Again and again I hear from people that they struggle with social media. Two challenges always come up. Tell me if you resonate with these:
- Overwhelm – it takes a lot of time and feels like a distraction. You wonder how people manage it all.
- Effectiveness – your efforts on social media seem to fall flat, and you lack any real sense of connection with others. The “social” part of “social media” seems to be missing.
Bottom line: You just don’t feel good about social media, and it doesn’t give you a sense of accomplishment when you use it. It makes you feel like I did in the 7th grade lunchroom in 1986. Everyone had their Benetton game on fire, and I couldn’t figure out why my Smurf sweatshirt wasn’t gaining me friends.
So let’s — RIGHT NOW — solve this social media problem for you once and for all. I’m going to take you through five steps to social media bliss.
Let’s dig in.
Step 1: Put all of your eggs in one basket.
Whenever I see someone’s social media feed that’s lifeless, it is often because they are half-assing it. They are trying to do too many things and are spread way too thin. For instance, they’re trying to juggle all of these at once:
- Twitter updates
- Facebook updates
- Tumblr reblogs
- Instagram posts
- Snapchat stories (okay, this likely won’t apply to you if you are over 13)
- LinkedIn connections
- and so much else.
Spreading your eggs among too many different baskets has you running around trying to ensure all the eggs are safe. You take the boring middle-of-the road strategy for each. You are out of breath just keeping up with it all.
But when all of your eggs are in one basket, consider the difference. You protect that basket as if your life depends on it. You are all in with that basket. You want that basket of eggs to hatch, to learn to fly, to populate the earth with your amazing creations.
That is how I recommend you view social media. Stop half-assing it on all the channels you are told you “have to be on.”
Should you be strategic here? Sure. Do the needed research to understand:
- Who your audience is.
- What social media channels engage them most.
- Why that is — how it aligns to their passions or challenges.
You may even want to go through a testing period after you do this research. Set a time limit, like 60 days, to experiment with a handful of social channels. See what works for you, and test every assumption you have about if/how it engages your ideal audience.
Here is an example of how Leah Shoemaker, who is a designer on my team, focuses her social media efforts:
- Leah loves Instagram because it is simple and visual – perfect for design work. When she used Facebook she found she was constantly getting caught up in links that weren’t on topic (click bait). Now when she gets distracted by social media, she is getting distracted by amazing artists’ work.
- However, when she was running social media on behalf of other businesses she found Facebook engaged people in deeper conversations and was better for promoting events, and Twitter helped make real connections with other industry professionals.
She chose specific channels based on the effectiveness around her goals.
The first step here is simple. Pick ONE or TWO social media channels to focus on. All of the rest you should ignore. Think of it this way: it’s difficult to date 6 people at once, right? Impossible to meet the relationship needs to truly honor each person.
So view social media as a bit of a marriage at first. Invest in ONE person. Or in this case, one channel.
When I interviewed Dani Shapiro recently, she talked about how challenging it is when the device we create on is also the device filled with distraction — the computer.
So you could pop into Facebook or Twitter for a specific business purpose, and find yourself easily distracted by other things. I mean, Facebook and Twitter work really hard to distract you.
Above I described how Leah chose specific social media channels for specific uses; she uses time tracking software for the following reasons:
- To track how much time she was actually spending on certain websites so she could truly see where she needed to re-prioritize her time. In other words, she wasn’t guessing, and she wasn’t relying just on her emotions — she had actual data to see where she could be the most productive.
- She set goals in the program, attributed different websites and computer programs into “productive” categories, and could then see visual charts and graphs as to where her time was going.
Charts and graphs make everything better, right?!
Step 2: View social media as a salon, not a press release.
If your marketing strategy is “Tweet about my thing, then Tweet about it again” you are in trouble.
Not only isn’t that really marketing, it is just the worst use of social media. Don’t think of social media as advertising, where you measure effectiveness by “reach” and “frequency,” but rather think of it as a gathering of like minds.
