Something new here at The Harte of Marketing…a guest post from Steve Cunningham! Don’t know Steve? Well, you can get to know Steve on Twitter just like I did. In a nutshell, Steve is a CEO of digital marketing agency, Polar Unlimited, in Ontario, Canada, a songwriter, an ex-lawyer (which apparently he’s happy about) and a lifelong entrepreneur. And for fun, Steve reads & reviews business books at: Read it for Me. This is Steve’s first guest post and I think he did a bang up job! Let us know what you think.
Social Media is like Recess
Yes, it’s an odd analogy…but bear with me here. I believe that (unless you were a grade school dropout) you already know all you need to know to be successful with social media. Why’s that? In a nutshell: times may have changed but people fundamentally haven’t. The structures and interactions of a grade school recess are astonishingly similar to those of most social media communities.
The same people that show up in your Twitter stream and your Facebook feed are the very same characters you caught eating glue in kindergarten. Here are only 3 of the ways I believe that social media is like recess:
#1: The big group is made up of lots of small groups. There is no single Twitter community: it’s a collection of tens of thousands of small networks of ‘followers’ that share some commonality. There is no single Facebook or LinkedIn community: just thousands of networks of friends and affinities hubbed around an individual. These networks (or circles of friends standing around on asphalt) are made and stay together by shared interests, where each member of the group has actively made a decision to participate. And this is the interesting part:.you can’t join a group by just standing on the sidelines. You have to get in the game.
Lesson: Find your place in a smaller group. Some people play football, some play with dolls. Recess is too short for both.
#2: Every group’s got a leader. Every teacher knows how to quickly identity the ‘troublemaker’ in every group. At recess, these troublemakers usually decided what sport they would play or who the topic of the latest gossip would be. When they grow up, these kids will be re-branded “passionate” and “motivated”, but until then, they’ll be visiting the principal’s office frequently. Similarly, most successful social media operations reflect the personality and interests of one individual: Chris Brogan, Gary Vaynerchuk, Leo LaPorte, Mike Arrington, Seth Godin, Robert Scoble, Jason Calacanis, etc. These e-celebs have fostered their networks (and generated gigabytes of monthly traffic) by identifying and holding true to the field in which they love. They also share one other trait: they aren’t afraid to stir the pot every once in a while.
Lesson: If you want to take a leadership position in that smaller group, you need to be willing to stir the pot every once in while, even if it lands you in the principal’s office.
#3: Your actions have consequences. Whether it’s on the playground or on Twitter, everyone loves to watch a good meltdown, right? There’s a not-so-secret thrill in seeing other people publicly self-destruct. (Evidence here). The difference is that online, those meltdowns stay in the public domain forever. Your friends might have forgotten that time you cried when your 6th grade girlfriend dumped you for the older, more sophisticated 7th grader, but the Internet never forgets. Worth remembering the next time you want to fire off a zinger reply to some snotty comment troll.
Lesson: What happens at recess, does not stay at recess. Remember that.
My point? You’ve seen this all before: on the playground, in your home and at the office. Success in those arenas, as well as social media, comes down to how well you relate to people. You’d be much better off reading Dale Carnegie’s “How to Win Friends and Influence People” (written in 1937) than any of the “Secrets of Social Media Success” crap.
Man, I loved recess.