I was sitting around this afternoon thinking about how we approach so many areas of our lives and how many things I'm having to teach my four year old and two year old on a daily basis. In the spirit of "All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten," I'm offering up the first in a series of posts for online marketing. Leading off is the most obvious comparison to life as a child...social media.
You Need to Take a Nap!My kids wake up around 7:30 each morning and immediately go into non-stop movement mode. They may pause every now and then to watch a bit of Jack's Big Music Show or Little Bill, but for the most part, they're little buckets of energy. They want nothing more than to explore the world, make new friends, and see everything there is to see.
The problem comes in around 1:30 or 2:00 in the afternoon. That's when exhaustion kicks in. They could keep going...but if they do, we're going to see a melt down of Pompeii proportions somewhere around 4:30. Why? Because they're simply burned out. They need to take a break and recharge if they're going to have a shot of enjoying the afternoon.
The same thing holds true in social media. Social media burn-out is all too common. In fact, most everyone I know in the industry experiences it on a fairly regular basis. It's so easy to get sucked in to the nonstop conversation of Twitter or the continuous updates and photo uploading at Facebook or the endless business connections of Flickr. That doesn't even count the amount of time you can spend reading and commenting on blogs.
What ends up happening is you go into complete system overload. You try to absorb so much information without a break that your head asplodes and you cease being productive. Every small business owner needs to schedule a social media nap. Whether it's a few hours a day where you swear off any interaction with social media sites or a day of the week when you go social media free...you simply have to give yourself a break to recharge.
It's Important to ShareThe single hardest thing for a child to get used to when they start making friends (or little siblings start showing up) is sharing. It's really not all that different for adults. After all, we work hard for the things we have and we're often not keen on handing them over to other people for fear they'll get broken, lost or misused.
The same holds true in a social media environment. The search marketing and social media marketing industries have been built on the backs of innovative and generous practioners who share their thought processes, successes and mistakes with others. Sharing has allowed our industries to flourish. Sharing has also allowed many within the industry to build up reputations that attract enough clients to create lucrative consulting businesses.
Nearly every industry benefits from sharing on some level. Peer to peer networking and brainstorming helps people advance professionally. Sharing works on the consumer level as well. Companies that share products, tools and resources with their customers build up brand loyalty, gather valuable feedback and learn how to make better decisions about the direction of their business. Social media simply does not work without a healthy spirit of sharing.
Mind Your P's and Q'sAnother challenge my kids have had is learning how to abide by the different rules that pop up in the different houses they visit. At my house, they're allowed to stand on the couch. At my parents' house, they are not. At my house, the dog is not allowed on the furniture. When they visit their other set of grandparents, the dog is allowed on the furniture. The rules change depending on where they are and they are expected to respect them.
Learning not only how to abide by different rules, but how to ask and learn what those rules are is a challenge to kids. It boils down to a basic understanding that there is no set way things are done, but rather that you must adapt to your environment.
Once again, it's a lesson we adults must learn as well if we wish to explore the world of social media. Every forum, every blog, every social media clique has it's rules. Acceptable behavior varies both by social media tool and by the subculture of people you associate with on each tool. This is why it's essential to do more listening than talking when you first get involved. Observe the rules of behavior and if you aren't sure...ask.
You'll Have More Fun if You Make FriendsMy kids are generally pretty independent. They keep themselves entertained, they have very active imaginations and they mostly play with each other without fighting. Nonetheless, they adore making friends and having new people to play with. I have any number of friends with young children and any time they stop by, my kids make a bee line to theirs, drag them off to their rooms and find things to play with.
Should an adult show up with no kids, my children quickly work to befriend the adult. They're not shy and generally, they understand you need to talk to people, spend time with them and be nice to them in order to make friends. They also know they have far more fun with a new person to bounce ideas off of and to play with than they do on their own.
Social media is the same way. While you can certainly make use of tools like Flickr, LinkedIn and Facebook in a vacuum, you won't find near the enjoyment or payoff you would if you got invested and made some connections. Flickr is far more fun if you join some groups, share your photos with others, leave comments and respond to comments. Twitter is a bore until you build up a network of followers and decide to follow people yourself. Facebook and LinkedIn are practically worthless if you don't take the time to build connections.
Social media, like life, is far more valuable if you have someone to share with.
Jennifer Laycock is the Editor of Search Engine Guide, the Social Media Faculty Chair for MarketMotive and offers small business social media strategy & consulting. Jennifer enjoys the challenge of finding unique and creative ways to connect with consumers without spending a fortune in marketing dollars. Though she now prefers to work with small businesses, Jennifer’s clients have included companies like Verizon, American Greetings and Highlights for Children.
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