Today I came across this blog post on the Cisco blog about an employee’s entry into the world of Twitter and social media. She offers a number of great points that are worthy of highlighting:
- It’s Not Stupid
- You Don’t Have to Be All-In
- Twitter is a Great Equalizer
- You Be You
This is all some great advice. Except I would argue that some parts of Twitter are stupid. However, that’s true of most things of value. There’s a lot of email in this world that is terribly stupid. That doesn’t diminish the value of email.
Although, as I read through the list, I recognized the real problem with social media is that people have the wrong perception of what social media is and how it can benefit them. Sure, social media can be a marketing tool for your company. Social media can be a way for you to broadcast what you eat and when you sleep and when you see a beautiful pink flower. It literally can be anything you want it to be. However, if you don’t want it to be those things, then it won’t be those things.
Twitter is literally what you make of it. If you want it to be about food, then you can follow the kind of people that post about food. If you want to enjoy pictures of flowers, then you can find someone who posts pictures of flowers. However, if those topics don’t interest you, then don’t follow those types of accounts. On just my @techguy account I’m somewhere around 22,696 tweets in and I can only remember 3-4 pictures that included food ever. There might be a flower picture in there somewhere, but it’s likely in the background.
Of course, if you don’t care about healthcare IT, then you probably don’t want to follow me either. I’ve sent a lot of tweets about healthcare IT and had a lot of conversations with people about EHR. The point is that if there’s a topic you enjoy or a topic that’s needed for your work, you’ll find it on social media and on Twitter. Sure, there’s plenty of other junk, but you really won’t see it if you’re following the right people. Plus, if you get the random food picture, I can promise you that it won’t hurt you. In fact, some randomness is part of the fun of Twitter.
So far I’ve really only talked about social media consumption. That’s the beauty of social media as well. There’s no requirement that you ever actually broadcast anything yourself. More and more people are just using social media for content curation and education. They never send a tweet. They don’t know what a retweet or favorite is. They don’t DM. They don’t use hashtags. They just consume the social media others create.
While I think there’s some missed value if all you’re doing is consuming content and not interacting on social media, that doesn’t mean there’s not a lot of value available on social media even if all you’re doing is consuming. It can be incredibly valuable. You can learn a lot to help your career. You can learn a lot about people. You can learn a lot about a company or your competitor. There’s so much value that can be obtained through simply consuming information shared on social media.
With that said, the blogger linked at the top of this post is right. Social media is the great equalizer. This is especially true if you’re a nobody at a small company. How many times do you get an audience with the CEO of your company. Probably not very much. However, on social media you have the open opportunity for them to see what you’re doing and you to engage them on topics that matter to you. Much of this can happen naturally. Just be yourself and you’ll be surprised how effective that can be.
Of course, like I’ve always said. Not everyone should do social media, but everyone could benefit from using social media. However, don’t let the misconceptions of what social media “is” deter you from trying it out and seeing where and how it can provide value. You can make it work for you.