Archive for November, 2010

Personal Thoughts on Social Media

Posted: November 29, 2010 in Personal

I hear so much in the news about the ‘evils of Social Media’ today.
I am sure many of you have heard the following; we are too connected; there’s  a lot of ‘bad’ people out there; watch out for viruses that can destroy your machine. Today I am writing about the good that is done with Social Media.

We do live in a time where people are more connected than ever before. This is a fact that is not going to go away! I can remember when missing a phone call was not the end of the world, in fact you probably never even knew you missed the call unless someone told you. Today there are cell phones, email, instant messaging, Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, AIM, Skype; text messaging; all the tools to keep us connected. And yet we are losing the art of conversation and interaction.  We are connected yet we function in our own world. We have all seen the commercial where the person is so busy on their smart phone they are missing the things going on around them with the moniker ‘Are you kidding’, but the fact is, that is how we are functioning.  

Our children are growing up in a world where you say what you have to in 140 characters or less. So spelling and grammar are unimportant. These are the tools that are going to hurt them in the long run. The art of writing a résumé, a formal email, or even a formal letter is gone! We speak in acronyms; idk, lol, brb, jk. I have seen formal documents written with ‘…’ as a space and not the correct semi-colon or comma. It is pretty scary!

But is Social Media all bad? I do not believe so. I believe there is a lot of good that is done and a lot more to come. When the earthquake hit Haiti, it was used as a way to raise funds quickly and to find people in the rubble. It kept the disaster in our consciousness and moved us to help. It has covered uprisings in countries where communications are monitored and managed to get the truth out of what people were experiencing. News is instantaneous and always available.

So how do we use Social Media for good?
I believe Social Media for any business is about building long-term relationships. There are plenty of opportunities to ‘sell’ and push your brand. I see Twitter and Facebook as a way to talk with our customers on a different level. It is a softer hand to the corporate image. It is where ‘the company’ gets lighter with their customers; has conversations with them. It gives us, the company, an opportunity to talk with our customers in a less formal and more timely manner.

I also believe social media is not always about our own company. I see lots of companies pushing sales, specials, buy this, read my article; all good uses to the media, but are they listening to the customer? To me it seems that are shouting at their customer, which in effect does not create a two-way communication. Are you responding to complaints? Are your customers even allowed to post complaints? But this is still all from a company perspective.

What good is social media in my personal life?
It is actually pretty funny that I got into Social Media at the urging of my daughter. My children, were really getting into MySpace. MySpace to me is still so much more fun than Facebook because I could make my page personal. I remember having to ask my daughter how to put things on the page and where they got all the cool stuff they had. Ah the joys of html code and personalizing my page so it reflected who I was. But it was fun to create this with my daughter and learn from her for a change! It was the beginning of our journey into Social Media, she the teacher, I the student.

But then along came Facebook and it really didn’t take  long for the mass exodus to occur from MySpace. And it took even less time for our children to not want us there on their pages! Where was the love? Where could I make the page ‘my own’? I guess I was lucky, as my children (both grown) friended me. And there are times, with all due apologies, I drop a ‘I love you’,  or ‘You are a Beautiful Young Woman whom I admire’ on their walls, stating quite simply ‘I know I’m not supposed to do this but…’I love you”.

Facebook allows my daughter to stay in touch with her husband who is in Iraq. No cell phones allowed but they can talk on Facebook and send pictures and videos and just keep up with day-to-day life, all in an instant. Facebook allows me to see my grandson in his Halloween costume the same night he is going out when I can’t get there. And through Facebook, I have reconnected with old friends from High School whom I haven’t seen in years; tearful reunions when we find each other. It’s the immediacy of it; the just in time communication, that make the media so powerful. With the right security and safety measures, there is good that comes out of social media.

So Where Does This Leave Us?
There is a time and a place for everything, so the saying goes. I believe this of Social Media too. Make family time, no cell phones, no computers, no texting. Eat as a family and talk. Ask how your children’s day went, how your husband is. Ahhh the art of conversation. I remember reading that when the Kennedy children were young, before dinner they had to read the newspaper and be ready to discuss something in the news while they ate. It forced them to read, to stay current in what was going on in the world, to learn how to present their point and then how to argue it when others disagreed! I loved the idea so much when my children were small I tried it for a while with amusing results to be sure.

I hate talking on the phone. Absolutely hate it. But what I dislike even more is texting at dinner (or any other meal). Make your children put the devices in their rooms while you eat. Set the example and the boundaries for acceptable time and use of Social Media. And check what they are doing when they are on-line.

Write a letter. It is a simple thing, a card, a letter, a thank-you note. A simple, ‘I am thinking of you’. And use proper grammar.

When you email, don’t shortcut proper grammar for text lingo! There is a media for each situation, and email is still more formal that texting!

Do good for your community. Follow charity causes you believe in; retweet their messages. Participate in local events posted on Social Media (groups you know and trust of course). You would be SO amazed at the wonderful people you will meet. Social Media has given me an opportunity to expand my walls; to meet wonderful people I probably would never have met otherwise. People that I am getting to know on a personal level, partly because we are not using Social Media to ‘shout’ a message but to talk. To build long-term relationships, and sometimes that means on a personal level. To care about the people we are interacting with.

I can honestly say, social media has also helped me grow personally and professionally. To overcome my own fears of meeting new people, attending events alone and reaching beyond my comfort level. Personal growth.

Be aware, be engaged, but live in the real world. Social Media is VERY powerful with it’s proper time and place. I believe there is more to come and eagerly await where this will all take us. But I love nothing more than having my entire family over for a big, noisy, boisterous meal, where I can see their faces, their expressions and hug them.

And my wish to all my new Social Media friends is for very Happy Holidays. Be well.