This could be a salon, a cafe, a dinner party, or that awkward collection of stranded parents in the corner at a five-year-old’s birthday party. (Yes, I have a five-year-old.)
What do you talk about? Two things:
- First, if you are a caring and empathetic human being, you will first ask questions. You will endeavor to bridge the gap between you and them by seeking out stories, interests, and shared challenges.
- Second, you don’t tell people what you do for a living. No one cares about the job that you took on a lark when you were 28 and have been trapped in for the past 15 years. Instead tell them what you are passionate about. How do you like spending your time? Don’t bore them with how you spend 10 hours a day at some job. Instead, focus on the one hour a week that lights your fire.
How can you talk about your values, your goals, the thing you most hope to create in the world? First, you have to know what your mission is, then you have to reach people who will also feel aligned to this.
Let’s say that you are an author considering how to use social media. Which option sounds better?
- I wrote this book — you should buy it. (Advertising)
- I wrote this book because I was really inspired by (INSERT CREATIVE HERO). They encouraged me to think about _________. Do you have any experiences similar to this? (Discussion)
One of these adds spam to the world. The other creates a relationship. Always invest in the relationship. It is “social” media, after all.
Step 3: Tell us what you want to say in your heart, not what you think we want to hear.
Find your voice. If you are just going to retweet the same things as everyone else; just mimic the “best practices” and trends of the moment, then please do me a favor. Don’t bother.
The world doesn’t need for you to be the millionth person to retweet something. What we need is your unique voice.
My son has been watching Mister Rogers, and it reminds me of his singular, powerful message: “I love you just the way you are.”
That never before in the history of mankind has there ever been anyone like you. And never again will there be anyone like you.
This is your moment. What would you like to say to the world?
Step 4: Reward those you are already connected to.
Every time someone tells me, “Gee Dan, I hate Twitter, I only have 60 followers,” I want to puke.
Can you imagine having a party and having 60 people show up? Or you have a book signing and 60 people are in line to meet you? That would be awesome right? Why is that a “dream,” but 60 followers on Twitter is often considered an embarrassing failure?
If I could encourage you to do just ONE thing, it is this: instead of vying for that 61st follower, why not instead focus your energy on making the 60 people who chose to follow you feel like the most special people ever.
No, this is not about catering to an audience, but rather, appreciating that you have one. You can still be your weird offbeat self. But perhaps pay attention to those who have opted in to care about you.
I mean, isn’t that what we really want? To be recognized. To be appreciated. To be… break out the Kleenex… loved?
This isn’t rocket science either. Ask your audience questions. Respond to them. For example, I wrote three blog posts recently that each asked a question at the end. I received dozens and dozens of responses, and then responded back to each one.
It felt AMAZING. Recognize those who recognize you.
Step 5: Identify five people to invest in.
Grow your audience by investing in them. Find five new people on social media whose work you love. Invest in them. Tell them what you love about their work and give them a follow. The key is to make this authentic — to truly find work that inspires you, and be honest with the person about how you feel.
Consider how much you would brighten their day by not just clicking “follow,” but sending a thank you Tweet. And perhaps not just that, but sending them a thank you email. And then perhaps sending them a thank you letter in the mail.
And imagine how much they would notice you if you sent them a plate of brownies. I’m. Not. Kidding.
There has been so much talk about “vying for influencers’ attention” in the past five years. Do you know what influencers like? Brownies. Do you know how many brownies they receive in the mail each year? NONE. Give them brownies. With a lovely handwritten thank you letter.
If you would like to hear more of my thoughts on social media, here are some previous blog posts I have shared on the topic:
- My social media mid-life crisis (December 2015)
- How to Stand Out on Social Media: CARE (November 2014)
- The Mindless Robots of Social Media “Best Practices” (July 2014)
- I Am Changing How I Use Social Media: MORE Social, LESS Media (January 2014)
- Attack of the Social Media Zombies (August 2013)
Are you still struggling with social media? Reply below and let me know how my team and I can help you with a specific challenge you are trying to work past.