Will someone please come up with a better name than ‘social media’? Yes, it is correct because the media that is Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and such are media driven by socializing, but too many people either don’t use the term and instead just mention the sites they use, or redefine the phrase to mean ‘modern advertising’. I haven’t found a better term yet, but I’m trying; especially, because I am giving talks and teaching classes about it.
On October 6th, I’ll teach a class in Social Media Marketing for Artists (page 64) – which has that dreaded work ‘marketing’ in the title, but the topic will be to artists who have a bit more of a business mindset. That will be at the Oak Harbor campus of Skagit Valley College. On October 20th, I’ll give a much shorter (and cheaper) version of the talk at the Mill Creek Library; and that title is even more business-like; Social Media Marketing for Entrepreneurs and Small Businesses. That’s one end of the social media discussion, but it has to take place with the understanding that social media persists because of the social part, not because of the media part. Humans are social creatures, even the ones that don’t care about business.
Facebook et al is not just a trend. Trends and fads are temporary. Few other technologies have reached so many people so quickly. Facebook just had its first day when one billion people used it on the same day. One billion. Not one billion accounts. There are already over 2.2 billion accounts. One billion of them used the site on the same day. Skeptics can question the number that were fictitious, but every human system has imperfections and few of them reach such an engaged audience, even only counting authentic accounts. One-seventh of humanity. That’s a community that shouldn’t be ignored. The other sites wish they had those kinds of numbers, and perhaps they will eventually.
I enjoy giving talks and teaching classes. Find something people want to learn about, check that against what I can talk about confidently, and talk to them and with them, not at them. This week, the local library system (Sno-Isle – which has nothing to do with a snowy isle but is based on the two counties of Snohomish and Island combining their resources and bits of their names) – the local library system asked those of us who have made presentations to fill out their database. Internet forms, such a joy, though this one had two benefits: 1) other libraries in the system will know what I can talk about and possibly schedule, and 2) I finally compiled the list of all the talks I’ve given within the system. It’s a long and diverse list. (Here’s version from this blog.)
Except for personal experience, I am not an expert in most of the topics in my presentations. Mostly, that’s because the topics are either so personal or because the topic is so new that any expertise is ephemeral. Maybe there are PhDs in social media, digital photography, and modern self-publishing, but any knowledge they gain in school is antiquated by the time they graduate. Such topics can be handled in talks that are guides in shifting landscapes rather than map directions marked by waypoints.
Helping people set up social media campaigns is fun, even with the frustrations. Twenty years ago, people with causes or businesses had to pay advertisers and buy ad space broadcasting to as many people as possible, touching on lowest common denominators, hoping to luck upon a small percentage of potential interested people. It cost money, time, and was very inefficient. That process is still in place. Social media gives advocates and businesses the opportunity to target niche audiences with specific messages for very little money and time – with enough practice.
And, there’s the trap. That ability to target an audience and sell to them is appealing to the organization. It is not as appealing to the audience. The audience rarely arranged itself specifically to be marketed to. (Though there are fans of teams and brands.) The audience is people, a group of individuals with something in common, usually gathered because they have something in common and want to share their thoughts; i.e. they are socializing. The communication has much more to do with what they want than with what an organization wants.
The trick is confusingly simple. Be social. Be authentic. Be curious about the community, but particularly the individuals. Sure, you have some message you want to get across; but, that’s secondary to their message, the sharing of which created the community. Be a part of the community, not an outsider trying to knock on the door hoping to get a foot in the jamb.
My favorite analogy is a party. If you walk into a party with a handful of brochures passing out business cards and a sample case treating the gathering as a sale call you’ll get a different reception than if you walk into the room with something for the potluck and spend your time asking people about their day and how they are doing. Just like in the non-electronic version of socializing, some people mingle naturally, some need practice.I enjoy crowds, online and offline, and there are periods when I find myself stepping back, deciding not to engage.
There was a street dance party a few days ago. (Okay, it was a parking lot, but close enough.) I talked to a few folks, tried to hear them over the music, got in some very sweet dances, and spent about half the non-dance time just watching the crowd. They are a community that I feel a part of. My business could use more business (got a project that needs to be unstuck?) but I wouldn’t play politician and shake every hand and kiss every baby. It would be rude, and a bit unsanitary.
I try to treat my social media presence the same way. I use it for socializing primarily, and use it for business somewhat. Facebook is mostly for friendly stuff (and am surprised at how much unfriendly material is posted – and then blocked). Twitter (@tetrimbath) is more for news, for my education, but also to learn about topics pertinent to my business and my clients’ interests. LinkedIn is all business, but with a nod to humor. Google+, Pinterest, Reddit, Ello, and others all have specific yet overlapping uses. I use them all as I need instead of wasting a lot of time placing them all at the same level of importance.
Ironically, the best way to give the Social Media talks would be to use social media; but that works best for me, not the people who want to learn more. That’s one reason I give the talks in person – because it’s more sociable.
So, here’s the part where I do mention my services because that’s one of the functions of this blog, which is yet another aspect of social media. Social media is a new part of the world. As long as the Internet is functioning, people will be socializing across it. Whether Facebook, et al persist or are supplanted by yet some new bit of ingenuity from some teenager, is impossible to know. The basics will be the same as the basics of human communication; be nice, be authentic, balance listening and speaking, and exercise good manners – with a sense of humor. That may be the best way to conduct the most important business – being a human in a community of humans, being sociable.