When you begin on the Internet there is so much to read and so much to learn, that you never imagine yourself as a contributor. You join groups to learn, but you adopt a passive behaviour. You lurk. Hundreds of thousands of people lurk, sadly. They never have the courage to write a view of their own.
I remember my first post, to Usenet in 1995. I wrote to the list "Rec Arts Dance" about dancing in New Zealand. I wrote the letter and saved it. The courage to post it didn't exist. Next day I edited the letter several times. Finally at bedtime I sent it. I got up and checked the mail three times during the night. Nothing. All next day - Nothing. To this day I have no idea how many people read that letter, but nobody was interested enough to reply. There's a lesson. Most of what you write on the Internet has a very small audience.
Fear of posting is irrational, but very common. You'll get over it, just like you got over the fear of public speaking. It's the same problem really, fear of the unknown, the audience reaction.
This is important. Although by lurking in groups and reading posts you are learning a little, you are not involved. You don't have anything at stake. Once you express your own view, declare your presence, you read with increasing interest and relevance. No matter what you say in the beginning you'll probably be ignored. Nobody knows you, what you say probably doesn't quite fit into the conversation. Expect "nothing". Be pleased if someone acknowledges a new voice.
Over time if you continue to post occasionally, what you write will improve, and because more people know you, more people will read your work. Slowly you learn how to communicate in a peer to peer world. Here is an example from a Yahoo Group.
On Behalf Of James Smith
Sent: Wednesday, October 12, 2005
I joined this group some time ago, I have read many posts, and I have replied to some. I have a question for anyone willing to share their experience and thoughts.
How do I best take advantage of this group and LinkedIn?
I have never really been one to say “hi I am a...here’s my card and what do you do?”
I feel challenged using a signature line?
I am constantly asking myself “is this the time to promote myself?”
Then there's this whole “relationship thing” that feels like the final straw...HELP...;-) Does anyone understand what I am sharing? I really do want to build my network, I just feel “networked challenged.”
I look forward to your thoughts and help...
From: “Duncan, Steve”
Date: Fri Oct 14, 2005
In a word, blog.
Just over a year ago, I started a blog. Not entirely sure why, because at the time I was scared to death someone might actually read it.
I was petrified that someone searching Google with my name might find me.
Surely I’d be fired, or embarrassed, or both.
But I was drawn to Blogger like the proverbial moth to flame, and I wrote some posts. People came and read them. They even left a comment or two. Slowly I changed, and became bolder. First my name, then my other information made it onto the site. Then I became more active in LinkedIn as I got more comfortable.
I think the key is the intrinsic exposure curve of blogs. At first, you think it’s very public but soon you discover how obscure most blogs really are. By the time it starts to have any exposure (it takes time to get into search engines, get links, etc) you’re going to be more comfortable with the whole self-promotion idea. You’ll also learn about yourself in the process.
Along the way, the what, how and why of LinkedIn will become more obvious, more fun, and more useful.
Even if you don’t decide to blog, still join LinkedIn ;-)