Habit 3 in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People is called “Put first things first.” This was my favorite connection between how one can be effective in Social Media and how one can use the 7 habits to improve things beyond Social Media (is there such a place??).
Think about your life. If you are asked to name to the top 3 priorities that your life absolutely revolves around, what do you say? Go ahead, I’ll wait.
If you said “family” or “friends and family,” you have fallen right into Stephen Covey’s trap. As he points out, this answer is universal wherever he goes.
Now, let me ask you a different question. When you think about the top utmost concerns or priorities in your Social Media life, what do you think think about?
It’s kind of a tricky question, isn’t it? When you think about your mission statement for what you are doing with Social Media, you are probably thinking of Social Media as a tool, or as a way to achieve some objective. “I want to use Social Media to increase traffic to my website,” you might say. But as we all know, we are spending lots of time in this online reality. So what are we doing here? What’s important to us in this particular space?
If you are still scratching your head about this, let me give you the answer I came up with. It’s still about people. My utmost concern, my utmost priority, is the community I am building with people. Each of those relationships that comprise my community would be mixed in there too.
Putting People First Makes Social Media Chewable
Dr. Covey talks about putting first things first for some of the same reasons that he talks about developing a circle of influence. We are utterly surrounded by distractions. Now the word “distraction” can seem kind of negative, and I don’t mean that here. A distraction can be your kid asking to play with you, or your boss wanting to go out golfing with you. In Social Media, we are similarly surrounded by distractions. There are people asking us for things, maybe. There are people who are attacking us with spam. There’s our email. How can you keep it all sorted?
Put people first. This can help you guide everything. Here are a few ways how I’m thinking about this.
Reach out and touch someone: If you are just getting started, the first thing you can do to help yourself get situated is to reach out to people. Don’t worry about who is retweeting you. Don’t worry about numbers. Are you talking to people? Are you trying to build relationships?
When you Blog: A lot of people lately have talked about how they write blog posts with a specific person in mind, even though they write on general terms. They are putting people first, external to themselves, of course. Blog based on what you think your growing community might want to hear. Put your readers first. Don’t worry about your analytics or whether your design is pretty. It’s about the people.
In a Twitter Chat: A lot of people get flustered very quickly when in a busy Twitter chat. It’s easy to go down that road. There are so many conversations going on at the same time, so many retweets of something someone said 20 minutes ago – it can feel like a blizzard. The way around that confusion? Put people and conversation first. I never have tried to absorb everything that goes on in a chat. I find people to talk to. I try to answer questions, I swim in and out of various topics, and I let conversations guide me. I put people first.
If First Things Are First, Everything Else is Not First
One other little benefit to putting first things first is that in choosing what you value most, you are also, by necessity, choosing what you value not as much. For example, if you decide to put people first in your Social Media world, numbers become a second or third priority. If your choice is between posting something that you think will get retweeted versus helping someone with a question, that choice becomes much easier.
It’s easy to forget that Social Media is all about people. It’s easy to let people, even though we see their faces, become numbers. But really, except for spam bots, we are all people around here. Everything else in this world is about numbers, competition, and ego. My choice is to emphasize the people part of Social Media and let the rest follow. This makes my decision process easier. This makes defining my circle of influence easier. This makes keeping true to my mission statement easier.
Of course, what you choose to put first is entirely your call. But this approach to Social Media, which I previously did not really have a name or framework for, makes Social Media rewarding for me.
What do you put first in your Social Media world? Are you really putting those priorities on a higher level? I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Image by eric bernard. http://www.sxc.hu/profile/alphao