This post is for the youth who aspire to become Internet communicators. In an era when fame and follower counts are overemphasized, it seemed apropos to offer what I consider the best assets of an Internet communicator. Guides to attain optimal personal brands and the most amount of Twitter listings represent red herring pursuits as compared to the cultivation of these skills. I would suggest focusing on where it matters most; the development of timeless strengths that transcend media. Here are the five tips:
1) Become a Great Writer: Writing well still represents the most important skill set of a communicator. The two paths to great writing (in my opinion): The ability to creatively convey great ideas and crisp grammatically-correct prose (I know I’m one and not the other!). Whether you prefer Dostoyevsky (ideas) or Turgenev (prose), you need to be a master of one and/or the other online.
Great writing also necessitates storytelling. Without writing excellence it will be hard for people to consider your content worthwhile. Even videos and games require scripts… Master writing and you master the essential cornerstone of communications. In that sense, I value an English or Literature degree as much if not more so than a Communications degree.
2) Subject Matter Expertise: This represents my greatest hope for younger communicators. One must develop substantial experience in a communications area or vertical market segment to truly become a master. The great bloggers and influentials out there not only know how to communicate, but they also possess subject matter expertise. That’s how they rise above the pack. Their experience clearly distinguishes them.
For me, over the past 16 years I’ve cultivated experiences in the technology/telecom vertical market, the nonprofit vertical market and the communications profession. I don’t stray beyond those areas of conversation, because frankly I don’t have substantial experience to draw upon, and could only wage a mediocre conversation at best.
3) Passionate Creativity: While creative skill with words can be intermingled, one still needs a muse. Passion inspires creativity. If you love what you write/talk about then it will ring through like a red shirt in a sea of grey.
When one has passion, brilliant metaphors, unique perspectives and emotion all interweave themselves into communications. You can see this from 140 characters to long form. Passion manifested in creative expression exudes itself attracting interest and conversation.
4) Other-Centric Thinking: Beyond all of the Cluetrain rhetoric about no market for messages, etc., truly great Internet commmunicators serve their stakeholders. One could debate whether this is intentional or an act of natural instinct. Regardless, the great ones know their stakeholders and give them what they want regularly.
5) Develop Consistency: Whether you are simply a conversationalist or a content creator, you must offer a consistent presence. There are plenty of self-proclaimed experts and there are others who demonstrate flashes of brilliance, but they rarely stand the test of time. The great ones deliver regularly and frequently over time.
Leading Internet voices become known for their consistency over the years, and build reputations around it. A word of caution though: Regularity doesn’t equate to brilliance. This skill is listed last for a reason. In the words of Emerson, “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines.”