Considering how many of us in the UK have at least one social media profile, it seems that we all have some sort of relationship with it. Whether we use it for work or pleasure or even if we try to avoid it like the plague – social media is unavoidable.
Whichever side of that spectrum you fall upon, it doesn’t change the fact that the social media sites are perhaps the most prevalent aspect of modern society. Tweets, Likes, Shares, and every other spark that makes our phones buzz with life have taken center stage, for better or worse.
With such recognition going to social spaces, it’s worthwhile for anyone and everyone to take a look at how to be good at social media. When I say “good”, I mean both as a consumer and a producer of online content.
Over a series of four articles I want to help lay a foundational understanding of social media. Good and bad alike can result from any forum where people gather, and social media is no exception. My hope is that I can enlighten and embolden you to create a social space for yourself that is alive and useful for you.
1) Social Media is a Tool, not your enemy
To the uninitiated or inexperienced, Social Media can be quite intimidating. When you add into consideration the speed with which new social sites are created (and old ones are updated), the intimidation factor only increases as times rolls on.
My advice for newcomers and veterans alike is simply this: take it easy!
Social media presents a huge opportunity. Step back from your preconceived notions and take a look at what Social Media actually accomplishes. Millions of users all converge on individual sites to share thoughts, feelings, cat videos, and anything else that you might want to share. The potential outreach in your area alone should stagger you.
All eyes are on social media, and every user has the chance to catch another person’s attention. Personally and professionally, platforms like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Vine, Snapchat and so on allow you to connect with others like nothing before them has ever been able to.
2) Social Media is for everyone in almost any niche
Check out the Instagram account 10secondswithgma. Then go look at pictures from Formula 1 Racing, Goldendoodles, and Minimalist Bullet Journals all on the same site. A single social media platform plays host to potentially millions of unique profiles. The four examples I’ve listed are (in my opinion) just a pretty fair sampling of the diversity you can find on Instagram alone.
It doesn’t matter if your goals are professional, personal, or completely outlandish: There’s a platform for you. Find your niche and start making content, and the community will inevitably find you.
3) Social Media is about sharing and connecting
Remember when you were a kid and your parents made you share your toys with your sibling? This isn’t that kind of sharing.
Social media is just what it claims to be – social. Social psychologists (yes, those exist) have actually come up with an interesting idea to explain how social sharing works. It’s called “Social Reciprocity”. Basically, all it means is the more you share with others, the more willing others are to share with you. Think about how you met your best friend and I’m sure you’ll see this principle at work.
Sharing leads to connection. Connection leads to conversation (which just happens to be my next point).
4) Social Media is a conversation
The ultimate goal of social media is to build and maintain relationships, and the way you do that is by being an active participant in a two way conversation.
When was the last time you had a good conversation by just staring blankly at your real-life partner? Probably never. Conversation is a ping-pong match of ideas and words that create meaning. The fact that social media allows that ping-pong match to be virtual doesn’t change the rules of good conversation. Be attentive and participate, and you’ll be surprised at the results.
5) Social Media Should be fun!
People usually only choose to interact with individuals they like. There are always exceptions to that rule (usually revolving around holidays and workplaces), but it’s largely true. As with most things, if it’s true in life, it’s true on social media.
Nothing about social media should feel forced. You may want the graphics to look just right and your captions to be witty and intelligent each time you post, but personality and fun can take enough precedence that a slight dip in quality is forgivable.
Go back and look again at those Instagram accounts and tell me that their owners don’t have fun. You probably can’t (even with the non-smiling minimal journalist). The care and detail that they put into their social media presence reeks of creativity and fun, and yours can too.