4 Tips For Cultivating An Inviting, Warm Space Online
It is incredibly easy to compare our own online spaces to those of others. Who has more followers or gets more likes? Who is growing faster than we are or is more popular? I didn't create my online healing community with a goal of growth. I never believed my account would draw in large numbers and high engagement. The growth was organic. It is the result of being vulnerable. Followers are drawn in when they can find themselves in the content. They stay when they are encouraged to be active members of the space and feel heard, seen, valued, appreciated, and loved.
Create a visually appealing space in which you share your story with pride and strength. Cultivate a space that is warm and inviting by being a grounding source of support for others. Engage, engage, engage. Support others who are working, like you, to change conversations and promote healing.
Always be sensitive to vulnerable users. Always err on the side of caution when sharing messages. Always disclose that these are experiences, not medical/expert advice. Always prioritize your mental, physical, and emotional health. You are here to heal too.
Some tips for cultivating an inviting, warm space online:
Share your story in however much detail you feel comfortable with.
Be vulnerable. Talk about stuff that nobody else is talking about. Open up these conversations, even if you don't see anyone else doing it (especially if you don't see anyone else doing it). This means there's a need.
What this tells your audience: You're leading by example here. Readers will find comfort in your words, even if they can't relate to your specific situation directly. Over time, they will begin to see you normalizing vulnerability as a tool for growth and feel invited to undergo the same process.
Feeling burnt out? Take some time off. Having a difficult week? Remind your audience that this is normal (we're human!) and mention how you're healthfully coping with this. Embrace all emotions and life moments. Showcase the good and the bad.
What this tells your audience: How many times have you heard Instagram described as a "highlight reel"? This tendency for users to only post about and speak to pieces of their lives that are good leaves followers feeling like they simply don't measure up. Meanwhile, they're not getting the whole picture. When we break through this habit and embrace our humanity in its entirety, our audience feels relief. They feel safe and can relate. In turn, they feel like they can talk about their difficult weeks too.
Interact, engage, encourage.
Take advantage of tools that allow for direct follower interaction. Post question submission boxes and polls to your stories. Tell stories in your captions and task your followers with sharing their own in the comments. Your content is a conversation, not a showcase.
What this tells your audience: Audience engagement is everything. As a producer, you have the power to start conversations in your space, but what if it's one-sided? Giving others a voice is the best thing we can do for our audience members.
Be reliable and consistent.
You don't have to post every single or even multiple times a day, but show up for your audience often. If you need to take time away from this online space, let your followers know so they don't worry or wonder what is going on with you.
What this tells your audience: Healing is work that requires stability. When we are looking to heal, we're looking for roots and the ability to ground ourselves. Staying active in your space by consistently sharing some means of content tells your followers that you're here, you've shown up, you're continuing to show up, and they can reliably find you.
Excerpted from A Body To Love. Copyright © 2021 by Angelina Caruso. Used with permission by Mango Publishing Group, Coral Gables, Florida. All rights reserved.
Angie Caruso is a health, wellness, and food writer and developer based in NYC. She’s also a recent Fordham University grad, where she studied Communication and Culture. Her work strives to open conversations about mental health and eating disorder recovery by fostering an encouraging, uplifting community. You can connect and keep up with her over at @healthfulradiance on Instagram.