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How to Stand Out on Social Media: CARE

This year, I have completely reshaped how I use social media, and it has been an exploration. I’ve tried to share the journey so far:

As the year comes to an end, I am reflecting on how social media has excited me this year, and how CARING seems to be the crux of how I want it to feel.

THE LEAST CROWDED CHANNEL

To me, Instagram feels the way Twitter used to feel: a smaller community of people who are sharing a lot of original content. This, as opposed to a firehouse of aggregated links, Retweets or reblogs of things others have shared or created.

To show up on Instagram is to share photos of your life. Compare my Twitter feed to my Instagram feed. There is a huge difference: Twitter focuses mostly on topics of being a creative professional, and Instagram focuses much more on what I experience day to day in the world around me.

Is one better than the other? Of course not. If you are a writer looking to glean tips for building your audience, seeing a photo on Instagram of me painting my porch will not be of much interest.

What I do find intriguing is between networks: on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, you get a more complete picture of me as a person. Each is used differently, the content I share on each network is unique, and for those using social media as a truly “social” purpose, this affords opportunities to develop relationships.

Let’s look at an example. I have written before about how author Rebecca Skloot helped her book, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, succeed with years and years of hard work prior to publication. Now, on Twitter, Rebecca has 38,100 followers.

This summer, Rebecca started actively using Instagram. How many followers does she have there? 266.

What she shares on each platform is indeed distinct, though each offers a different nuance to the larger narrative of her life and her worldview. What is so compelling to me about Instagram is how quickly you see “the real person.” There is something that is always down to earth about Instagram because you aren’t as quickly judged only by professional headshots and one-line bios of bestsellerdom.

What if Rebecca’s work resonates with you, and you hope to consider her a colleague or a connection in some small way? Well, on Twitter she absolutely responds to lots of folks with @replies. But she also does so on Instagram, and let’s face it: there are WAY FEWER PEOPLE vying for her attention there.

She gets a dozen or two “hearts” for each photo she shares on Instagram, but few actually comment. For anyone hoping to engage with Rebecca, this is the least crowded channel, the place where you will most likely be seen and responded to. Is it the BEST channel for this? Perhaps not. But it is a lovely little corner of social media where she is sharing the things she experiences every day, and in a place that doesn’t feel like a crowded room of people.

QUANTITY MATTERS LESS THAN QUALITY

Throughout this year, I pulled back the most on Twitter. Perhaps this is because of my growing apathy around “social media automation,” where a “social media marketing strategy” includes scheduled and automated Tweets meant to attract the most attention. Or a system whereby one message is shared across several social networks at once.

At the same time, I have obsessed about Facebook. The thing about my use of Facebook is that it is a closed system where my attention goes to the 800 people I am “friends” with, who are usually people I have met or talked to at length before.

I also created a closed group on Facebook for writers about a year ago, which has 178 members. What has fascinated to me is that if I pose a question in two places:

  • On Twitter, where I have 6,800 followers
  • In the Facebook group, where I have 178 members

I get FAR more engagement in the Facebook group. This too has become a least crowded channel, but as members of that group have told me, it is a place filled with camaraderie. When I asked the group if I should make it an “open” group, the response was loud and clear: “If you do that Dan, you will take away everything that is special about this group.”

So of course, I kept it closed. (Though you are still invited to join us.)

What I tend to find in this group and elsewhere is that there is another opportunity for those who truly want to develop relationships via social media. That “merely” scheduling Tweets, ReTweeting, liking, favoriting, and starring is not the way to develop a relationship. Don’t get me wrong: these actions are good, and I do them ALL THE TIME.

But commenting stands out, especially long and thoughtful comments. Comments that turn into conversations. Comments that can’t help but engage people on a deeper level. On a network such as Facebook, you can even include a photo with a comment, which is yet another way to get attention and stand out.

My own exploration of social media continues. I am a huge fan of YouTube, vlogging, blogging and podcasting because they too focus on original content, and quite often, long-form content.

The big social network missing from this list? Tumblr. There is so much I appreciate about Tumblr, the biggest being how it is a network fueled by enthusiasm. The world needs more of that. Personally, I just haven’t found the right tenor to how to use Tumblr. Time will tell.

How do you use social media in a way that feels deeply meaningful, filled with caring and enthusiasm?

Thanks!
-Dan

  • Mary McFarland

    Dan, a provocative reflection. I’m comfortable with Twitter, but I’ve abandoned it somewhat in favor of Facebook, which as you say, is less crowded and–to me at least–a more comfortable space to connect and socialize. I like your point about Tumblr. It’s positively exuberant there, but I’ve not yet figured out how to make a space there for me, one that feels as comfortable as Facebook. I think the “prom queen syndrome,” i.e., the “liking” and “friending,” and all superficial socializing our social media gurus can enable, is pervasive across the Web, so I’m confidently choosing those spaces that feel real to me, and which work best.

    • Mary,
      Good point about the downside of enthusiasm, that it can become too one-sided. Thanks for sharing this!
      -Dan

  • I find with social media you get the best results where you invest the most time/feel the most comfortable. I get the most interaction on Twitter because I am most comfortable there and invest the most time there. What do you think?

    • Kate, Yes, I totally agree. That level of comfort creates serendipity.
      -Dan

      • Yes! And I think the more time spent nurturing a channel the better results yielded.