We are in the middle of Week 2 of our 8-week program. In the last post, we discussed the importance of collecting email addresses and sending out emails such as newsletters and updates Yes, even in today's world, sending out emails gives you more return that the fleeting "likes" and "retweets" on Twitter. Now that you have the infrastructure in place, it is time to talk about content!
Any email you send should contain information that is of potential value to the people on your email list. Thus, creating content always starts with defining and knowing your audience. Emails are usually created in a way that they point to few new stories on your website. This way, you are providing an assembly of exciting, new content and the recipient can click to the content of interest. Here are few basic rules to follow:
Welcome to Week 2 of our program. In Week 1, we chose platforms (web and Twitter) and started to develop our own content. Congrats to all of you! Well done. In this week, we will work on .... email!
Most of the time, email is a hassle for us. In fact, I have written about how to deal with the daily flood of email before. Today, however, we are taking a different viewpoint. I will teach you how to use email to gain and amplify your voice.
Having a list of email addresses (and names, ideally) of people who are interested in hearing from you is more powerful than having the same people as followers on your social media platform. Why? Email carries more weight, if you are able to put your thoughts in somebody's inbox, you have managed to reach their to-do list. To be clear, I am not talking about spam. I am talking about delivering content that is meaningful to the people on your email list.
Today, I will teach you the basic infrastructure you need for this. Later this week, we are going to watch this in action when I send out the next monthly Network Neuroscience newsletter. In case you have not already signed up, I highly recommend you sign up here.
I use Mailchimp (no commercial interest). I am sure there are other free tools. In essence, Mailchimp gives you all the features you need to manage email campaigns. You can sign up for a free account. Be aware that the email address you use will be the one that shows up as the sender email address once you send out a mass email to your list. Once singed up, you can create a sign up form (see mine, as an example) that you can put on your website. Simply cut and paste the html code into your website. Make sure the sign up window on your site is super prominent. Then, on your site, you make reference to the email list and make sure your readers understand that they will have privileged access to more content by signing up.
Give this a try and see how this feels. In the next post, we will talk about creating a newsletter and the logistics around that.
Welcome! Thank you for joining us for our unique and slightly eclectic 8-week program that helps you find and build an audience online. We are beginning today! My motivation to teach you is that there are so many people who have unique knowledge and perspectives that we all could benefit from. However, unfortunately, most of the online content is some form of click bait that tries to steal attention and money instead of provide something meaningful to the global conversation.
I have developed this course with trainees in academia (especially underrepresented voices) in mind, but I hope that it will also be of help to others. In contrast to all the bad writing about how to "trick" search engines and other usually meaningless tools derived from the (shady?!) world online advertising, my course is focused on few solid strategies that help you get started. There is no success guarantee since there are many factors beyond my control that determine the outcome of your efforts. I hope you will find this exciting and helpful. I always appreciate feedback, best way to reach me is on Twitter @FlavioFrohlich.
Let's begin! Today, we are taking our first two steps of week 1.
Step 1: Decide on social media platform and sign up
There are a gazillion of online platforms and one mistake I recommend you do not make is to sign up for too many of them. After all, you do not want to waste hours of pushing content to all the numerous platforms and spend even more time engaging with your audience on multiple social media platforms. Many of these platforms can be very addictive (I once deleted my Twitter account to take a break from some unhealthy habits) and the more platforms you use, the more likely you are to get trapped. Your goal should be to identify the one platform that is most used by your audience and to focus on quality content and engagement for that one.
For me (and likely for you, too), the one social media platform that stands out is Twitter. Like it or not, this is the place where the conversations are taking place, including exchanges about training and research in STEM. But here is the key: one such platform is enough. For example, many years ago my research group at UNC set up a Twitter and Facebook account. We struggled to create enough content for both platforms, so we decided to delete our Facebook account. We never looked back. So simple.
