Social media can be a self-centred pursuit. We post about us, what we’re doing, what we’re thinking, where we are and who we’re with. Also, whichever platform you choose to use, we often apply our own self-censorship and filters to what we choose to share. We want to present ourselves in a positive light and this medium allows us to do just that. This is perfectly sensible, but it does have consequences.
On a wider social scale there is concern about how those struggling with life react to newsfeeds full of seemingly happy, positive people with incredibly successful lives. For anyone starting to feel depressed about how their life doesn’t quite seem to match up to those you see online, remember that everyone is applying the same positive filters to what they share. The difference is that you know the real story about your own life and not what’s really going on in theirs.
The same applies to business. You can feel intimidated by the success stories you read from your competitors or others in a similar situation to yourself but, like you, there are probably many other things going on behind the scenes in these businesses that they choose not to share. The only negative events that usually find their way onto social media are occasions when the individual is not themselves at fault and they are angry at someone else, or times when something has gone so badly wrong that it has become comical and even they see the funny side.
The fact that you may (consciously or subconsciously) filter your social media output to present yourself positively is not only normal but completely understandable. The problem really lies with the self-centredness. Imagine if you took your online persona and transported it into the real world. If you were at a networking event where your tweets were conversation and your LinkedIn updates your anecdotes, how do you think you’d come across?
In real life, continually spouting lists of your achievements to those you are trying to communicate with makes you something of a bore. We do want to highlight our positive qualities but people who are incapable of listening or talking about anything other than themselves are usually given a wide berth in reality. “Be interested not interesting” a watchword for networking, and I believe it applies to social media as well.
If you use social media purely to broadcast information you are missing the point and haven’t noticed the word ‘social’. To use this medium to its full potential you need to stop treating it as a sales pitch and recognise that it is about discovering people, making connections and building relationships. Growing an online community around your business is not just a numbers game, using followers and likes to keep score against others. Like an offline networking community it can provide links, leads and serve as a jumping off point for new and exciting projects.
There are many tools available to assist with social media and they provide a good service for the broadcasting aspect. However, to do more than just post information the process needs to be human. To engage with people in a manner beyond simply responding to questions or thanking new followers you need to be conversational, genuine and interested in others. Building a genuine community this way not only raises your level of authority and status as a subject matter expert, it brings together people who genuinely value you and the product or service your business provides. This community, if you’re interested and not just interesting, will provide you with new opportunities.