STV news anchor John Mackay has announced that he’s going to get to grips with Social Media as part of STV’s New Year New You campaign, where people endeavour to learn something new, improve themselves and generally become better people.
It’s something I’ve heard from a lot of people – they’re going to tackle social media in 2011. They may not become a social media guru (heaven forbid! Besides, in Scotland you would be a Social Media Braveheart). So here’s some pointers for those looking to have a stab at it in 2011…
The first thing that puts people off anything new – a diet, learning a language, exercise – is overdoing it. You try too hard at first, don’t get the results and as such get disgruntled and give up. Social Media is a little bit better that way as you can more or less get instant results, but the lesson is still the same. You don’t need to be on LinkedIn, Facebook, YouTube, Foursquare, Vimeo, Twitter, AudioBoo, podcasts, Quora, MySpace, Twitter, PlayStation Network, XBox Live, and various forums if you don’t want to. The main platforms at the moment are blogs, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, so plan accordingly.
If you’re just dipping your toes in, start with Facebook and Twitter, then do a bit of blogging via Posterous or WordPress. And complete your profile on whatever platforms you use.
Which leads us to…
Hootsuite is great for Twitter use and has good search facilities. Google Alerts make sure you catch most of the chat about you online. If setting up a blog, Posterous is simplicity itself as you do it all by email. You’re meant to enjoy this stuff so work with tools that make it enjoyable.
You’re in charge here, so make it stuff that’s interesting to you. Across various blogs I write about cult entertainment, being a parent, writing books and social media/media/communications. Why? Because these are the areas that interest me. That helps keep it fresh and fun. Write about what you want to. If you bore yourself what chance do others have being interested?
Google and Bing are still great starting points for finding people you want to follow/talk to. There’s also Twellowhood, Wefollow for Twitter. It’s easy enough to spend a small amount of time looking for people and joining in the conversation with them.
It’s like any conversation – be polite, be interesting (John Mackay’s Twitter profile is a great example of mixing the professional with the personal and showing a bit of personality), be funny, be yourself, don’t be a dick. That pretty much sums up most social media strategies. Do that lot and you’re more than half-way there already.
Most people go onto social media purely for fun, to follow some friends and people of interest. Others use it more professionally, to engage, to network, to build sales, to create a group of people who can pass on information. How and what you use will be defined by what your goals are – the person using it to build an audience of fans will use it very differently from the person just telling their friends what they are up. Therefore, it’s handy to know why you are doing it.
Knowing why you are doing it and what you want out of it also helps it not feel as if you are wasting your time because you will hit walls at time, just like you would when dieting or exercising.
If you are a public person like John, there’s no harm in public accounts for all to see and private accounts on the likes of Twitter and Facebook which are closed-off except to friends and family. It’s completely understandable.
Having said that, make sure people know which is which but also, if you aren’t willing – or able – to talk about work issues then put a little disclaimer up somewhere so that people know what they can and can’t expect from you online. It saves ill-will later on when people may ask questions that your employer won’t let you discuss online.
For John a myriad of people could be looking for him online: friends & family, students wanting to learn about journalism/presenting, people wanting to book him for a speaking event, PRs, people interested in the news, people just passing by and are interested in a topic that John has spoken about. Try and have content for them all, so that they’ll keep coming back.
Show off a little, share your expertise, let people see behind the scenes – of both you and your life. And don’t be afraid to have an opinion, just be able to back it up.
Not literally, unless that’s your thing. But remember ‘if you build it, they will come’? Nonsense now. Build your sites/social media presence but go and tell others about it, don’t just wait to be discovered. You’ll be waiting a long time.
This one may be John-specific: Do you really want your competition to know where you are and what stories you’re chasing?
John has an advantage here. In his building there’s people including Iain Hepburn, Robert Dawson Scott, Mary Harper and Matt Roper, all of whom are at the top of their game in digital. But at the same time he can ask the globe for opinions and get feedback from across the world.
Might sound strange but here’s a truth of the internet: not everyone will love you, but it’s how you respond that defines you. Remember most of the people making comments about you don’t actually know you, meaning some will be sarkier than others, especially as they feel safe behind a keyboard. Engage with them, don’t just embrace the people who love you, cuddle the haters too.
The flip side of this is, of course, watch what you say online.
(This could also be called why ex-smokers may be the best digital time managers)
There’s been surveys showing people use their iPhones on the toilet (it’s the modern-day paper!) and while some may say “ewww” it is an efficient use of time. Most people don’t need to be connected 24/7 – checking emails, tweets, Facebook a few times a day should suffice and that can be down while waiting for a bus, in a queue or at certain times of the day (if you’re an ex-smoker your brain is already wired this way. Instead of smoking breaks, take digital breaks. Little 10 minute moments where you catch up with the world.)
And use travel time for listening to podcasts. It’s the only chance you’ll get. And, as I say to everyone, make sure you listen to Scotland best cult entertainment podcast The Thumbcast – but only if you don’t blush easily and don’t mind harsh language. (Disclaimer, I may be involved with that one.)
For John this is a no-brainer as he has years of great news presenting he can put up online. But once comfortable with the platforms, have a mix. Some days send out little videos, some days audio and so on.
This is the hard part. Once you’re doing social media, people kind of expect you to keep doing it – it’s the typing and content marathon that never ends.
There’s no longer a digital world/real world divide – in truth there never was a divide, it was a matter of perception – but we should remember that digital communication is there to enhance our overall communications with the world and the people in it. So sometimes that means communicating via a phone, but it also means to remember and put the phone down some times, smell the flowers, speak to people in pubs.
And then share the experience online of course.