So, if you have too many accounts on different social media platforms, disable all of them but the one on which you are most likely to find your audience. Also, delete the corresponding apps from your phone and get some hours of real offline life instead. If you do not have yet such accounts, I recommend you sign up for a Twitter account. We will spend quite some time these next few weeks talking about how to (not) use that account. Building an online audience is fun but your mental well-being should always have priority.
Step 2: Buy a web URL and (learn how to) set up a basic website
Part of our program is to create a more stable presence online that does not require you to constantly create new content in the form of posts and tweets. And yes, there is nothing better than a good old website for this. It used to be that creating a visually appealing website was hard and cost money. Thankfully, today things are easier. If you can, I do recommend you spend money on buying a URL. If not, no reason to worry. Most website providers also offer free URLs but they are not that memorable (e.g. www.whateveryourURLis.weebly.com instead of www.whateveryourURLis.com). For example, I have purchased a long time ago the URL that spells out my name (www.flaviofrohlich.org) and one that spells out who I aspire to be both online and offline (www.networkneuroscientist.org, the site that hosts this blog). There is a seemingly unregulated business with URLs, so do not spend more than $20/year on a URL (I guess technically you rent and not buy them, so set them on auto renew such that you do not loose your precious URL in a year from today). Most website hosting companies (I use weebly, no commercial interest) offer the option to buy a URL, this is the easiest approach. It will take a bit of time to find a good URL since all the obvious ones are long gone. One option to consider that few people know about is to make use of all the new(er) domain endings (beyond your standard .com, .org etc). For example, I recently started two new websites with - what I think - really cool URLs using some of these new top domains: flavio.network and tACS.academy.
Once you have this all set up, you are ready for the next step, which we will cover tomorrow. If all of the above is old news to you, my task for you is to think about your online presence in terms of how you can reduce your broad but likely shallow footprint to few points of focus to build on during the coming eight weeks.
Welcome to a new series of posts on how to build an online audience. As a reader of this blog, you surely have a message and a vision that you would like to share with the world.
How do you do this?
You need to develop a network of tools to provide value to your audience. You think the internet has everything covered and you have nothing to add in terms of relevant content. Wrong. There is shockingly little independent information presented in a user-friendly way. Your opportunity is to find your unique voice and provide content that nobody else can provide, your voice!
To help you build your audience, I am taking you on an 8-week tour of how I approach this. Few months ago, I deleted my personal Twitter Account @FlavioFrohlich in order to regain my sanity. I have now activated a new account with the same handle, which has already accumulated a mind-boggling 20 followers! We will use this account to try out and demonstrate a set of different strategies to find your voice and build an audience online.
You may wonder why you would want to endeavor on such a project that can be misunderstood as a vanity project. My answer to this question is that the internet is full of regurgitated, often incorrect, often extreme content. The world will be a better place if we succeed in adding more perspectives, more diversity, more nuances, and more thought to the online conversation. In other words, I am saying the world is waiting to hear from you!
Here is our 8-week playbook. We are starting on August 19th:
Week 1: Getting the tools ready.
Week 2: The power of email.
Week 3: Stepping up online engagement.
Week 4: Videos > Pictures > Words ?
Week 5: Being real online without oversharing.
Week 6: Mindfulness (online)
Week 7: Amplifying your voice with $
Week 8: Reflections: Lessons learned.
I hope you will join me for this exciting adventure!
In the last post, I explored some of the underlying dynamics that are a likely culprit / source of our trouble with email. Today, I will further develop this theme and offer a set of practical solutions that have worked for me.
One important angle to the email trap is that promptly answering (all?!) emails feels good for a quick moment because we take it as a sign of how kind and engaged we are. Unfortunately, by replying to all emails (for many years my Sunday afternoon activity), you are soliciting the next volley of emails. You can get easily swept up by those dynamics. All humans crave in one or the other way for a feeling of belonging and of purpose. Creating an internal model in which we are inundated with emails that require our attention gives us the feeling that we are important and thus live a life of purpose. Replying to every message as fast as possible is giving us the feeling that we are connected and part of a social network. Yet, these positive emotions are not sustained in this process. Rather we increasingly loose our internal agency by replacing it with an external agency. We rely on what others drop into our inbox and pay with a lack of time and focus for the important priorities in our lives. As a result, we are getting more stressed and less happy, with the consequence that we are even less like to succeed with a more rational approach that requires more of our prefrontal cortex.
