Sunday, September 20, 2009

Social Media and Love

This is in response to a post put up by my co-blogger. The post highlights in a very straightforward, and therefore hard-hitting, terms the values and commitments one must bring in when engaging with social media. You can read the original post here.

Two statements that leapt out and struck a chord with me:

“Social media is your own child and once you are committed to it, you cannot stop loving it.”

“There is no room for translucency in the name of transparency.”

Absolutely true! I am first and foremost a mother before anything else. I know, no matter how troublesome, demanding, unreasonable and everything besides my daughter could be, I would gladly go to the end of the world and back for her.

It’s the same with social media too. Because we are interacting with real people. We are building relationships—of trust, of intellectual bonding, of respect. We sometimes forget the people for the tools we are using. We try to pull a fast one, try to create a quick impression, and fail miserably. Social media (the organic mass of thinking, living, breathing human beings) will catch you and make you an outcast. They can be as ruthless as they can be warm and caring.

As in all successful relationships, engaging with social media requires us to be patient, caring, respectful, and most of all, giving. The more you give, the more you will receive. If you can give without stinting, without holding back, you will gradually reap the benefits. But this giving has to be whole-hearted, uncalculated and honest. And you’ve got to be willing to listen—carefully and patiently listen.
Here are a few unwritten codes of conduct that rules the world of social media. These, I have gradually discovered are close to the values you’d bring to a love-affair or a friendship that you have committed to for life.

Honesty: There is no pulling the wool over the eyes of the people there. Be totally transparent. If you ask because you don’t know the answer, you will find a hundred friends out there ready with the answer for you. If you pretend, you are done for. You will be coldly shunned.

Patience: It takes time to get recognition, to form your own groups and get your own followers. No matter what Twitter says about getting 1000 followers and what not, it takes time. And the number is not important at all. What is important is to form engagements where you can share and receive, learn from, and expand your understanding. This is what is also called Knowledge Networking, a topic I will cover in a later post.

Being giving: Give of what you have, of what you know—no matter how meager this seems. If you keep your ears to the ground, this giving will lead to you receiving so much more in return that you will wonder why you did not do this earlier.

If something interests you on the web, if you have read an article that you honestly learnt from, put up the link on Twitter with a few words capturing the essence of the piece. This is sure to help someone out there the way it helped you. You will see how one response of gratitude from a completely unknown individual can make your day. Because you have helped someone to learn something new.

Being consistent: Just as you would expect your friends and lover to be there for you when you need them, to be consistent in their attention, to be dependable, it’s the same with social media. If you have formed a group, have followers, they expect you to be there. If someone asks you a question or directs a response at you, the worst thing you can do is to ignore it. If you don’t know the answer, admit it and experience the trust that develops.

Willingness to listen and engage: Whether you are using social media as a marketing tool or to expand your learning the way I am doing, LISTEN. Listen to the voices out there! It’s not only about accessing the links and re-tweeting what you like, it’s about engaging in a dialogue—a rich, multi-voiced, many-dimensional conversation that brings in people with diverse opinions and makes our thought processes so much richer.

One of the reasons I make it a point to attend #lrncaht is primarily this one. You can see the transcripts of different sessions here.

Although I am more of a lurker in these sessions, these have introduced me to the spirit and power of social media. Even as a lurker, I can feel the web and flow of the conversations, the multitude of opinions and the respect for each of those view-points though they may be vastly different. Where else would you get a comment like this: “God grant me serenity to train who I can train, dismiss who I cannot, and wisdom to know the difference.”

Willingness to change views and adapt: As we delve deeper, engage with others, reflect on the conversations ebbing and flowing around us, many of our pre-conceived and earlier held notions may appear shallow, one-sided, immature, biased, or plain wrong. This is the time to step back, take a hard look and discard notions and ideas that can actually be an impediment to your intellectual growth. In short, you’ve got to be OPEN TO LEARNING ALWAYS when you are out there. And be willing to let go off your dearly held notions.

Sometimes, it will be intended learning, information you have been seeking that comes your way and makes you go “Aha!” Sometimes, it can be something that completely throws you off kilter and makes you rethink…It’s the latter kind that we have to open our minds to accept and truly commit to being a lifelong learner.

Courage to accept mistakes: We all goof up! The biggest and the best do it. And when you goof up in a social media platform, it’s out there for all to see, comment on, criticize. The web has a long memory and spread… If you goof up, say sorry. And with sincerity. Your followers will love you for it and your customers will respect and trust you for it. Then, most importantly, follow up the sorry with an action that is genuine and shows you have listened and care and are willing to change. Simple rules you’d follow with a friend you love too.

These are some of my beliefs garnered from my experiences over the past one year. It’s a very short span of time to have gained any form of expertise in the use of SoMe and am looking forward to evolving my thoughts…

I would love to hear your thoughts and learn from you.

Some interesting reads:

1. For those interested in the ROI of Social Media from a marketing perspective, here’s an interesting post: http://www.altimetergroup.com/2009/07/engagementdb.html

2. A post by Chris Brogan about how you can extend yourself across the social media spectrum but I think should be attempted by the more mature users: http://www.chrisbrogan.com/extending-yourself-into-a-platform/

3. Interesting perspective here-- What Social Media Can Learn from Multicultural Marketing: http://adage.com/bigtent/post?article_id=138864

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