How Social Media Can Be Your Enemy

One of the evident marks of our time is social media. It has challenged our definition of friends, community, transparency, corporate accountability and movements. If harnessed properly, it is a tool that can be used to mobilise masses.

Recent history, such as the UK riotsEgyptian uprisings and more, is proof enough. Social media has made leaders, brands and celebrities more accessible.

Social media per se is neither good nor bad. It can be your friend or foe.It is worth thinking about how social media can be your enemy:

Don’t Use It

In this age, any organization, brand and cause that will effectively engage and mobilize people cannot do so effectively without employing this tool. Social media can easily be your enemy if you do not use it at all.

It is not true that everyone is on social media. However, the number of people on social media is too significant it can be corporate suicide to ignore. Organizations that do not use social media at all are crippling themselves.

Overuse (Whatever That Is)

Unless social media is your main focus or work, focusing all your energy on it can work against you when it usurps time and resources you should be using to focus on other areas of productivity.

Some organizations have gone as far as blocking access to social networks from their networks. This is becoming increasingly futile as people use their phones and tablets.

If social media is not your primary focus ensure you have measures in place to protect you productivity where it matters the most.

Engage

Another self-defeating thing I’ve noticed is organizations or causes that have Facebook pages, Twitter profiles, blogs etc that they are not active.

Social media platforms can take you where your target people are and those your organization serves can easily get frustrated with you and ditch your product for the lack of interaction with them.

It may be worthwhile for you to start with something simple like a Facebook page or Twitter account. Something you must never do: not interact on any platform at all. For the platforms you are on ensure that you are active.

Your response and how quickly you respond to queries on social media platforms is fast becoming a litmus test on the quality of client service you offer.At the same time, only using your online presence to only “broadcast” messages is uncaring and insensitive.

As you attempt to inform people of your cause ensure that you are engaging people; talk to them not at them. Social media has created what I call “brand personality”.

By this I mean that people are connecting with products as if the product themselves are individuals with personality. Social media has made alive the personality of brands.

If people cannot connect with your cause on social media with your brand’s personality they may not do so where it matters most

(PS: You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook and Google+)

Question: What other ways have you seen social media become work against a product, message or cause?

illustration by birgerking (cc)

What I’ve Learned From Twitter

Some reflections on what I’ve learned on Twitter so far:

Follow

People need you to give them a reason to follow you. Do you have something worthwhile to tweet or are your tweets relevant to them? At different stages I’ve followed different people depending on what I am interested in at that time. There are however, those that i follow constantly.

There are other people or organizations i follow “indirectly”. I do this through the use of private lists. I’ve also learnt that people follow you for different reasons. Some to spam, others because they want to “hear” what your thoughts are, others to engage with you on areas of interest. It’s normally the same in “real life”…

People may be following you but for different reasons. Some may follow because they are skeptics and want to be around to say, “I knew you wouldn’t be able to do it”. Others follow you because they believe in your cause, or want to learn from you.

Discipline

When I decided to get on twitter, I set myself a challenge; to say at least two things everyday that were edifying in some way. I do use twitter to interact and engage with other people also, but want to also challenge others as they challenge me. It was not a walk in the park at first but with time got better.

As an ‘aspiring author’ this has helped. I also used twitter as my practice field for blogging. I thought, “if I can commit to a couple of (edifying) tweets everyday, it will help my discipline when I get back to blogging”.

Nothing can be sustained without discipline. You are probably the most disciplined person you know! To know what you are disciplined in, look at the most defined areas of your life.

Worth

“140 characters?!” I get that reaction a lot when I explain twitter to people. They just cannot get their heads around the number of characters a single tweet can comprise (obviously they’re not on twitter). I’ve learned the value or worth of what we say everyday is not in the amount of words you use.

I’ve come to appreciate more the worth of words; how to use them to communicate. Tweeting has helped me get straight to the point of what I want to say. If it’s worth saying I challenge myself to say it in a single tweet. I think it’s the same in everyday life and not just in the “twitterspehere”.

The most important things we can say are normally phrases with very few words, “I love you, I’m sorry, Thank you”… [Click to Tweet]

When we use a lot of words sometimes, there is possibility of losing the essence of what we’re trying to communicate. The target for my tweets is 120 characters at the moment. Some of the deepest things I’ve heard or said have been phrases that are concise.

Community

Some people I’ve interacted with claim that twitter and social media in general, are a hindrance to “normal relationships”. I think differently. Twitter has closed the time and geographic divide for me. I’ve been able to interact with people who time and space don’t allow in real-time.

I dare say – with the digital age community has been redefined. I could be wrong,  but my take is if studies are done to contrast the “normal” community and social media communities there would be more similarities than differences. I’ve shared ideas and resources.

For the friends I follow on twitter and interact with in person, Twitter has enhanced relationships. It has helped either start or continue conversations offline. Through use of hashtags I’ve also been able to see what others are saying about a particular subject in real-time. I’ve also learnt to share more, especially when I visit websites or blogs providing the option to tweet the link. I think sharing is one of the characteristics of community, don’t you?

Capture

I always have an “ideas journal” on me, but twitter has become an additional means to capture an idea and to get other people’s insights or thoughts on it. Some of my blog posts are actually “tweet spin-offs”.

When I get ideas or brainstorm I normally capture them in short phrases, so twitter has become great resource for capturing ideas for me. Sometimes those reading my tweets may see a tweet but I see a marker or reminder for an idea, which could be a talk, blog post, an article, an initiative etc

What have you learned from Twitter?