When Social Media Isn’t Social

When I was teaching my social media class last spring, there was one idea that I wanted to make sure got through to my students:

Social media is just another form of communication.  BUT – it is a tool of engagement, not broadcast.  It’s specifically designed to create interaction.  The days of individuals and brands just shouting out their message and hoping it sticks somewhere are gone.

So it always surprises me when I see people using social media in a way that isn’t even remotely social.  Sometimes it’s introverts, who seem to think they are engaging even when they aren’t.  Sometimes it’s individuals or companies, who completely misunderstand the 2-way vs. 1-way nature of this new tool.

Your blog is not your diary.
I’ve seen too many blog posts that are little more than diary entries.  They seek neither to enlighten, entertain or inspire.  They ask no questions, prompt no replies.  And don’t bother commenting, because you won’t get an answer.

No interaction.  Ever.
I’m still amazed when I go to someone’s Twitter page, figuring out if I want to follow them or not.  I’ll scroll through a whole page of tweets and never, ever see another user name mentioned.  No conversations, no RTs.  Just a constant stream of mental ramblings or endless self-promotion.  I never follow those people – they show no interest in interacting with anyone, so why should I bother?

Keep complaints to a minimum.
All right, so we’ve all complained on social media occasionally.  It just seems a natural thing to do.  But keep it to a minimum.  I’ve actually unfollowed people who complain too much.  There’s just no value whatsoever in it.  It makes you look like an unhappy, whiny person – and who wants to connect with someone like that?

Also, NEVER complain about social media on social media.  If you don’t like it, stop using it.   Or start using it the right way, then you won’t have to complain about it.

Social media is a great gift to the world.  Hyperbole? I don’t think so.  It opens up the entire world to you.  There is so much to learn and think about.  So many people to learn from and connect with.  Use it correctly and you won’t believe how powerful it is.

What’s your biggest pet peeve about social media?

Image credit: michaeldb / 123RF Stock Photo


Why We Need Structure for Understanding

Structure du pont Corneille

I got a bit of a reality check last week.  My sister read the draft of my ebook that I thought was pretty close to a final draft.  Turns out – not so much.  She made a lot of really great points; because of my closeness to the subject matter, I made a few too many assumptions about what readers would understand – and how the information was organized.  It got me thinking a lot about structure.

When I was teaching my social media course earlier this year, one of the things I struggled with was putting structure around such a massive, often shifting topic.  Obviously, in teaching, structure is important.  But I also think it’s something that we instinctively look for – and not just when learning a new idea.

Structure means affirmation.
Chris Brogan wrote a post last week about plans and permission.  His premise is that when we’re looking online for ideas, what we’re really looking for is a plan for how to do something or permission to do something.  In the sense that plan = structure, he’s right.  We are looking for someone or something to tell us – yes, you’re doing this the “right” way.  Now, I’m not sure there’s always a “right” way to do something.  But I think it’s a part of our human nature to follow the pack; it gives us a sense of comfort.

Structure means it’s knowable.
Structure means that you can wrap your head around something – that it’s finite (or almost finite) and there’s a pattern or process that can be recognized.  It’s a step toward saying, “Okay, I can get my head around this if I try.”

Structure means it’s understandable.
Which is different than knowable.  If knowable means I can wrap my head around it, understandable means I can learn it, reproduce it, even modify it for my own needs.  When I learned French in high school, it was a very traditional method: you learn the French equivalent of English words, you learn the French equivalent of verb tenses, etc.  It’s based on something you know.  Several years later, I took a college-level course in French, which was based on total immersion.  All the lessons were in French – the theory was that you picked up what you needed based on context.  Maybe it works (I’d already learned the traditional way so I can’t say for sure) but the total immersion method seems tougher because the structure is much more loose.

When structure is lacking or not clear, we get tense, confused, uninterested.  The sense of overwhelm is huge.  Although I find mind mapping still a bit too loose for me, I’m going to try using it to help me arrange my thoughts on the ebook a little more clearly.

What do you do to try to put structure around the unclear things?

Don’t Take Your Expertise For Granted

It’s easier in life when there are absolutes.  We feel secure in knowing that black is black and white is white.

But life is rarely ever black and white.  And it’s those shades of grey  that can trip us up.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the word “expert.”  It’s a word I specifically choose not to use when I refer to my experience with social media.  Frankly, I don’t think anyone should be calling themselves an expert yet.  It’s too new, and we’re all still figuring it out as we go along.  Yes, some people know more than others.  But I mistrust those who use terms like guru, wizard and ninja.  They’re selling the concept of the word – not their expertise.

I was nervous about teaching my social media class.  Who was I to teach others something I was still learning?  I have to admit I was shocked that my relative expertise become apparent pretty quickly.   I was talking about various social networks that are part of my daily vocabulary – and most of my students had never even heard of them.

When you live in a certain world – like social media – it’s easy to take your expertise for granted.  You’re always hearing about new platforms, trends, best practices, etc.  And because it’s such a huge topic, it’s easy to feel that there’s no way you can wrap your head around everything.

And while that is true for many, many topics, it’s not an objective way of viewing your expertise.  You can’t judge your knowledge based on the total sum of what is knowable; you need to base it on your relative knowledge as compared to someone else.   One person’s novice is another person’s expert.

I was surprised at how quickly my teaching experience gave a boost to my ego.  That’s not why I did it.  But it helped me put my expertise into some context, and the result was entirely unexpected.

Unsure about your expertise in a certain area?  Try teaching it to someone else.  Write a blog post.  Teach a course.  Create an ebook.  Yes, it’s a scary proposition.  But it will be an amazing shot of pure confidence.