In this recent post, we discussed how it's absolutely necessary that you get your manufacturing business online.
To properly get your manufacturing business online, you have to get yourself online.
(Hopefully, if you're reading this article, you're at least a little familiar with the Internet landscape!)
Forget all the business stuff for a second. You're going to be online for yourself - you'll post as yourself, follow things and join groups that interest you, read articles that catch your eye, and whatever else you happen to stumble upon in your Internet adventures.
(Speaking of such things, StumbleUpon is a fun and informative way to spend your time online. Simply sign up, add your interests, and click "Stumble" to explore the great wide web.)
Even though we're telling you to put aside the business stuff, being online personally will help your business as well. It lets people see you as a relatable human being (which can make them sympathetic to your company) and do a little recon before they approach you in a professional setting.
Plus, the friends you make online will also be your friends in real life ("meatspace," as the Internet folk like to call it).
Networking online is just as effective as networking offline - perhaps even more so, since you'll be interacting with people you'd never meet otherwise.
Why else should you be online? For a few reasons:
- People can tell when you're not Internet savvy, and it makes you look out of the loop.
Take this article on why there is no such thing as intuitive tech, for example. As someone who has grown up with technology and computers and the Internet, this person is outing himself as being severely behind the times.
If I had a dollar for every older person who complained about how tech is too confusing so we should go back to the good old days of covered wagons and dysentery, I could pay back my soul-crushing school loan debt in its entirety.
But there's no stopping progress. If you want to be an asset to your business, it's time to leave the past in the past and get with the modern times.
- You'll be able to get your business stuff done faster if you're familiar with how online services work.
The most well-known programs use similar navigation, symbols, and terminology - a function known as "user friendliness."
If you can familiarize yourself with the functionality of popular programs, using new programs becomes a very intuitive experience. Once you get good at it, you won't need directions or a manual for common software.
- More experience with anything makes you seem more worldly - great for connecting with potential clients.
Not only will you seem wiser, but you'll be able to connect with a larger variety of people.
As millennials age, you'll start to see them in executive and managerial positions. Having the ability to converse on their turf will give you an edge.
- Being familiar with the Internet is a valuable skill for any professional.
Do you know what advice they're giving in college these days? "Consider taking a programming/computer language course - you'll be more valuable to ALL potential employers."
That advice applies to all working adults, not just those who are currently in school or seeking employment. Being knowledgeable about tech and the Internet is becoming a basic requirement - like having a college degree instead of a high school diploma.
So where does an Internet newbie start their online journey? Here are some suggestions:
1. Make a profile on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.
Familiarize yourself with the atmosphere, the popular language, the etiquette, and how your interests manifest on each social network. They're all unique, and it's an amazing demonstration of how humans build communities.
You can experiment with following strangers on Instagram, talking at (@) people on Twitter, or browsing through novelty Facebook pages (the Facebook page "I F***ing Love Science" is a fun place to start).
2. Join and participate in forums like Reddit, Quora, and any others that interest you.
Don't worry about promoting your business. Be yourself - crack jokes you think are funny, post pictures of your cats, ask questions you've always wondered about (like "why does everything in Australia want to kill you").
Steve Irwin was either crazy or unbelievably brave to hug these things every day. Probably both.
Immerse yourself in these communities. Jump into debates, comment on other people's posts, and have fun! The best way to get comfortable is to dive right in.
3. Subscribe to a casual blog.
Here's an example of a great casual blog. It's titled Whatever and it's written by John Scalzi. His blog is quite popular due to his quick wit and entertaining subject matter.
If Scalzi appeals to you, look around for other bloggers who scratch that itch. Being able to quickly find related articles/publications/information is an invaluable skill.
If Scalzi is too informal or unrelatable, there are all kinds of bloggers out there. You just have to find one you like.
4. Start a personal blog.
Remember John Scalzi's blog we just talked about? You can make your very own casual blog, filled with whatever makes your heart smile.
No one's expecting you to come out of the gate with Scalzi's knowledge of Internet culture. But, he is a good study on Doing It Right for beginners.
Even if you don't follow through past the first week, create your own blog on WordPress and start writing. You don't even have to make it public - just as long as you're getting familiar with how it's done.
You can use it like a diary, post your favorite recipes, start writing a book, share interesting news, whatever! There are no limits on personal blogging material. (Just keep in mind: if you write about dicing people up and hiding the bodies, somebody will probably call the police on you.)
5. Play some games.
Games, like blogs, appeal to a wide variety of audiences. You can find games online, you can get them on your smartphone, and you could even borrow your kid's PS4 for a night and have them talk you through their favorite games.
You probably grew up with arcades and games like Pong, Space Invaders, and Pac-Man. Those games still exist - just on different mediums. And, many new games use those same elements in a more modern way.
This "exercise" is about trying something new that appeals to younger people. Most of our clients have limited experience with tech outside of their job, and it's always great to see those walls come down.
Games are a fun, relaxing way to challenge your mind and add a new experience to your collection.
6. Watch some videos on YouTube.
The last suggestion we have for you is to find a YouTube channel or series of videos that you enjoy. As with everything else on the Internet, there are many videos and many YouTube personalities for many different audiences.
If you're interested in strange creatures, zefrank1's True Facts series is both educational and extremely silly.
If none of these sound like your cup of tea, you can always use the friendly neighborhood search bar to find some videos you like.
YouTube is also a great way to discover new music, find user reviews on products you want to buy, and catch up on the news. It's always amazing what the Internet has to offer.
All of this advice comes from a millennial who grew up on this stuff - and I'm probably about average on the tech knowledge scale.
You don't have to be an expert, but you should be comfortable using and discussing technology and the Internet. All of the tips outlined here can help you become familiar with online functionality and culture.
It's not just you who could benefit from this new knowledge - you'd be amazed what it can do for your business as well.