A few days ago, I was cruising Twitter and a fairly well-known person posed a question. It was open-ended and not directed at anyone in particular. I gave the question some thought (I can’t remember what it was now) and tweeted out an answer. I got no response. Well, that’s alright. That happens, still, probably about 75-80% of the time.
A little later in the day, I saw a tweet by the same person. “If you ask an open-ended question on Twitter, it’s a good idea to engage with the people who answer.”
“What am I?” I thought to myself, as I am wont to do. “Chopped livah?”
The issue has been rolling around in my head quite a bit ever since. It has made me kind of look at how people act on Social Media sites. And I wonder if we all practice what we preach.
You’ve got the biggest stage ever for as long as you want it
See, the thing about Social Media is that you can literally blast people with information all day about whatever you want. I’ve noticed that when I talk to people on the phone now, they’ll often say, “Are you there,” when I am quiet and listening. In real life, we’re not used to someone just being quiet and listening. But ah, on Social Media sites, it’s just you and your trusty fingers typing away. If you’ve always wanted to explain to people why tarantulas make great pets, you can go ahead and do that now. If you want to tweet every day about how candy actually is really good for you – go ahead!
The weird thing about this phenomenon is that it brings out the teacher in a lot of people. Teacher or preacher or maybe some combination of the two. There are lots of people who go out there and tweet best practices, advice, counsel, and you can almost sense their index finger wagging at you. If someone like that starts getting positive reinforcement, well, that’s like becoming principal! You are all powerful! You’ve won the race!
Do as I say, not as I do
Because it’s really easy to preach out tips, I think it’s really easy to fall into the trap of spitting out information without thinking about what it really means. This has a lot of potential ramifications. If you are always tweeting out best practices and then you break them the other half of your time online, you might look kind of silly. Even more interesting is the idea that if you gain a fair number of followers or fans or what have you, people might just start emulating you rather than listening particularly to your words. I’ve seen people out there who will retweet anything certain folks say. It’s uncanny. How many times have you been on Twitter, checked the retweets tab, and seen that 100+ people retweeted something like, “Ah, today the sky is above the ground.”
Here are some things that I “preach” that I worry about practicing well. Maybe you have some of these too.
Thanking people for tweets, retweets, listings, etc – great idea, gets hard to keep up with sometimes
Engaging with your community – if I’m rushed or if I need to get some info out, I may not live up to this
Throwing everything you can into what you do – Sometimes I know that I’m not giving my best effort. I get tired.
Neither a mute nor a flagellator be
I’m not saying that you should avoid tweeting out best practices or good ideas. I’m also not saying that you need to be or can be perfect all of the time. Social Media is 24/7. It’s demanding if you do it right. It’s hard to always feel the pressure of providing value. How do you know what everyone considers valuable, anyway?
I’m just saying that if there is a major disconnect between what you say and what you actually do, you could create some bad feelings without realizing it. Here are some things I might avoid saying if I were you.
I answer every comment on every post, so please leave a comment (if someone leaves a comment and you don’t respond to it, that person might feel kind of shafted)
I always follow back: I never have made that promise. If you’re a spam bot, you can get your feelings hurt. But there are people who I just don’t want to follow. I’m ready to be proven wrong if they prove to be more than what I see at first glance, but I’m never going to promise to follow everyone who follows me. I promise.
I will always thank people for following me: This is a great idea, but if you get bombarded after a chat, for example, it just takes too much time, especially if you’re also filtering out people you don’t want to follow. Again, if you say, “I always thank people” and then there’s a person you don’t thank, how will that person feel?
Looking to the future
I am seeing how maintaining a community in the world of Social Media could easily become a full-time job. I take that responsibility very seriously, but that doesn’t mean that I’m going to deprive myself of sleep, meals, or my actual real-life job. There may come a time when I won’t be able to respond back to everyone who responds to me. I will try my best to keep in touch with everyone I’m in touch with now. I will try my best to make every chat that I’ve committed to. But you know what? I can’t promise those things. So I’m just not going to.
Take a moment and look at your Social Media output. Are you talking a good talk but not walking it as well as you could? Does the balance need to shift a little? Even in Social Media, actions can speak louder than words.
Image by Harrison Keely. http://www.sxc.hu/profile/harrykeely