whispered between friends took much of my time digesting it; it sounds what people need to know more about deeply! One cannot make out of a challenge if they are still looking into the challenge and not a success! Your experience implied to a product needs not to remain by you but being shared with others which a real democratizing power of social media. Very helpful points, keep up!

    • Geoff Talbot says:

      Hi Shelby,

      The best things are often kept a secret for a long time, while they are being refined and purified.

      Thanks
      Geoff

  6. These three steps are indeed very stirring. I for example have concentrated more on the marketplace pretty much compared to my products and who knows? This might just be affecting my storehouse. I look forward to giving this a try. I think it’s time to get off the sidewalk and focus on my products. I am motivated by your post.

    • Geoff Talbot says:

      Thanks Carmen,

      Good luck I am glad you liked the post. Nothing, & I mean nothing markets a good business like a good product. Just make it the best.

      Geoff

  7. Herman says:

    Agree today its about building relationships online, also its advisable to be genuine and helpful, I have seen in my own business people buy from what they think of you and the relationship they have with you not because you have a irresistible offer and tons of bonuses

    Lastly I have realized that you can build really strong relations with people by providing excellent customer service, this is where I have made some really good friends and business partners online.

    Anyways Nice article Geoff:)

    • Geoff Talbot says:

      Hi Herman,

      How interesting that you refer to your customers in terms of both a “relationship” and then as “good friends.” In my opinion this is true measure of a great business… Are your “customers” becoming your friends?

      Thanks for the great comment.

      Geoff

  8. Sarah says:

    Geoff, what a beautiful article. Everything you said was quite simple & straight forward, but you packaged it into beautiful words ! Very inspiring, thank you !

  9. Brandon Yawa says:

    “Authenticity”, or better yet, individuality, is what separates a product from the countless others. It’s the intangible lasting effects of a marketing campaign that effect whether you are going to buy the Nike shoes or the Reeboks. In this super inflated online world, it’s your ability to go viral, or get lumped in with the countless other “bench warmers”.

    It goes without saying. We want to not only play – we want to be the Michael Jordan of our particular niche. The want to be the best is our greatest asset, but the fear of being stuck on the bench haunts us like Casper, the not so friendly ghost. That fear coerces the vast the majority of us to do what is popular instead of what it’s in our hearts.

    In our hearts is the passion – the unique authenticity of the product or products we stand by. In being “popular” we are mere copycats who have lost sight of the very reason why we decided to get in the game. So yes, I do agree. Do not get involved in social media, unless you are clear about who and what you are.

    Brandon Yawa DOT Com, over and out

    • Geoff Talbot says:

      I love this comment Brandon… social media is a little like the stock market, fear and greed are the driving forces.

      Thanks
      Geoff

      • Brandon Yawa says:

        Thank you so much Geoff and you are absolutely right about social media. I followed you on Twitter. Keep paving it forward.

  10. Kenny Fabre says:

    Geoff

    these are some key points you make here, we can definitely use them to live a great life online

  11. Greg De Tisi says:

    If you are not authentic you will never really get anywhere in anything professional. In the end people will see through you and the fact that you don’t really care about them and then the customer is gone. If you want a sustain a longterm business online you have to be real and true to your passions and then the passions shine through and people feel that. People pick up on the energy of how you are and your website or blog. People can tell an awful lot about you within seconds I believe.

    This is why I would say to anyone that they must ask themselves WHY they are really do what they are doing. If it is for money alone there will be no real satisfaction as money is the bi-product of following one’s passion and therefore being authentic.

    Great post here I loved reading it thanks!

    Greg:)

    • Geoff Talbot says:

      I agree Greg. “Why’ is a very important question! It takes a lot of work, or soul searching to find the “why” sometimes. My question to our clients is often “why did you start this in the first place?” I often find the answer there.

      Thanks for commenting.

      Geoff

    • Hey, great point about how passions is connected to authenticity. When you love a subject, you engage people about it whether there’s potential for profit or not.

  12. Beautifully written. Wonderful perspective. Your article inspired me in a lot of ways. Thank you.

    I agree with the third point. My wife and I are blogging in the Philippines, and the biggest growth of our blog came from private emails between bloggers of our niche. We (bloggers) haven’t seen each other face-to-face yet, but we really do happily share information and are there for each other when we need support, technically and creatively, when it comes to our own websites.

    It was a community where we can go into each other’s “storehouse” and be comfortable inside. Sometimes, all together, we walk on the “sidewalk” and we were able to make a few heads turn.

    Great post, Geoff!

