Engage and Learn – Social Media Enthusiasts Weigh in on Lessons for 2012

Where did 2012 go?  I’ve had a great experience with my social media activities this year – I’ve learned new things, I’ve met new friends, and I’ve had a lot of fun.  I wanted to share some insights from my 2012 social media adventure.

I get quite a few requests from others wanting me to team up and collaborate with them on projects.  My best advice for these situations?  Pick your projects wisely.  Do your homework and find out all you can about the person or organization he or she is associated with.  Ask for signed contracts about sponsorships and interview the person running the event thoroughly before getting excited about it.

If you feel something isn’t right, that’s when you need to step back and process the conversation assiduously.  Have a signed contract even if it’s for a volunteer or charity fundraising drive.  That way,  if you see a red flag, you can exit gracefully.

When you consider collaborating with someone, ask yourself, “How will this person benefit from this venture as well?” This way you don’t waste your or the individual’s valuable time on a project that’s not right for either of you.

I hope that by sharing what I’ve learned, along with the contributions of my ten friends, you’ll have a smooth, enjoyable journey down the social media highway — whether you’re new or a seasoned veteran.

Thank you for following this series and I hope to put together more lists of top ten contributors as I go along.  I’d like to extend a special thank you to my friends for their valuable time and insight.  It’s because of you that I’ve had such an adventure in the virtual world as well as in the real-life experiences that emerge from our virtual engagements.   Thank you!

Social media is like real life in digital form.  Here are some lessons learned on my journey thus far.
  1. Relationships Matter Most.
  2. Social media allows us to mutually benefit one another. Work together and help each other.
  3. Be Genuine. Be Confident. Be Yourself.
  4. Don’t be afraid to reach out to new people. You never know who you’re going to meet next.
  5. Be Creative.  Don’t be afraid to try new things, nothing is off limits in social media.

Whether you are a company, a public figure or building your own personal brand, Anything is Possible.

