Thursday, May 20, 2010

My Seven Musings on Social Media

Despite the fact that I’m technically a social media “professional,” I highly dislike it when people refer to me as a “guru” or “expert.” How is it possible for anyone to be an “expert” in a field still in its infancy? Hell, we’ve all been using social media—the same social networking sites—for the same amount of time. On the other hand, though, there are those who “get” social media and those who don’t. I believe that there are plenty of insightful minds that have a unique perspective to offer regarding the social media space—and I include myself as one of them. But I will always correct someone who refers to me as an authority in the digital space because I still learn something new every day. Here are just some of my recent musings in regards to the social media movement:

1. Social media is not your savior.
Social media is a tool—a platform—to connect with others like never before. Too many people out there think of social media as an end rather than a means to reach an end. The truth is: social media by itself isn’t going to save anyone—it’s how the medium is used that has brought so many personal and professional brands success and direct access to their enthusiasts. Just remember: simply being involved in social media is not good enough—doing something with that presence and maintaining a strategy that allows you to be original and fun is what will take your brand to the next level. And even beyond that, unless your brand is consistent and delivers a quality product or service, social media—no matter how it is used—will not hide your flaws.

2. Participate for yourself first.
In this case, it’s okay to be selfish. Social media, while inherently about conversations and connections, must add value and utility to your life, or brand, in order for it to be worthwhile. Thus, you must receive some added benefit from your participation or else there’s simply no point. While building your brand in the social space and engaging with others, don’t lose sight of why you’re there—to express your thoughts and ideas. Connecting with others is just a part of the process. “News” is no longer simply about political unrest, natural disasters or economic uncertainty—our lives revolve around the social “news” of our friends and various circles of social influence. At the center of all those circles, though, is the self. Remember that.

3. Be a persona.
Take the mundane and make it your own. Chop it up, mix it in your mind and serve it to others in a fun and creative manner. The brands that succeed best in the social space are those who personify their name and who demonstrate understanding of pop culture and “hip” trends. Be yourself but put yourself out there and kick your personality into high gear. This, of course, doesn’t work for everyone. But, from my experience, establishing your niche and being creative are never hurtful in establishing a connection with others and leaving a memorable brand impression as well.

4. Social media is not your megaphone.
My biggest problem with some people in social media—and especially on Twitter—are those individuals and companies who utilize the platform not for engagement or adding value to the lives of followers, but rather as a megaphone for their agenda. I’m sorry, but that’s not what social media is all about. Just like any other marketing medium—know your audience and cater your messages to them. At the same time, know your brand and stay true to it. Never, ever ask your followers to re-tweet what you share. That’s just absurd. As my good friend Amanda says: “I realize that I have that option, thanks.”

5. Always question the obvious.
This point isn’t necessarily particular to social media, but it’s still extremely relevant. Why? Because there’s a lot of hype and exaggeration in social media. Take everything with a grain of salt and reckon it with what you already know. Be skeptical of “news,” question sources and always dig for your own truth. Learn how to cut through all of the junk and get to the valuable grains of information and entertainment that you seek.

6. Be honest, open and vulnerable.
One of the aspects I love most about social media is its candidness—the requirement of disclosure and openness. People know that nobody is perfect. In the social space it’s vital to show your imperfections and connect with others who are enduring the same hardships—or successes—as you. Because the truth is: when you open yourself up to others, they’ll open up to you. And that’s what being social is all about. (P.S. No “corporate speak" allowed!)

7. If you think you shouldn’t post it, do it anyway.
Don’t hold back, dive in headfirst and take chances. Laugh, cry and over-share. Be witty and original. Bottom line: don’t question yourself. People will understand your brand more if you say what’s on your mind. Granted, there are some topics and posts that are not appropriate for social media—think racism, stereotyping and other offensive content. But the overall point is to interact with others who either agree or disagree with your views. This sharing process allows us to learn and connect with our peers.

What are your thoughts on social media? Would you add to or take away from anything on this list? Why or why not?

Speak up—tell me what you think!