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Social Media - addressing the fears. Why we need to just do it! ....

Why use 140 characters when 2000 words will do?  Dr Simon takes the unlucky 13 social media fears and prescribes his antidote...

A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of working with a group of expert consultants and leading a masterclass on social media. What surprised me as we did the introductions and opening exercise was the sense of fear and trepidation of the tools and techniques of social media. I mean here were world renowned experts in their individual fields of governance, leadership, mergers and all things non-profit. Yet they were nervous of what to say and how to engage with the technology. So we compiled the concerns and here is my calculated response to each in turn.

I dabble in social media but am mostly scared

Scared of what exactly and what do you mean by dabble? The first stage of learning is rarely easy. Dabbling probably doesn’t get you anywhere. You need to make a commitment to learn to do it, to develop the ‘why’ behind doing it. Once you have a purpose (and rationale for doing it) then commit some time to learning key principles, study the key techniques and commit some time to doing it in practice and you’ll be well on your way and out of the fear zone. A bit like learning ‘leadership’ or anything else really but with more instant results!

Davey’s hierarchy of social media states:

(1)  Start with Purpose [what do you want to get from social media],

(2)  Decide what content you will typically share [thoughts, insights, pithy feedback and comments],

(3)  Define your voice [how you will say what you want to say],

(4)  Choose your tool.

Don’t be led by the tool or its limitations. If your only tool is a hammer then why wouldn’t every problem look like a nail?

I feel overwhelmed by the potential

The social media landscape is huge. There are hundreds of tools and spaces in which to operate. So it’s important to focus. It starts with ‘Why?’ What are you trying to achieve and what particular popular tool (the likes of Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Facebook, Tumblr) will make the biggest difference most quickly. The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. The journey to success with social media begins with a simple choice: “What am I going to do first and when am I going to learn how to do it?”

Finding the rhythm

In this busy world it can be difficult to get a rhythm for using social media and the best way to develop it is through habits (and more particularly habit stacking – the concept of building one habit on a pre-existing habit). Keep it simple at the beginning. This might mean fifteen minutes a day – roughly ten minutes reading and five minutes writing. It could mean ‘using’ social media when you sit down at your desk first thing in the morning or just before you close up in the evening. The specifics aren’t so important at first, the action of doing something is. You can use that five minute wait for the delayed train/bus to check in on social media on your phone. It’s about making that initial commitment to doing 15 minutes every day. The rhythm comes from that – building the consistent habit.

Am I a photographer or a consultant? I have multiple identities!

Does it matter? I suspect you’re still a human being with a personality. Very few of us fit into neat boxes anymore. You might well be worth more than the sum of your parts to a client or a colleague. You can, if you wish, adopt different identities on Twitter and cross fertilise between accounts. You might find it’s easier to build up a following/interest on one aspect than another but if so then look for the bright spots (what works really well and why it works) and channel them to the other role. It might just be that your ‘other’ interest/role helps make the sale/connection, whatever the sale/connection might be. People buy people after all. All we would say is if you really want to keep an area under wraps then be careful which email address you use with your social media tools – you email address is often how people find and connect you!

Social media is a professional snooping tool

I won’t argue with that. You can learn a lot about me from what I post on Twitter and probably quite a bit more from the detail of my LinkedIn profile but so what? You might want to know more about me for valid reasons – you might be looking for someone with my skills, you might be looking for someone with my personality (someone must be!). You might be looking for handsome consultants on the internet (sorry to disappoint you there). You might be obsessed with what I’ve been doing for the last few years and who I’ve been doing it with (heaven help you but that’s your problem not mine). Yes, you can learn a lot about people from social media but surely that’s the point. You will learn a lot about me from spending time with me and getting to know me or asking my friends and colleagues about me. If I wanted to be private and secretive I would go and live in a retreat. I choose what I share and publish so you will only know so much. And for those of you who are worried about professional snooping then Google, Amazon, Facebook, MI5 and the CIA marked your card a long time ago…

I’m afraid of being judged, it’s out there forever

Sorry to tell you this but it’s not just social media. Every time you speak, whether in a personal or professional setting, someone is making a judgement about you (and maybe covertly recording you on their mobile phone). Everything you’ve ever published will be judged. You were being judged the day you were born – just get used to the idea. It’s true that it’s easier for people to comment and feedback on you by social media but wouldn’t you rather they were saying it to your (virtual) face than behind your back? And yes, it is out there forever so be a little bit wary of what you say in what space but don’t let that silence you. You’re a smart, articulate professional and what you say in public (because social media is public) will be that bit more considered than when you’re relaxing on the sofa with your nearest and dearest after a glass of wine. The second part of ‘out there forever’ is that Google knows pretty much everything anyone else has written about you (and can share it via a simple search), Amazon knows what you are really interested in (from your browsing history as well as your purchasing history) and retailers like Target (or their UK equivalents) can predict your partner/child’s pregnancy before they even know.

