Social Media StripTease

Over the course of my marketing and advertising career, I have provided marketing, branding and communications strategies for many. Since 2000, I have been working with companies and people helping them understand and grow social networks that suit their needs and wants. While news of our failing economy was breaking in the fall of 2008, I became to realize I am advocate for two themes: Transparency and Accountability. These themes along with a devotion to social networking naturally combined to put me in position to understand and teach people about social media and how to use it. Although my passions have remained consistent, I have found myself getting really disenchanted by articles and conversations about social media because the bulk of the information people are sharing is misleading.  Actually, disenchanted might be understatement. At one holiday luncheon of career minded peers, I actually found myself so disgusted by a conversation about Twitter and Facebook I contemplated excusing myself to sit alone at the bar. (Never a good sign in the middle of a day on a work day) I stayed of course, because my colleague’s feelings were more important to me than my discomfort. Trying to settle my discomfort and draw from a positive I realized their conversation promoted a voice in my head that said, “Time to Get Naked!” Well not literally but just as Dr. Phil asks people to “Get Real,” I really wish the overload of misleading social media information will go away. Social media is here to stay. I would like to give everyone a fair shot to understand and use it in a way that best suits their individual needs. Hopefully the information below is helpful to you. I encourage any comments that will further demystify the space as I am sure I have left some things out.

Six Social Media Concepts Undressed

A Decade in the Making – It might be hard for people to realize some forms of social media existed way before Facebook came on scene. I recommend spending some time on Wikipedia searching the following topics: Social Media (pay close attention to the book recommendations on the subject, my recommended favorite is “Wikinomics”) Social Networking, Blogging, History of Wikipedia, Real-time web, Craigslist, Friendster, LinkedIn, MySpace, Twitter and Facebook. These topics will give you a good idea of the history and reasons behind the development of the industry. As these topics “hyperlink” (reference other topics via easy click-able links, just as I am doing here) you will also be given the opportunity to go even deeper with your research. Note: As you carry out this research assignment you are actively participating in social media as the content is provided by Wikipedia users. You can choice to read only or participate if you have factual information you can provide and are willing to list your verified resources.

Social Media and Social Networking, What is the Difference? – Social media and social networking are often intertwined as being the same thing yet they hold different meanings. I tend to use the term social media more when I am referring to the tools and use social networking when I refer to the strategy involved in building a network of people. You can also say that social media is information that is coming direct from the source without traditional media filters and translations although people use social media tools to share information that originated from traditional media with their networks. Technically both exist without any internet integration. One could argue, gossiping to a friend about an event you witnessed firsthand is social media. Going to an event that you are likely to meet someone, exchange cards and follow up with later is social networking. Internet integration with social media/networking is buzz worthy because it enables people to share and collaborate at an accelerated speed while simultaneously archiving communication (words, videos, pictures, and links) creating easier opportunities for spreading the information and reaching more people. It is community building without restrictions of geographical neighbors. It is old school word of mouth marketing, grown up and addicted to steroids.

A Tool is a Tool, is a Tool, is a Tool. – Take a little time to reflect on the conversations and information you have read about social media/networking. Now replace the main word in the conversation/information with any old tool. I will use hammer for my reflection:

  • “I don’t get hammering.”
  • “I am addicting to hammering”
  • “I don’t have time to hammer”
  • “Hammering for Your Business”
  • “Become a Hammer Authority”
  • “Do I need to be hammering?”
  • “Did you see her hammer yesterday?”
  • “I have 1000 notches on my hammer”
  • “I am a hammer guru”
  • “Can you measure your hammer time?”

Are you seeing where this is going? Kind of silly to focus on the tool, isn’t it?  What did people talk about before the tipping point happened for Facebook and Twitter? Advancements in tools happen all the time yet the reasons for using the tool do not change that much. We want to learn/stay informed. We want to be entertained. We want to connect with liked minded-people. We want to promote a product, service, idea. We are looking for new opportunities. We want to stay connected to family, friends and people we respect and admire. The point is, identify an issue or desire first then use the tools accordingly. Align the use of a particular social media tool to a desired outcome. If you achieve your goal, great!! Share your good fortune with others. (Note: YouTube is great source to share and find “how to” videos) If you don’t achieve your desired outcome, then use the very same tools to reach out and ask questions so you can learn more. If your goals are personal, you should be able to find someone pretty quickly that can give you a little advice to get there. If your goals are related to your business, then you will probably need to seek out the advice of an expert. Understand this; the space is changing rapidly. In order for someone to be an expert they have to constantly learn new information, understand programming and coding methods, understand proper social media ethics and communication styles and be able to measure results based on desired outcome. There is not a “one size fits all” social media plan that works for everyone and every type of business – Which brings me to my next point.