The biggest lesson that I learned from my experiences with social media this year is that it really revolves around building relationships outside the screen, or monitor, or smartphone.  Social media gives you the chance to make a connection that would have otherwise been impossible or improbable, but you have to take the next step.
This year I’ve taken the approach to meet as many people as I can face to face, and I believe that’s the real benefit or power to social media.  What starts out as a conversation on the screen extends to a meeting in person, face to face.  When that happens, the relationship that you started on the screen takes on a whole new level.  Then you really get to experience the power of “paying it forward”.
Social media is not just about tweeting at your desk or from your phone, it’s about going to and meeting people and building relationships and forming a community that helps each other.
You know people who are doing amazing things, but they don’t talk about them.  In 2012, I learned to sing the praises of modest people.  Their stories should be shared, because they will inspire others to change the world.
You may not realize it, but you have untold allies.  You just need to connect with them.  To do this, you’ll have to put yourself out there.  Use your real voice.  Only then will you attract people who appreciate what you’re about, and genuinely want to lift you up.
Remember that your perspective is valuable.  Many of us tend to downplay our own expertise, asking why our opinion matters.  Offer it anyway: shouldn’t your voice be heard, too?
A person is a person, no matter how small. That is a statement I truly believe in and something which is easy to overlook today. We live in an age where we are obsessed with numbers – such as follower counts, Klout scores, likes, re-tweets, Facebook fans or subscribers.
In the new attention economy, many try to prioritize their time, and just engage with people who have high followings or a high score on social influence scoring systems. But this practice is something I avoid as much as I can, because I believe that the message and the constructive opinion of that person matters more.
Yes, it is easy to judge someone by how “good” they are with their number of followers as a benchmark, but does this mean we should miss out on enlightening conversations and inspirational ideas on the basis of a single metric? I’ve had fantastic conversations and got inspired some brilliant conversationalists on Twitter who do not boast high followings.  You can never put a price on that.  Remember that every single person, no matter how “big” they are, started from zero- including yourself.
As a transplanted New Yorker (grew up in Manhattan, now live in the DC area) I was keen to learn how New York was faring after Superstorm Sandy.  Dissatisfied with the news coverage, I turned to Twitter.  By searching #Sandy #StatenIsland and #Rockaway, I found riveting scenes by Brooklyn-based photographer @NavidJ of the devastation on Staten Island, calls for volunteers from local groups, stories of people helping their neighbors, and I re-tweeted these, tagging them #HurricaneHeroes, so others would find them.
There was @AndyEllwood from Manhattan who helped this family who’d been trapped in their home on Staten Island, Natalie from Harlem who collected $250 from her friends and bought nine comforters and diapers and toted them in a cart via subway and three buses and then walked the rest of the way to Far Rockaway, Queens to deliver them to a church.  And Bruce Poon Tip, founder of Toronto-based gAdventures, donated a bus and two trucks full of supplies and got them to NYC, where his NY-based staffer (and my Twitter pal) Andrew Hickey directed the deliveries.
You won’t read about them in the news, but I found them on Twitter, where ordinary people can get up-to-the-minute, localized information during a disaster and can use that information to make a hands-on difference in their community.
Social Media is great! It can help bring a call to action for non-profits, charities, homeless and people in need.
I get contacted quite often by people who need help on their causes; connecting them with the right people or getting the word out through my social networks, blog, etc
I love helping others but you have to be careful who you chose to help. You’re putting your reputation out there for these causes. Most people are legit but there are many that aren’t.  Make sure you know and trust these people before doing anything.  If not, do some research.
Others to look out for are “Fake, want to be Social Media Experts.”  Many are marketers in the disguise of a Social Media expert.  They have tons of followers, most are bought. These accounts have 50 or more automated accounts that are pushing out content 24/7. You’ll be surprise, many of the “fakes” are in top 10 lists.
This past year many of these fakes have been exposed in the media. I am sure more will be exposed.
“Always be authentic and transparent.”  If not, the truth will eventually come out.  It’s been said a million times, even a cliche now but it’s true.
As we all know, without engagement social media is like standing in the middle of a crowded mall and just shouting at everyone passing by.  Same etiquette apply in social media as they do in brick and mortar world.  People engage with you once they know you are interested in their stuff.  Like the saying goes ‘If you want to be interesting, be interested’.  In my opinion, that is the first principle of effective engagement.
In the book ‘How to Win Friends & Influence People, In the Digital Age’ Dale Carnegie and Associates talk about influence and they say that the highest level of influence is achieved when generosity and trustworthiness surround your behavior. Meaning, if you give freely before receiving and you are genuine in your efforts to connect with others, you will create engagement in a most effective manner.  Social Media is a great place to meet amazing people and to learn but it all starts with effective engagement strategies.
Like in real life, social media is a tool, not the be all and end all.  Twitter is not a magic bullet and Facebook isn’t going to fulfill all of your dreams.  Pinterest can inspire you, and LinkedIn may help you get a lead on a job but it’s the ‘brick and mortar’ you that has to make things happen.
People can and will promise all kinds of things ‘virtually’ but not always stay true to their word.  On the other hand, I have met amazing people with whom I have built real relationships by simply by starting a conversation on Twitter.  If  2012 taught me anything it has been to read between the lines.
Build deeper connections and engage with your online contacts in the off-line world. Go to a tweet-up, meet-up, or conference and make a real life connection.  The initial spark of an online friendship can lead to being the best of friends in real life.  The online connection will help keep ties when far apart.
There are two great lessons I have learned in social media by observing the most successful influencers like Ann Tran and Sean Gardner.  The first one – I would call it the 2nd Golden Rule:  As with all of your successful relationships: Think about what you have to contribute.  Every time you post, think about the person reading your thoughts: are you providing good info, education, tips or perhaps great links?  Are you interesting or perhaps with any luck a bit funny? Are you posting thoughts worth talking about?
Your followers or friends may be occasionally interested in your personal connection or situation but that should be the exception. Go back and look at your posts – you should be able to tell right away which position you take on the information you share.  Do you operate from:  What do I have to contribute?
The second most valuable lesson I have learned is to remember that we call it social for a reason.   Interacting, replying, saying thank you, re-tweeting or sharing and asking questions – whether someone has 3 or 300,000 followers is essential to maintaining a thriving, interesting community.
Please share with me and my readers the valuable lessons you’ve learned, or social media guidance that has helped you this year.
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24 Replies to “Engage and Learn – Social Media Enthusiasts Weigh in on Lessons for 2012

  1. Eloquently & thoughtfully written. Your emphasis on the people side of social media as opposed to the blatant commercial aspects is refreshing and is what makes it all worthwhile. I just hope Twitter doesn’t go the way of Face Book & start to become calculating in the way it enables us to share & communicate with each other.

