I don’t get it. Every other day, one of my LinkedIn contacts endorses me for a skill. Sometimes it’s marketing, strategy, entrepreneurship, media relations and other times it’s “social media.” But why? Social media isn’t a skill, it’s a medium. It would be like typing “hammer” into my profile and saying I’m good at that. What does it mean to be good at hammer? Nothing. I can be a clever carpenter, I could be a fabulous furniture maker, I could be an incredible handywoman… all of them use hammers, but would you describe them as being good at hammering?
Let me repeat it: social media isn’t a skill, it’s a medium. It’s a medium that everyone can wield. Skills and abilities I think I’m proficient at that help me use online sharing tools to my advantage are:
- Confidence. When we put something out there, we put it out to the world. Those who waffle on the content they’ve shared fail.
- Thoughtfulness. Content is king, it always will be. Thoughtfulness includes being plugged into your audience and knowing what they like. Sometimes, wielding your social media tool is sharing your cat lounged out in a funny position, sometimes it’s having something intelligent to say about a political candidate you’re supporting. But if you always post about kittens and try to throw a politician into the mix… fail. Unless, of course, you find a cat who does a great impression of said politician.
- Consistency. This ties into my point above. Consistently posting and commenting on the topics you wish to be engaged in (and also associated with) is important, but it’s also one of the toughest skills to cultivate. We get bored, we want to stir things up as individuals, yet humans generally dislike change and being taken by surprise.
- Clarity. Knowing what it is you’re trying to say and being capable of communicating this in the least amount of words possible. Very few people will read a novel online unless they’ve downloaded it from the Kindle store. Short, succinct.
- Analytical. Checking your stats without becoming obsessed with them is another skill to apply to social media use. Learning when to care about your follower count vs how many people liked your last instagram of that ridiculous bacon wrapped cupcake you bought goes a long way. But before you can care about your stats, you need to know your objectives. Are you just having fun (at which point you can skip being analytical)? Or are you attempting to accomplish something specific?
- Ethical/true to our purpose. If all we cared about were likes and clicks on our content, all we would post would be what people like most. The problem here is that sometimes this information isn’t aligned with our original objectives. Letting the masses guide you isn’t the wisest long-term strategy. Look at some of the stories that end up as the top headlines for traditional media. They post it because eyeballs sell–even if they’re selling crap.
- Leadership. Social media gives us the microphone. Do you turn it on the audience? Or use your space wisely to connect, share and lead people to something that’s made their day better?
- Listening. Stand up on a soap box in the middle of a busy street and see how many people you can get to listen to what you have to say. Or, set up your own bistro table and invite people to have a conversation with you. You listen, they listen. Which is more successful for having your message heard?
- Creativity. Flash mobs are over. Trends start and end faster than the road runner can say, “Meep, meep.” Being creative with how you use this medium, finding original content to share or putting your own spin on a related topic helps you stand out from the masses. Do you post the infamous photo of your perfectly manicured toes at the beach? Or do you build a sandcastle and use it instead?
- Genuine. Say what you mean and mean what you say. Be the person online that people would meet offline. If you’re going to tear into someone from your Twitter account, be sure you’d be willing to do it to their face as well. Same goes for saying nice things about people. In fact, if you say something nice online, take extra care to say it offline too.
- Open-minded. There are a lot of things we don’t know, a lot of perspectives we haven’t thought of and a lot of triggers that other people have. Keeping an open-mind and a willingness to consider new information as it becomes available keeps us fresh, respectful and relevant to the conversations we’re having and the communities we’re a part of.
- Quit selling/Don’t be creepy. Conversations are not for selling. They’re for conversing. Do you remember that friend who tried to sell you that product they represent at that last BBQ you both attended? You totally bought it, didn’t you? How about that mortgage broker who followed you last month because you mentioned the word mortgage? Did you call him up and asked for a mortgage? No, because it was creepy. Alternatively, if you were talking to a dentist about golf and not your teeth, the next time you needed a dentist, who would you think of?
What would you put on your list? What makes you a savvy social media user?