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Remembering the "Social" in Social Media

The social media buzz can be overwhelming. As a communications student I’ve had to sit through countless presentations on “how social media is changing communication,” “how to use social media to improve business,” “ how social media can cure cancer, solve world hunger, etc…” I avoided Twitter as long as I could, which always shocked and appalled my friends and colleagues in the PR world. “How are you ever going to get a job?” They would ask. To their relief, I did eventually jump on the bandwagon after realizing the true power of the social network. What originally kept me away was a feeling of replacement of face-to-face interaction, the excessiveness of having to remain constantly available, and the ultimate dilemma, what would I tweet?! I was mistaking this technology as a one-way line of communication. That’s what I was getting wrong, and that’s what many businesses get wrong when they don’t maximize the use of this technology. The point is that it is social first, media second.

The use of Facebook for businesses is more complex than simply creating a page. It is so important to maintain a constant relationship and create an interactive experience for followers. It’s crucial to treat your brand as if it is a person, checking Facebook and updating statuses, responding to friends, tweeting regularly. Beyond the mask of technology, the driving force is still people. Building a strong social online network requires the same effort as building and maintaining healthy friendships. Looking past the technology and focusing on relationships makes the process much less daunting:

  • Listen to the conversations within your network
  • Determine your “friend’s” needs or wants
  • Act on those needs in a way that makes them feel appreciated
  • Develop a relationship through personal and individualized connection

 It’s the social part of social media that made me give it a chance (and saved me from the criticisms of its disciples). Missing that piece left out a world of opportunity.

 One thing still remains, however. The power of face-to-face interaction can never be replaced. Social media is a tool to enhance relationships (personal as well as professional). Use your networks wisely, but never underestimate the power of a smile or a face-to-face conversation.