“Social media” is a phrase that gets thrown around quite a bit. Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google Plus and the like have changed the way we interact with each other and how we define being social. They help us to keep up with loved ones and create contacts we might never have otherwise. It has helped us become active participators when before we were only passive receivers. Wonderful.
That said, the typical merit of a Twitter account, or a Facebook profile, is usually the number of Followers or Fans. They are something familiar and scalable and they bring us some measurable comfort in a digital world. But how much potential do they have to create powerful relationships?
Our online contacts are not just profiles and “About Me” pages. They are real breathing people, who approach the computer or phone with all the same emotions as us. Following someone on Twitter doesn’t mean you’ll buy their product; reading someone’s blog does not guarantee a book sale; asking your friends to participate on your channels doesn’t mean you’ve built an audience. You must always put yourself in the shoes of your partner(s) when you’re attempting to make an impact on the web.
A better way to understand social media is not as a place where you need a presence, but as a tool to connect with others. Remember – you may not even need to use it; if your audience isn’t there then you don’t need to bother. Time is a precious asset and one you do not want to waste. Instead, ask yourself: “What social media tools do I enjoy using? Which ones fit well into my life? How can I ensure I am always delivering value?” If you cannot express your intention honestly – flaws and all – then who you are on social media will never be genuine.
The value of social media is when real people connect with others – friends, family, professionals, and brands. Focusing too heavily on numbers is being seduced by the comfort of being “social” from behind the safety of a computer screen. Make real contacts, do not overly censor yourself, and never sell short the people on the other end. We are not so different after all – truly.