Sometimes, I’m struck by the irony that I’ve half-chosen, half-fallen into working with social media because to be honest… I totally
hated disliked it at first. It seemed to me to be immediately dominated by self-promotion, mindless chatter and inanity that I didn’t much see the value of. (Yup, it also seemed that I was fond of making sweeping judgments!)
When Facebook/Twitter/Instagram/Pinterest etc. caught on in a big way, I got on these platforms out of curiosity, novelty and peer pressure – but could never really put much energy behind them. Part of the reason was definitely the fact that I had a BLACKBERRY back then, on a 3G network (it seems like such a long time ago doesn’t it?! But it really isn’t – only three years!). It wasn’t so difficult to keep those platforms at bay because loading those apps on my crapberry was a pain. The thing heated up alarmingly and fearing for my life, I risked only using it for texting and calling.
But after getting an iPhone, and getting hooked on the beauty of having a supercomputer in your pocket, managing social media in my life got a lot more complicated. I grew from checking my phone five times a day to probably… every five minutes. The apps work beautifully, look amazing, and not to mention the fact that the iPhone is a true wonder as a communication device and a toy – even though we tend to take it for granted now. (It helps to remember that a fraction of its computing technology was used to take Apollo 11 to the moon to appreciate how far we have come!) Working in marketing/branding/advertising also basically doesn’t allow you to dismiss them outright because as social media platforms evolve and extend their ever-expanding reach (I’m looking at you, Facebook – what are you intending to do with WhatsApp?!), it’s pretty hard to ignore its power and influence, to say the least.
These days though, I have a more moderate view about social media, and I’ve come to appreciate it very much – but like most things in life, I’ve had to be mindful of its power, while making sure I see and use it for what it is – a tool. A very useful tool that’s supposed to serve YOU. One that could even be really meaningful if wielded carefully.
I approach personal social media use with intention:
- Curation. I carefully curate the people I follow on my Facebook feed – keeping it to friends who share thought-provoking, funny, insightful articles and close friends whose lives I want to stay connected to, especially now that I’m far away physically from them all. I especially appreciate people who put out inspiring and uplifting material with positive intention. As a voracious consumer of content, I also love that it’s such an easy way to see what’s occupying people’s minds and hearts right now.
- Self-expression. Those ‘self-promotional’ people that I judged at first…? Well, I realized that there was a thing or two I could learn from them as well. (I also learned that being judge-y in general is really not helpful!) I’ve learned that social media is a wonderful platform for self-expression – of all kinds – and it’s wonderfully freeing and amazing that EVERYONE gets a chance to share whatever they want to, about themselves and their passions. Now, I appreciate this act of self-expression so much and treasure that I have the chance to use this tool. It really is a form of power and the fact that anyone with a computer has access to it (theoretically, at least) is one of the reasons why I feel this is one of the greatest times to be alive.
- Know when to disconnect. This is a tough one, because sometimes I find myself losing even basic etiquette – checking my phone at the dinner table, for example. It’s embarrassing when someone has to point it out. And especially for highly sensitive people, you can actually pick up energy from reading and tapping onto people’s status updates, photos and feeds all day, every day. It’s especially important to take a step back and disconnect from all that static you pick up. It’s an ongoing wrestling match I have with myself and now I am strictly enforcing NO CHECKING OF PHONE AT MEALTIMES, at the very least.
And an intentional approach for my clients too:
- Authenticity. To show the most authentic version of your company’s essence, without overly embellishing it. Of course, you have to adapt content to best fit the platform – aesthetically pleasing images, engaging and easy-to-digest content, etc. All of this takes some artsy craftiness (in a good way!) and it comes with getting to know what place your brand occupies in your customers’ hearts and minds, and expressing this meaningfully.
- Inspiration/Entertainment/Information. How could you add to their lives? Are you inspiring them, adding a little bit of joy to their lives – or sharing knowledge and information that could be useful in some way? Even though what you put out would take up just a fleeting moment of their time each day, it still matters – so make it count!