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Panic and Take Risks!
By Joyce Jace -- April 4, 2001
As content providers and/or Web site owners, we must continuously perfect our writing skills. The Web is about "content" which is largely transmitted through words.  As we move from the stodgy old way of writing and towards a more enlightened perspective…we have to take risks with our writing!  Part of that risk is realizing that the old ways of behaving in the "real" world may not be acceptable in this new "virtual" world.

As a concerned writer on one of my hundreds of writers' groups pleaded, "When is this bloodletting going to stop?" We're sitting here helplessly at our computers watching and holding our collective breaths, as one after another dotcom becomes a "slashcom".

Joyce Jace

I don't know about anybody else but I am finally at peace with my life as a writer and working from home. If I have to single-handedly make the World Wide Web work…then so be it! I refuse to go back to a job where my freedom to choose was dictated by someone else.

I'm staying and so should you. Don't let these horror stories scare you away from the Web. The virtual world is still defining itself. It's making up the rules and as writers we need to respect this chaos for the time being.

The World Wide Web isn't going anywhere and it's certainly not going to implode on itself and disappear. Never in the history of the world, have so many people been privy to such a wide-berth of knowledge. I've almost forgotten about the "dark ages" from a few short years ago when I had to run to the library or buy a book for information I wanted.

I no longer feel like an idiot after going to the doctor and having him/her spend those short 15 minutes with me. After giving me a diagnosis of some word that I've never even heard of, and feeling guilty for keeping the doctor from other patients, I typically walked away clueless.

I can now have them write down those words that half the human race can't even pronounce, turn on my computer, do a search for the word and be blessed with thousands of resources that will ease my fears. 

It is truly remarkable but, as writers, the virtual world has also got to help us make a living from doing something we love.

That's the tricky part. Dotcoms that crashed gave up too soon. They fell for the easy and immediate gratification from their efforts. This thinking doesn't work in the real world, and it certainly doesn't work in the virtual world.

So…what does work?

And finally, my years and years as a therapist are going to pay off. Human behavior must be acknowledged on the Web. Behind all the bytes, and flashy programs, and computer chips…are people communicating with one another.

When the listener of a message is confused about the message they are hearing, the research indicates that words account for approximately 7 percent of the impact of a person's message. The other 93 percent of that impact comes from a combination of visual presentation and nonverbal behavior. If we believe that we communicate with one another through words alone, we've been naively mistaken. The nonverbal communication between two people is conveyed through visual means and not through just our auditory senses.

You will see the above startling revelations about human interactions in many research journals in the field of Psychology. We so often forget that much of what we "say" to each other is transmitted through our body language, facial expressions and tone of voice. People make judgments about us, as strangers, through our visual cues that emanate from the above behaviors.

So how can we transmit those messages in the virtual world, when we can't even "see" each other?

We not only hear the message of someone's words, but we also view their physical behavior for cues. Especially around strangers, these verbal and visual cues allow us to make certain decisions about this person. Our biggest decision is usually, "Can I trust this person?"

If they are a stranger and are trying to sell us something, we really go into "high alert" mode. We realize that this stranger is asking us to part with our hard-earned cash. Whether we reach into our pockets or not, is based solely on our feelings of "trust".

As Web vendors, attempting to sell our wares from our Web sites, we've really got a difficult task on our hands. Our visitors cannot know if they should trust us or not. They can't "see" us to make those decisions. Rather than risk making a poor decision, they'll just leave.

So-how can we help our "cybervisitors" trust us? How can we exude that which they cannot see? Is it possible to make our "visitors" feel safe enough to buy our products?

Yes indeed.

Keep in mind that we learn to trust another person by "watching" them. We size them up by listening and looking.

You must provide your potential buyers with the information they need to "trust" you. This can be as simple as a picture and brief blurb about you to creating several different areas on your Web site that reflect different sides of you and your interests.

My site is loaded with all types of information about me. I write in several different "voices" and my writing is reflected in those "voices". I also use quite a bit of humor on my Web site. I like to surprise my visitors with my humorous "side". Humor is a wonderful way to make people feel safe.

If you write anything for the Web, I hope one of your goals is to become your own dotcom. Survival in this "cyberjungle" means that you have got to show people many sides of you and your life. The more information you give them, the more apt they are to trust you.

As is true in the "real" world, however, be aware of a potential pitfall.

Has someone you just met ever given you too much information about his or her life? If you've ever run into someone like this, it can be very uncomfortable. As they are telling you intimate details about their life, you find yourself feeling embarrassed. You might be thinking to yourself,

"Gosh-I don't think this person should be telling me this."

They are telling you way more than you would ever care to know about them.

That is not a good feeling, so take care with "how much" information you reveal about yourself on your Web site. Small tidbits of information to let them know there's a kind and caring person behind all those words will allow "cyberstrangers" to feel safe, which will increase their trust in you and your products.

The Web is, by default, a one-dimensional medium. Make it three-dimensional by showing your visitors the delightful sides of your personality. Let them feel as if they "know" you and they'll be more apt to trust you, your message, and your products.

Copyright © 2001
All Rights Reserved
Joyce Jace

About the Author
Joyce panicked and took a risk of her own. She quit a full-time, safe job and trusted that she could make a living from her bedroom/office as a Web writer. Her last rush-hour traffic hassle was in February of 2000 and she has no plans of every experiencing that hassle in the future. Visit her Web site "For Overworked Parents and Underpaid Writers", where she hopes to empower others to take a similar risk.

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