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Be Human Online

By Shannan Hearne-Fortner
Posted Thursday, October 14, 2004

How hard is it really to be human online? If you ran a brick and mortar business, wouldn't you be personable and friendly to everyone who visited your store? Why should you be any different with your e-store?

It is so easy to hide behind the internet store front and remain nameless and faceless. But it isn't prudent.

Take some time to walk out the front door of your e-business occasionally, too. Remember the green grocer sweeping his store steps? You should do the same. Visit with people online who are part of your same community. Communicate through email, networking, even making phone calls. Get out of your store and into your neighborhood! Be human online.

It is so easy to not be human when doing e-business. And it costs you so much business not to be human.

The next time you read an article or observe a discussion online jot down a note or send an email to the author or the participants or the subject of the discussion. Tell them why the information was of value to you, and even venture out to ask them some questions. If you write articles yourself, ask permission to quote the individual or even do an interview. Flattery in its most honest form will still take you far!

When you take a human approach to reaching people online, you get huge results. Very often, these same people who previously seemed so unattainable will visit your site, make comments, and even ask to publish or quote you and your content. With, of course, a link back to your site.

What did you invest in the contact? A few minutes. Twenty tops?

A perfect example is my dear friend Jan Crowell. Jan, who lives thousands of miles away from me, saw some of my posts on an email list and took a moment to get in touch with me directly. That was five years ago! She has been with me through infancy of ( as well as my youngest child. We have shared successes, failures, ideas, and a wonderful friendship. All because she took a moment to make a human contact with me. I'm pleased to have a wonderful review of a product Jan introduced me to on my web site. ( Jan has probably earned more sales of this product for me than I have done myself.

Jan has also done the lion's share of the design work for my site. Not to mention, my logo! She put forth a little effort to get in touch with me. And got a friend and customer for life. (And I don't know what I would do without her) By the way, you can email Jan at

When you become human online, and network accordingly, you create not only to traffic, but something even more valuable - credibility amongst people who in turn have important contacts and credibility with a broad audience.

There is a belief that everyone is connected to everyone else in the world by no more than six outward circles of personal connections. And that was BEFORE the internet. I have a personal contact base of people in over 14 countries. And my client base is wider than that.

So how do you make these personal connections?

Send email. Write letters. Ask permission to do interviews for articles. Write and tell authors how much and why you enjoyed their articles. Share your own tidbits of information with people.

I use a customer relationship management software program called GoldMine (TM). Other similar products include Outlook Express (TM) and ACT (TM). GoldMine helps me keep track of who I know, who they know, what people's interests are, how I can be of help to them, and maintains records of all the historical data of previous contacts with each of them. So when I get a new customer who has a similar niche market to a customer from three years ago, I can make electronic introductions and help two otherwise strangers do joint promotions. Thereby building further each one's personal contact base.

You can do the same thing. One of my personal favorite tricks is to print double sided business cards. Team up with someone who caters to your same niche market but does not directly compete with you. Print each person's business card on one side of a standard business card. Print twice as many and each of you carries a stack. Abbraa Cadaabbraa! You begin helping your friend make personal contacts while they do the same for you.

It always pays to be human instead of pushy. Don't be overly aggressive or scary in your contacts. Just friendly and helpful. I always give my initial contact emails and letters a final reading over and ask myself, if this were coming from my already pesky little sister, would I be irritated? If you can pass that test, then you area ready to go.

Are you writing people you don't know, and letting them know you're out there? Email makes it SO easy. Just don't "bug" people unnecessarily.

There was a time when only the most aggressive of sales people seemed to really utilize this human contact networking approach. More and more people are doing so today. With the growth of online communities, we are becoming more comfortable with the process. But don't be fooled into thinking that involvement in a community alone is not networking in this intensive form. You have to make personal, one on one contacts. It isn't enough to be known in your group. You must be known by your group.

Go to and pull up the home page for any email list that you are already subscribed to. Note how many subscribers there are. Now compare that number to the number of regular posters. There is usually a huge difference. Don't just read the emails. Participate!

Remember, the Internet is about community. Some people take this all so literally and focus like hell on making the discussion forums on their site active. That's fine, but there are many ways to build up a community of peers who can be called upon to do little favors for you. The endorsement of already respected online authors may well be more valuable to your site than a little bit of chatter amongst anonymous participants in your or somebody else's forum.

It is so important that you be on a prospect's mind when they actually decide to make a purchase. That is why drip and viral marketing are so popular. That is why so many of us use autoresponders. That is why we create mailing lists and use them over and over and over again.

Make a point of bumping into more well-placed people at the "virtual water cooler" via email, and don't be surprised if many of them find a way to incorporate you and your site into their plans.

This is not one of those crazy get rich quick schemes. It's real networking. It is how each of us can build a successful online business doing whatever it is that we do. As such, this strategy has real staying power.

Grab your virtual broom and step out your virtual front door. Sweep some virtual steps and be human online. Make some new virtual friends.

About the Author
Shannan Hearne-Fortner is the President of (http://www.Success and has been involved in the successful launch and growth of many businesses and online communities.


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