I'm not an expert in social media.
Yes, I juggle numerous Facebook and Twitter accounts.
Yes, I maintain two blogs.
And, yes, social media is as much a part of my life as getting up in the morning and going to bed at night.
But I'm no more of an expert in social media than I am in automotive technology. And, for the record, the only thing I know about cars is how to start them!
But I do love social media, and I do love learning new things (except car stuff). So, if passion and attitude and tenacity count for anything, I guess I'm doing OK navigating this ever-changing digital landscape.
With that in mind, here are 10 things I've learned so far in my role as social media coordinator for the York Daily Record/Sunday News.
1. Those who succeed in using social media, whether it's maintaining a blog or Twitter or Facebook account, are those passionate about it. Your enthusiasm will come through in your tweets and posts and your interaction with others.
2. Be yourself. So I'm a bit, er, a lot, of a word nerd, a little obsessive-compulsive and totally into Rolos. Chances are if you follow me on Twitter or read my blogs or my Facebook posts you know this. And, guess what? I'm cool with that. It's who I am. I think that people want to interact with others who keep it real. They can tell if someone is faking it just to get page hits.
3. Social media is a great way to meet people with whom you share a common interest. Take me, for example. I write books for kids and teens and, through various social media platforms, I've connected with other authors around the world. While I would love to meet my cyber friends face to face, that's rarely possible. Still, we're building a network, creating a sense of community and supporting one another despite being thousands of miles apart.
I also have friends who do not work outside the home, and they rely on this virtual support system as their water cooler talk. When your work is by nature personal and isolated, social media and networking can be a lifesaver. Or, at least a sanity saver.
4. Managing social media is a lot of work. Let me say that again: It's a lot of work. It reminds me of building a campfire. (Not that I do this, but that's beside the point. It's a good analogy. And, besides, I enjoy a campfire when somebody else builds one.) You start with the tinder and kindling and gradually grow the fire using larger pieces of wood until it is a glowing masterpiece. But if you think you can just sit back and toast your marshmallows, think again. In order for the fire to keep burning, it has to be fed. Constantly.
Social media is no different. You can design a great blog or create a Twitter or Facebook account, but if you do nothing with these social media platforms, your digital footprint won't grow. People might come once. Maybe twice. But they won't keep returning unless there is new material to see and read.
5. Interaction and knowing your audience are key. If all I do is post stuff - like "I went shopping." - I'm not going to be very successful. I need to ask questions and respond to readers' answers. Social media is about engagement. It's about building relationships, and one of the ways you do this is through conversations. So instead of saying I went shopping, I said:
"I've decided that I need to stay away from Kohl's for awhile. They suck me in with their coupons and then I get the Kohl's cash so I go back and buy even more. I think I've had four huge shopping trips to Kohl's in the past month! Gotta hide those bills from Hubs. So sorry, Kohl's. I'm breaking up for awhile. Oh, I mean after I go back on Wednesday to spend the $30 in Kohl's cash I just earned. (Smiles) Am I alone here peeps?"
Now, which post do you think others would respond to?
6. Social media sites have become landing pages for news. People use them to post news and go to them to get news. Last Saturday during that crazy storm, people were on Twitter and Facebook talking weather for hours. I learned from @Stauchistory on Twitter that his daughter was celebrating her sweet 16th birthday at the West Manchester Mall with her friends, and he was worried (and that made me worry). I saw pictures on Facebook that my friend Paula Gettys Little posted of her flooded home. I read Melanie Crisamore's post (West Manchester Mall + Ripped Roof = Scary Situation) on the Teen Takeover blog of her "great date night."
The way we consume news and share news has changed. It's become more conversational and social and instant and personalized.
7. I've learned to take chances. Not everything's going to work. That's life. Sometimes I post content that I'm sure will draw responses, and it gets none. And sometimes I post something just because ("OK. So, what 40-something wakes up with a zit on her nose? Seriously. Didn't I pay my price like 30 years ago? Not fair. Well, guess there could be worse things. But still. Makes me feel like I'm in high school again.") and it gets lots of hits. I'm not even going to try to figure this one out.
8. I've learned that I love Twitter. There's something about this microblogging platform that appeals to me. Having to condense a thought or, heck, an entire story, into 140 characters is challenging and fun. I love its symbiotic nature, and that it's in real time. I've learned that if I keep my tweets to no more than 120 characters they are more easily retweetable. And, the more retweets I get, the more people I'm reaching.
9. I've learned that social media can be a time hog and that I need to pace myself. I could spend hours commenting on others' blogs and responding to their tweets and pictures and videos. You have to find a balance, one that allows you to have a normal life like most of your neighbors. Don't let the virtual world become your world. Life is for living.
10. I've learned that for better or for worse, social media has changed the world. We're more connected than we've ever been, despite spending less time together physically. I'm not sure if that's good or bad. Maybe it's a little of both. I know things about people that I never would have known if it had not been for social media (BTW, kudos to Sarah Rentzel Jones who announced via Facebook she is expecting her third child. YAY, Sarah!).
There's power in social media. It can bring people together for a common cause, or tear them apart. It can help mobilize and energize an effort and lead to change.
But, like most things in life, there are negatives. I'm not blind to them. Neither should you be. By allowing conversation, you do lose some control. But don't be afraid of this. Debate and disagreement can be healthy.
In the end, I think the positives of social media outweigh the negatives.
I started this column by stressing that I'm not an expert, and I'd end it the same way. I'm just someone who's learning as she goes and trying to help you learn, too.
Catch me here
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