    • Geoff Talbot says:

      Hi Raymond,

      Wow, you really added to this post by talking about “community” and the strength in numbers on the sidewalk. Very interesting and fascinating.

      Thanks
      Geoff

  13. Hi Geoff,

    This is a bold and powerful message. It is completely necessary, but like exercising or meditation, most of us find it hard to get started. I know that I got so addicted to sharing and communicating and hoping that my networks and my writing would pull in more subscribers, more fans, more income that I exhausted myself and neglected the things that were most important to me.

    Stepping back, slowing down, and reconnecting to our center may feel like the opposite of success, but I agree that it is necessary if we want to stay true to ourselves and what we find meaningful and important.

    Making money online is extremely difficult, partly because of the sheer numbers of people trying to do it, creating the noise you speak of. I was guilty of screaming “me, me, me!” too, and I am now trying to turn inside, going back to why I got into blogging in the first place, and muscling out time for family and home.

    As you can see — because of the simple fact that I am commenting on this post — I am not always succeeding at being quiet. Thank you for this reminder.

    Amy

    • Geoff Talbot says:

      Hi Amy,

      We I am answering every comment so I may not be succeeding all the time either huh? I think your presence can be strong if you are listening constantly and asking the right questions, trying to help or to give where-ever you are. I find that I have to make a determined effort to ignore the allure of the “side benefits” when i am giving. By this I mean, thinking about what I might get through my generous giving or great listening… otherwise the purity and integrity of what I am doing is lost.

      Make sense?

      Geoff

  14. First of all, I loved the metaphors — especially the cooking part!

    I know how it feels to be sidetracked: in the beginning, it feels fine to connect, and discuss, and write posts in response to what’s happening at the moment. Then, you look at your blog and you say, Hey, this is not what I want it to be, I’m completely off my topic here!

    Yeah, time to stop and re-think the whole adventure.

    • Geoff Talbot says:

      One ring to rule them all… The biggest enemy to any “quest” are the distractions, the people, the side adventures that take us off the main path.

      Still you can resume the adventure at any stage.

      G

  15. What a terrific post Geoff – so glad to have discovered you and your site. We referenced your story in our own blog post today too contrasting the perils of new Facebook promoted posts with avoiding a lot of “screaming on the sidewalk” as you put it so well. Great stuff!

  16. This reminds me of the frequency post from the other day. So much advice says you have to post on Facebook x number of times each day to be seen. But when people are excited about who you are, they’ll find you. Of course they have to know you, but you won’t have to push yourself on anyone.

    Geoff, it’s also refreshing that you talked about reconnecting with your center. In this business we often alienate our spiritual/emotional selves, but that’s the very fuel for what we do.

    • Geoff Talbot says:

      Hi Sarah,

      Thank you for your comment… I think the separation of things into spiritual, non spiritual, hobby or work etc is unhelpful… So appreciate your comment.

      Geoff

  17. Victoria says:

    Geoff, that was absolutely spot on! It is so important to just do what we love and that passion will shine through. I have noticed that when only focusing on what I truly love and am passionate about, others do take notice. I have many things I love and I do what I do because I enjoy it. Right now I am getting my Bachelor of Science in Information Technology and am currently in Photoshop Image Enhancement, next with be Adobe Flash, Illustrator, etc. I love helping others, so in order to share what I love to do I often do free little projects for others and I know that by doing that in time others will see what I have to offer. No need to throw it in peoples faces as you said. They will often just close their eyes and ears and run the opposite direction. Great post!

    • Geoff Talbot says:

      Very true Victoria, thank you for sharing. I find that when I write from my heart I am most likely going to connect with others…

      Thanks
      Geoff

  18. James Hannan says:

    Geoff!!! Nice stuff. No way. We need to be social to stay in the race whether we love or not. We just have to

  19. Tom says:

    Wow, this so well written! It speaks to me. We all need to rediscovered the real reason “why” and remember the things that captivated our hearts. And the most important information for me personally is that the best messages are whispered between friends…

  20. The whole process was great for my writing and I ended up canning the old blog and starting again, with a new focus. I’m hoping to find a middle way, one that keeps me posting and engaging online, while giving myself plenty of solitude for regeneration.

  21. Brandon Yawa says:

    And for the record, I’m taking the challenge Geoff.

  22. Engagement gives you more profit and the audience just want to know, what they are seeking for . Nice and well explained here.

  23. Couldn’t agree more. The internet is a noisy place. Too noisy you can’t even find something useful when you search for something.

    Lock your self from this noise or Know what noise to Listen.

    Thumbs Up!.