Social Media a la Mode

Posted Jul 7, 2009 & filed under Technology, Boise, Confab, Culture, Opinion

I have a degree in Communication with an emphasis in Public Relations and Art. I like to think of myself as a visual communicator. I’m another creative mind in the office, trying to hone in where I can best apply myself. I’m here for Carew Co., our clients and projects, gluing it all together.

Before you read this please be aware that these are my opinions.
I have no degree in social media (is there such a thing yet?), no specific social media agenda, and no concern as to whether or not anyone supports my opinions.  I use social media for enjoyment.  I also operate the social media accounts for several local businesses and nonprofits.  This is not a full time gig, although I do tweet a lot.  My first social media experience was with an AOL chatroom at a party in 1995; the type of chatroom MSNBC’s Chris Matthews lives for.  I’ve been using some form of social media since about 1996.  As social media has grown, so has my use.   I’m not sure if I consider my social media use a skill or a habit; maybe an addiction—but I can quit any time!

Once deemed a fad, social media is now the pulse of how we communicate around the world — even in orbit!
It is of-the-moment, and when I think of social media I have a tendency to be blind-sided by Twitter and Facebook; the Web’s two fastest growing social media platforms (according to This Week in Tech).  But there is so much more! There are the kings of the past, like MySpace and Friendster, or the up-and-comers like Loopt or Brightkite (both social networking sites based on location).  There are blogs, message boards, online social gaming, online dating, professional networking, social networking, social messaging and on and on.  The web is more accessible and more of us are connecting: our new social mixer is found online, often known as what I fondly look forward to as a “Tweet-up.”

That “new car” smell.
It’s easy to forget how quickly things change and it’s easy to be blinded by the greatness of one thing.  At first, I thought MySpace was the bee’s knees.  It was while using MySpace that I realized what I wanted from social media; it was not something I could get from MySpace.  MySpace was “used.”  I began to shop around.   I consider myself to be a social media consumer and client – I expect quality, ethical business practices from companies I partner with.  I’m comfortable with firing a company that is not meeting my expectations or needs.  Facebook got a pink slip.  Using a particular social media provider is a choice; although some become so mainstream they seem elemental in everyday life.  Like Reagan’s anti-drug campaign, I must remind myself to “just say no.”

Add this social media myth to your list —
I am experienced in social media, but I don’t proclaim myself to be a social media guru or expert—I don’t believe there is such a thing.  Social media is too new for anyone to be an actual expert in the field.  Those who claim to be are giving themselves the title.   It’s not that I think these people aren’t knowledgeable about social media, but they should consider the title of “Consultant” or “Professional” before tagging themselves as experts.  Social media experts are a figment of the web’s imagination.

How many hours do you spend on social media?
I’m usually ashamed to admit how many how many hours a day I spend online, “tweeting” or looking at friends’ profiles.  According to Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers, to be great at something takes you roughly 10,000 hours doing that thing.   He uses The Beatles, Bill Gates and Robert Oppenheimer as examples of his theory.  These men put thousands of hours into their work to perfect it—to be experts in their fields.  How many hours have I put into social media? Well, nowhere near 10,000!  I am no expert; in order for me reach social media expert status I’d have to spend 416 days, uninterrupted, using and honing my social media skills to consider myself an expert.

You can read further about Gladwell’s “10,000 Hour Rule” here.

The key to social media success is honesty.
Whether social media is used for personal or professional purposes, the outgoing message should always be honest and maintain the voice of the communicator.   Another tidbit I’ve learned about social media is to HAVE FUN.   Some of us get too serious about social media.  I make my own rules.  On top of honesty, I “keep it real” (within my audience’s comfort level), I don’t censor myself (outside of incriminating evidence), and I’m consistent and attentive.  I guess these are my Golden Rules of Social Media.

If social media were like karaoke —
I would get boo’d off stage!  How do I receive positive feedback from my audience?  Are they attentive, engaged?  Is our communication healthy, comfortable?  How do I measure these results, these feelings?  How do I know if the social media platform I’m using is working for my message?  I look at my audience, my “followers:” they gain from my messages and I gain from their responses—and vice versa.  I value my audience and I try to please.  It’s not just about my message, it’s about listening, too: social media is two-way communication, and many forget about that.

Social media is a snowflake.
I don’t believe social media is for everyone or every business.  Like relationships, not everyone gets along – and sometimes there are true loves.  Social media is worth flirting with to find out if there is a future together.  Ten thousand hours from now I might be able to write a bible on the subject, but for now?  I just know what I know, and I want to share that with what you know, so find me…

Leigh Ann can be found through these social media sites: