time to forget about “real life”

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.

Continue the conversation...

12 comments on “time to forget about “real life”

  1. April says:

    I seriously love this advice, Tara. It’s so important to be authentic when using social media and to make connecting a priority. It’s obvious when someone is just trying to sell you something and doesn’t care about connecting or relationships.

    My favorite part of this post is the line, “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.” Before I started Blacksburg Belle, I had an event planning blog where I tried to be neutral. I didn’t want to ruffle any feathers or “choose sides” even when I had definite opinions about the topic being discussed. When I started Blacksburg Belle, I made a promise to myself that I wouldn’t do that anymore. I would be me, and it’s much more fulfilling. The relationships that I’m making are authentic–and I know that the people who follow me and subscribe to my blog and newsletter want to hear from me! And that feels good.

  2. Dannielle says:

    Tara, I am nodding my head so hard at this it’s hurting a bit.
    This is so true, I am who I am online and off. And if anything my online world probably connects with me better than the offline because I’m really shy too.

    I don’t know how people can have two separate lives, one is busy enough for me :)

    Thanks for writing another brilliant post!

  3. Maegan says:

    I could not love this post more, Tara! Great advice! I get asked a lot how I get people to read and follow my blog. I laugh because it sounds like I had some devious plan from the get-go to rope people in and make them stay. I always tell them to focus on their connections and online relationships. I think it’s important to 1) be yourself…totally! and 2) to remember that these are people following you, not just numbers.

    Thanks for spreading such an important message!

  4. Gwyn says:

    You are so awesome! I feel very fortunate to have connected with you. I have never been able to be anything less than myself. A big reason I didn’t do well in the “real” work force. To be able to share my authentic self, and make a living, was something far more difficult when I was young. Again I am truly grateful to have connected here.

  5. .tif says:

    Thanks for this. As someone who definitely has more “online” friends than “offline” ones at this point in my life, I too have been offended with the idea that somehow online reality is not as real as offline. I’ve made real connections with real people here on the internet, and no one necessarily needs to meet for friendships to be real. Everyone is a body on the other side of a monitor, after all.

    I think people can sometimes even be more of themselves here online than offline, as you’ve noted in your great writing above. Sometimes, it’s just … easier.

    We all crave personal, face-to-face time with people, too, but there’s no sense in discounting the kind of inspiration, support, and awesomeness that can be found through seeking out making online connections as well!

  6. Nicole says:

    Wow! Fantastic advice. Thank you for sharing! I totally agree and I’ve seen the success of those who do the same.

  7. Michelle says:

    “IRL” bugs me too! (like .tif, I have as many or more online friends compared to “real life” friends!) This post is great – thank you, Tara :)

  8. Veelana says:

    Thank you – you are right. The phrase IRL *in real life* will be stricken from my vocabulary.


  9. Irene says:

    Great post, as always!

    I never get enough of this theme. I’m finding lots of useful info about this also on your ebook. Thank you!

  10. Janice says:

    Couldn’t agree more! I have never been comfortable with the ‘IRL’ terminology – If I must clarify or separate, I use ‘online’ and ‘offline’ but only when I’m speaking of specifics that take place more or less in one place or the other, in the same manner I may say ‘at work’ or ‘at home’.

    I’m a WYSIWYG kind of gal. Authentic.

    Oh, that just made me think that it may be interesting exploring the idea of WYSIWYG and coding in terms of living life. Such as, there are times I use (and prefer) WYSIWYG and there are times I prefer manually coding – wonder how that might apply to life.


  11. Amy says:

    Thank you! This bothers me too. In fact, for me, my online life is sometimes MORE real than my offline life, because I feel like I can be more myself online. Not everybody wants to hear everything you feel and think in ‘real life’, whereas online, if they don’t like it, they can just leave my website, and I don’t have to worry about it. Thank god.

  12. I am new to blogging and social network sites, so I have not developed any sort of “persona” on the web. Most of my writing has been in email messages, which are usually much too long! If I don’t know the person ahead of time, I cannot imaging what people (in general) might want to hear from me! Any suggestions as to where and how to start? Valentine