If you have recently discovered social media and feel confused, this is perfectly normal. The mass that is you and your social media presence is miniscule compared to the vast realm of space. The amount of time you exist on this planet, (and the amount of time the planet exists) is so incredibly small compared with the timeline of the rest of the universe, that doing anything may seem futile. However, it is at this point of the story that I like to fall back on an idea, which I hope will illuminate your personal path to social media enlightenment, as well as enlightenment in general.
The idea is this: The meaning of life is for life to have meaning.
Now ask yourself, "Why am I here?" You will find that you are not alone. Some ask this question while waiting in line at the grocery store, others ask it while watching the horizon as a storm approaches, and still others, late at night, while staring at a glowing computer screen. To this, I offer the idea that life is a series of events in which you find yourself, and in which you find others. The flip side also exists; a series of events in which you let go of yourself and in which you let go of others.
I suggest, and I am not the first to do so, that we can do two profound things with our lives—listen and communicate. It is okay to listen, to be still, and listen. It is okay to create, and it can be wonderful to have relationships. Technology changes, but the human desire to listen and communicate remains. So, if you have come this far, then you are ready to venture into the rabbit hole that is social media because communication is communication, whether it happens through a social media platform, or through face-to-face interaction between individuals.
Kristen Nicole was a budding writer who would have had a rather sheltered childhood were it not for the online social networks she communicated through. AOL chat rooms, BlackPlanet, Friendster, MySpace, Facebook, and Twitter kept her in contact with her friends. Even when Kristen studied Biopsychology at the University of Michigan, she remained active in these networks because they enabled her to keep in contact with her friends in the undergraduate program. Kristen used social media to stay connected much in the same way people used to do with letters, phone calls, face-to-face visits, and even emails. While you may know Kristen today from Mashable. com, where she was their first employee and head writer, and also as the author of 'The Twitter Survival Guide,' there was a time when Kristen was new to social networks and social media. "Be genuine in building your networks," Kristen advises. "Otherwise customers will be turned off. Join the conversation—don't dominate it or impose yourself into it." The level of honesty that Kristen suggests is essential to effective online communication. "Use real names, real people from your business and engage others for personal as well as professional reasons."
Social media platforms are like a galaxy; every day we learn a little more about it, and every day it moves a little further away. Social media is, at its core, social. Online communication comes with rules, lessons, and messages just like face-to-face communication does. The key to effective online communication is to understand the signals you send and receive. Apply what you know about face-to-face communication to your online practices. You are, after all, representing yourself and your business, so communicate through social media to your customers with the same mindset you have when you see them in person. Virtual customers appreciate genuine online communication as much as they do a sincere handshake and smile.
© 2012 Jennifer L. Jacobson