Rely on Sources that Speak Your Language – Do you know why people use jargon? Me neither but I am guessing it comes from a subconscious desire to be perceived as “smart” which is not entirely bad if the results do not keep others in the dark. If someone intents on sharing and teaching you something, they will take the time to learn your language. My point is, if you don’t understand something it is not because the information is over your head it is because the source is wrong for you. There are many different types of social media practices. Some methods are even teaching people how to become glorified spammers. Understand who you are and what you stand for. For businesses, determine how you want people to perceive your brand. Ask yourself: What is more important to me – Going for the quick sale or building long term relationships? Understand the diversity in backgrounds of social media experts and what their advice/practices are really meant for. Some are promoting methods meant for “work from home” pyramid marketing programs, in which case often the integrity of your brand/reputation is overlooked. If you believe in “Do what you love and the money will follow” you are probably not going to be able to live up to that believe by aligning yourself with a method that promises you will get rich quick. Also be careful of following advice just because someone has a lot of followers, bulking up on quantity is the easiest thing to do and teach via social media methods yet quantity does not always mean quality and/or produce measurable results. The trick is making sure people are really tuned in to what you are say, stay tuned in and act on what you are sharing.

Social Rules of Engagement – No matter what tools you are using there is no magic trust building tool. Trust is the foundation for any relationship and there are no shortcuts to build either. The tools you are using are secondary to the words you are saying. How you communicate and how often is where your focus should be. The best guidelines that I can come up with for communication are not new ways of thinking. Reading, “How to Win Friends and Influence People” by Dale Carnegie will provide you with all the information you need to have success using social media. Another great guide, “The Four Agreements” by Don Miguel Ruiz. Here is a brief explanation of what the agreements are and how they apply to social media.

1. Be Impeccable with Your WordStand for something, whether you are communicating original content or sharing things that interest you, be consistent. Give people a theme  they can rely on you for. Do what you say and say what you mean.

2. Don’t Take Anything PersonallyIt is likely a person will imply emotion when they read your words which might prompt them to question you. Don’t take this as an open invitation to fight. The goal is not winning; the goal is understanding and connecting. Listen, appreciate their interest/time and agree to differ.

3. Don’t Make AssumptionsIs everyone on your friend’s list really interested in your “lose weight quick” diet pill? Probably not. If are promoting something, ask for permission first and/or state you will be doing so clearly up front. Asking questions is a best practice in social media. Words mean different things to different audiences. Be clear about who you are speaking to and how they would like to be addressed. Also understand, not everyone uses social media tools the same way and for the same reasons. Assuming everyone is trying to build bulky networks and will graciously want to connect with you when you have not even taking the time to read their profile, will get you nowhere.

4. Always Do Your BestThink about how you are presenting yourself. Would you talk to your boss and/or grandmother in the same way you speaking online? If you would not share, use the same words or do a similar action in person, it might not be a good idea to do it online. Your actions online are not separate from you, they are you. A good way to determine if your online actions are in line with who you are is imagine how the same means of communication would play out in real life, if you cringe from embarrassment or see an awkward sitcom-like scenario playing out in your head, you might want to rethink what you are doing. Note: This is also a good exercise to do if you need a laugh, as Larry David from “Curb Your Enthusiasm” knows, you can get yourself into some pretty crazy situations via misunderstood communication.

The Big Picture – Thanks to internet search engines, we live in a time with unlimited sources for information. Thanks to social media/networking, we also live in a time where we can connect directly to people who provide information. Unlimited information and people means only one thing to me; that anything and everything is achievable. This concept is being proven over and over again. Innovation is happening faster and faster each day. People don’t have to be in the same room anymore to co-create, run a business or to learn something new. You can find and follow streams of information from people you respect and admire the most. You can research people with a certain expertise and reach them directly for developing new ideas. This space and time is not something that should be feared. There are unlimited opportunities for you to explore using social media/networking. Don’t let the space intimidate you. Set a goal and then uses the tools to help you fulfill that goal.