Let’s keep Social Media real: insights from a Social Media User

During the second “Global Connections Through Technology” (GCTT) class at Babson College, Professor Bala Iyer asked the provocative question: “What do you use social media for?” As a student sitting in his class, I answered that to me the use of Social Media was an extension of my purpose. This answer was in contrast to students’ answers such as “to stay in touch with friends”, “to obtain the latest news” or “to get exposed to potential employers”. My answer might seem pretty “philosophical” but represents what at least to me, matters most while interacting with someone on Social Networks.

I am not a Social Media expert (especially when it comes to the corporate sector). Despite the education I am receiving at Babson, my personal ambition is not to become a Social Media expert. I am though a heavy user of Social Media since the early days and I enjoy introducing friends and family members to the basics of the Social Media world.

With so much emphasis put nowadays into the role and “do’s and don’ts” of Social Networks, I am disappointed about Social Media turning into a space of unreal individuals. Here are some of my concerns:

“But, I do not know what to tweet!”

That’s what many people new to Twitter (as an example) tell me. My automatic reaction to this is that it’s not about what to tweet: it’s about what you are inspired by and ultimately, about who you are. Talking about your purpose on Social Media sounds like a scary and complex concept, but let me give you a real life example that proves it is not.

The mother of a good friend of mine is a housewife. She blogs and tweets about how “to make everything very special” – which also happens to be the name of her blog. The difference between her and any other user, is that she truly narrates stories on how she carefully selects each detail for each occasion in her home (a meal, a gift, a decoration, a medicine), what inspired her to do so, what her family thought, and in general, how she sees a value in making extraordinary things to unite her family.  
Her purpose is not to post heartless “meal recipes” or “craft instructions” which you could find in any website or magazine.

To unite her family. That is her purpose.  

When you are genuine about your purpose, a community starts to build around it. That’s how followers, contacts and friends arrive.

Social Media is an attitude, not a strategic plan

As much as I value the exercises that we are doing as part of the GCTT class on Personal Digital Presence, I believe that interest for Social Media is not something that you gain by stating it in a written plan, although it’s certainly a start.

Let’s assume the clarity on your purpose is checked. Is that enough? My answer to that is no. More than a plan you need to have the right attitude. When your mind and your fingers are ready to tweet, or to “pin” on Pinterest, or when paragraphs flow while writing a blog post without even thinking of steps and rules. You realize that you not only have the attitude but the habit of Social Media.

Everyday I un-follow and un-friend at least 1 person. The main reason is that those people created a profile, but never cared to share anything. Why follow a “dead” profile? I tell friends that they should not have a Social Media presence if they are not going to care of it.

Attitude for Social Media also means being open to embrace the implications of expressing your purpose, such as critiques on your opinions and loss of followers. When people stop following you on some networks should not always be seen as something negative, because it could be the best evidence that your audience is adjusting based on the topics you chose to share.

The risks of building an image of someone that you are not

Recently during a visit back home, I sat during an 1-hour bus ride next to a person that I know but that I had not seen for a very long time. I have been following him on Twitter and Facebook, so was not an issue to track what this person was up to.  As an icebreaker, I asked him to tell me more about an article he recently posted on Facebook about a topic that I also happen to be highly engaged with. “Oh yes, that article” – he said.  “I put many links out there, but I rarely read them myself”.

After hearing that, I totally lost my respect for this person.

I want to follow real people, not images of what they want others to see of them. Everything we share or support on Social Networks, should be a mirror of aspects that we are ready to discuss in person.

“Yes” to humanization of brands

My favorite brands on Social Media are those that while interacting with them feel as if I would be talking to a human. One unforgettable example that I have is Coca-Cola.
Last year when doing grocery shopping I discovered a new presentation of Coke on the shelf: a tiny, beautiful can, which I had never seen before and instantly captured my attention. Still in the grocery store I took a picture of it and uploaded it on Twitter, sharing how much I liked it. To my surprise, within minutes, CocaCola had already answered my Tweet, even mentioning my first name.

Evidence of my Coca-Cola Twitter conversation back in May 2011

What a different feeling is to get such a warm response versus getting “automated replies”. I am not intending to say that all companies must have thousands of human beings just dedicated to engaging with customers over Social Media, but in the spirit of “keeping Social Media real” brands should consider including elements that go from static self promotion into an ongoing conversation with clients. And yes, that has a real impact in their economic bottom-line. Coming back to my Coca Cola example, since the day our little Twitter interaction happened, I have NEVER asked for a Pepsi when Coke has been available. Since that day Coca Cola is MY FRIEND, not just a vendor.

As a user which engages with like-minded individuals and brands every day, I can’t stress more that what gives people and companies the edge on social media is keeping a real tone. Social Media is not a shop window, where only a one-way communication happens. Social Media is a playground where thoughts and feelings are exchanged and for that, authenticity is the key.

 About the Author
Oriana Torres (30) is a Colombian MBA Candidate at Babson College, passionate about entrepreneurship and education. She has over 8 years of diverse experience in the corporate as non-corporate sector in 5 different countries in Latin America, Europe and Asia. Oriana worked from March 2007 to July 2011 at the Colombian office of Endeavor, a global non-profit organization that identifies and supports high-impact entrepreneurs in emerging markets to facilitate and encourage long-term sustainable growth. 

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