    Always enjoy your articles Ann but this time I wanted to tell you! All the best for 2013.

  2. Great article I was into the whole online marketing thing years ago. With the advent of social media/marketing things have changed drastically. I have a lot to learn and I am on a mission. Thank you for your helpful article.

    1. Hi Stephanie,

      Attending your local tweet-ups is definitely something you may want to incorporate into your social media. Thank you for sharing.


  3. What a fun post ! @BrookeGriffin_ – one of my key takeaways is your recommendation to have a contract for pro-bono work. This (great idea) never even occurred to me. Most volunteer activities suffer from a lack of structure. Contracts for this type of work might help us “infuse” some structure into a volunteer engagement and make it a bit less of a “herding cats” experience 🙂

    1. Hi Glenn,

      These posts are ALWAYS fun to put together. I love sharing all the different perspectives from the contributors. Thank you for sharing.

      Happy New Year!

  4. Ann,
    What a great post. I know that I’m kind of late in commenting, but really wanted to join in since 2012 has been a huge social media year for me. In addition to kicking my own Twitter account into a higher gear, I’ve taken on several artist clients who really needed a boost with their social media presence; that boost has made a difference even to their bottom line, so I’m ending the year on a happy “note”.
    I’m always encouraged and intrigued with the people you choose for your posts of this type. Each of them are noteworthy in their own way. I think it’s a huge service that you provide to the different people that you highlight each time!
    The emphasis placed on off-line contact in this post is a real challenge to me. This is one area of social media where I’ve _barely_ scratched the surface. I look forward to taking some trips in 2013 that will allow me to make contact with my Twitter and other social media friends IRL.
    Playful blessings and happy new year!
    Stan (aka @muz4now)

  5. This was the year I jumped into Twitter full force and I learned first and foremost, that there are many generous folks in the Twitter ecosystem who will help you learn the ropes.

    Next, finding groups with common interests via chats is extremely helpful in finding people to follow, getting tips, and learning about your industry.

    As far as communication and community building, what has worked on that. For instance, I struggle with finding my voice as I tend to be a bit scattered. Then again, in my daily life I am a little all over the place so maybe that IS my voice.

  6. Great post and the contributors gave informative insight. I started social media recently. Being inexperienced, I sought advice.What I discovered is there are those that believe the numbers game(popularity), is the answer. I tried this for awhile and it was not me.

    I started to focus on being me and presenting a message of quality over popularity. Engaging,helping and supporting. Odd,but my popularity is growing. I am meeting interesting and talented people from all over the world (awesome). I guess like life, it depends on what we want and the choices we make based on what we believe. Well,time to put my soapbox away.

  7. I observe that social media is moving from being a platform to connect and share to functionality. Users now want a deeper online experience for functionality, collaborations and fulfilment. People now prefer social media as a tool rather than plain networking; our most-valued networking is not restricted within the big three: Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn but has started to mushroom elsewhere on sites such as Quora.

  8. A very nice post for someone who is still making their way cautiously on social media. I think when experts talk about how it has helped or how we can help it is very reassuring. Thanks for the post.

  9. Wonderful post Ann! Thank you so much for including me. I loved reading everyone’s lessons learned, insightful! Looking forward to another great year in 2013 with such inspiring people.

  10. Thanks for letting me contribute to this post Ann, I appreciate it. I really enjoyed reading what everyone else had to say too. Although we haven’t met face to face yet (I’m sure we will soon), it’s been a blessing and a pleasure to meet and talk to you on social!

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