Somebody must stop this. Here is the system that I have developed. Give it a try and let me know how it goes by leaving a comment below.
When I went to college, email was brand new for me. I remember checking my email inbox multiple times a day in the hope that I would find an exciting message there. In many ways, this was a continuation of how I felt about my family’s (physical) mailbox when I was growing up. Every day, I was eager to get the mail to see if there is something interesting there. Rarely every was there mail for me (why should there!), so I started to write letters to an organization that was dedicated to the protection of birds, my favorite animals when I was a child. With my dad’s electric typewriter, I would write formal letters to ask questions about birds. It usually took a week or so to get a thick envelope back with an encouraging letter and some interesting booklets and copies of research publications. What a joy! With emails it was a bit different since as a student I did not find the time to engage people by email and thus the inbox was often empty.
Today, twenty years later, things are very different. For sure you will never hear me complain about a lack of emails that I receive. Quite the contrary, I am no exception in terms of the flood of (work) emails that I get every day. What might have stayed is the same is the thrill of opening the inbox to see if something magic has happened. Perhaps a paper we have submitted got accepted?! Perhaps I receive an invitation to give a keynote address at an international meeting?! This is one of the many reasons why most of us want to get email alerts and monitor our inbox(es) throughout the day, often also at night, on weekends, and during vacations. Yet, this attitude is bound to make us unhappy and unproductive.
It is hard to overstate how much email has changed our lives. The main point is that I can put something into your inbox in seconds that may take you hours to resolve. I can write “Please provide feedback”, attach a twenty-page draft and send it to ten people, creating a situation where I am stealing multiple hours from ten people, without any cost to me. This is grotesque but how this game works. Yet, most of us struggle to escape this game and find a healthy approach to email.
Let’s start with probing a bit deeper how many urgent and important messages I have received in my time as an academic so far. It is worth noting that email communication is a key pillar of the academic research environment. OK, let’s count. (1) The email telling me that I was admitted into graduate school. (2) The email telling me that I was hired as a postdoctoral fellow. (3) The finalized offer letter for my faculty position. One – two – three. These are important (and rather urgent) emails since they were of big impact for me and required a prompt response (1) Accepted – thanks. (2) Accepted – thanks. (3) Accepted – thanks. To be clear, I have received numerous emails that were urgent and not important. My favorite example: please review this document (only 10 pages!) by tomorrow. It is urgent since the sender has been procrastinating for weeks. Also, there are numerous important but not urgent messages (“We would like to invite you to give a keynote talk at [fill in fancy meeting] this fall”). See? The problem thus with treating emails (without discrimination) as urgent and, we are missing the chance to work on items that are truly important for reaching our goals.
Dealing with emails is often more than just work that does not advance you towards the realization of your visions and big goals. Rather, it can become a source of stress. I used to make the distinction between “looking at my emails” and “answering my emails.” I would open my inbox to quickly check if there is something that I felt like dealing with on the spot. Often, I would do that on my smartphone. Very few emails did get resolved when I looked at them. First, I did not have the right software tools and files available to truly process a message such that I could consider it to be resolved (and archived). Instead of forgetting the message until I found time to sit down at a computer, rather the message was playing games in my head and I would remember it and think about it multiple times until I finally sat down to deal with it properly. Just picture this. Anyone in the world with an internet account can easily find my work email address online and send me a wonderful but perhaps slightly lengthy email that includes requests that will get stuck in my head and ultimately rob me of a substantial amount of focused time. This gets compounded by the fact that many (including me for a long time) use their inbox as a never empty, stress inducing inbox. With this, anyone in the world can plant something directly onto my to-do list. Maintaining your own priorities that advance you and your work is very tough this way.
In the next post, I will provide you with a complete and practical strategy how to improve your life by dealing with email in a new way. Stay tuned.