Fear of missing out and too much volume

Give it up. There’s no way you will ever keep pace with every tweet or LinkedIn post. Neither will you read every relevant article on your area of expertise any more. The fear stays but you choose to manage it. Engage with what you can in a way that works for you. There is always a cost/ benefit to these things. Is your time today better served reading 500 tweets and seventeen blog posts or spending a couple of hours thinking or brainstorming the solution to a problem?

I’m not sure I will add any value

Seriously? You’re one of the smartest, most articulate, value affirming people I know. I love talking to you. You pretty much always say something intelligent worth remembering and hey, I like engaging with you. You don’t have to make every tweet or post a profound statement worthy of an ancient Greek philosopher. Sometimes it’s just about checking in, telling us about a piece of work or a great meeting or sharing a useful resource you found and adding a short commentary to it. After all, you would do that if we met socially wouldn’t you? True, I don’t much care what you had for breakfast but you don’t normally bore me with that when we meet anyway (well not after the first time I rolled my eyes). Remember your voice matters and others can learn from you and be affirmed by you. That’s value.

I must know all this

OK. Let’s be realistic. When you were born the biro was an emerging technology (well, not quite but you get the point). Everything you’ve done in life you had to LEARN. This is no different. You didn’t become an expert in your area of expertise overnight. That took time and so will this. Choose your niche, develop your skills and grow your experience in social media as you go along. You don’t need to be a world expert, you just need to know what you need to know. Most of you can drive a car but very few of you would go head to head in Formula One. Don’t give yourself a hard time. Learn and grow and respect it takes time.

Have I got anything to say - and how do I say it?

Yes, you have something to say. I’ve never known you as a mute wallflower standing in the corner of the room (see ‘Adding Value’ above). How you say it is more of a skill. There’s less subtlety to publishing a thought via a tweet than being able to explain it verbally face to face but it’s just another means of communication. Think about the message, think about the audience you want to get the message to (don’t worry about the whole world listening – they really aren’t that interested) and think about the style of presentation (it might mean a different social media tool or channel for a different message). So it’s a little more to learn but you can learn though experience. The ground rules are: (i) never post/tweet anything you wouldn’t want your Mum to know or to see on the front page of a newspaper, (ii) give a little thought to how it might be interpreted, (iii) publish and be damned. One final thought. You might need a bit of training and development in how to articulate a point in 140 characters but that might make you a better communicator anyway.

If this is about relational selling, how do I get any depth?

It’s about engagement – it’s called social for a reason – and relational selling is one element of it. We’re consultants and we shy away from pure transactions. We’re about building relationships and credibility and we can do that, partially at least, using social media. There’s a world of difference from a simple, single tweet to building a detailed profile with recommendations on LinkedIn, to having a portfolio of well written blog posts. The beauty of ‘social’ is that you can engage with larger numbers of people and offer a perspective of yourself without having to have them all interacting in the same room with you. You won’t build a relationship over a tweet in the same way that you won’t build a relationship simply by saying Hi in the street. But you can start to offer a breadth and depth of your personality, knowledge and expertise, you can engage by messages and posts (as you might through short conversations). You can offer an opening, so that when you do finally meet, when you do finally come to the key conversation, you and they are better prepared and better informed and there is less ‘getting to know you’ to be done.

How do I build a deeper connection?

Engage. How do you build a connection with anyone? Get to know them, show an interest. Comment on their posts, reply to their tweets, wish them happy birthday or happy work anniversary. People are people and social media is simply an additional communication channel (albeit one to many rather than one to one). Follow up, share that you care, build on what you have. There is no substitute for face to face, one to one communication but it all starts somewhere and you can follow up with individual personalised messages.

So what do I do now?

Start. Just start. Identify a reason to use ‘social media’, think about some messages, choose a tool, find your social group (LinkedIn connections, Twitter followers, Facebook friends) and get out there. Learn the basic techniques (Google and YouTube have some great guides – go Search!), learn from your mistakes and develop a habit/routine for using social media.

The journey of a million followers and a thousand relationships begins with but a single tweet. 








Dr Simon Davey ,  Freeman