I thrive on the buzz of facilitating a workshop. I love it. But I also get quite excited being a participant. And that’s what I was doing last week, in the form of an Advanced Social Media course. I was participating in full and reaching down to communicate with my inner geek. I do have one of those, an inner geek. And I have learnt that it’s actually far nearer the surface than I thought.
I now know that Meerkat is not just something in Bristol Zoo, or on those car insurance adverts, and that Periscope is not just a way of looking above the surface from a submarine in the depths. I know that Snapchat is the ‘app’ to get into if you want to be down with the kids and that Instagram is taking over the world. I have in truth learnt a whole load of things about the world of Social Media that I wasn’t aware of before. I have also learnt about how to be better at it for business, which was of course the point of the workshop.
But what I really took away was at a much more subtle, cultural level. It made me think more about Social Media as part of our communication culture and the pros and cons of the way it shapes us, and the way we shape it. Love it or hate it, whether organically grown, pushed along by the companies that develop it or accelerated by the millenial generation, it is most definitely here to stay. Avoiding it, seems a bit like trying to push a rock up a mountain.
Understanding Social Media seems in part to be about learning to speak a different language. In one way it actually feels like we are all constantly learning a different code with a different set of rules, and if we get it, it can be amazing. If we don’t, it can all go fairly horribly wrong, or at the very least feel like an enormous waste of time. We are then left constantly trying to make sense of this plethora of communication methods available to us.
The danger is perhaps that some people like it or pick it up faster than others and that there are far too many ways to use it. The danger is that we are all ‘talking’ so fast in so many ways that we get overwhelmed, distracted and confused by it. There are a million more ways to get our communications wrong or to be misconstrued.
But if Social Media is something that we want to embrace and not ignore there must be some ways we can employ and own it to work for us, and to alleviate not exacerbate communication difficulties. I will not pretend to be an expert after my two day course, but it seems that learning about what the competition is doing, understanding your market, demonstrating your skills and knowledge, connecting with influential people and responding to ‘hot topics’ are a very few of the things that Social Media can be used for. If we manage the content available to us and the messages we put out, we can be part of the large and global interconnected community. Part of a giant group.
In order to really make use of all this, to select the bits that we need, we should first go back to the people. After all, if technology is to be social, there must be some human beings driving it. It would seem logical therefore to ask people what they think, find out what their communication needs are, understand the barriers and create some strategies and plans. When employees are consulted and engaged and informed then processes and plans can be created. We can start to integrate and implement Social Media within the day to day running of things so that it works for us, so that we can create our own communication style.
Social Media is not one thing, it is many. It is not one system but a myriad of different things and if we use them right they could surely give us access to just about everything. We shouldn’t be scared to make choices about what we want to work for us and understand when and how to filter out the things we don’t want to be a part of. Coping with so many different methods of communication shouldn’t be just coping, it should be deciding, working with and making use of the methods we like.
So perhaps we should start on the inside, to be able to work with what’s out there, and start with some real live talking to facilitate our connections with the mobile visual world. It’s how we approach it that matters and it’s how we develop our own systems to work in and around the choices that are available to us. We need to ensure that everyone is on the same page to start with and that we are approaching it in the same way. We shouldn’t assume that everyone is doing the same thing, or that anyone is in fact doing anything. To be masters of our own communication we can delve into our inner geeks and align them with our core human communication principles. We can tweet the best 140 character message, pin the right photos and comment on the issues that matter without getting subsumed into something that we don’t want or need.