Look at me! Look at me!
I was chatting with the CTO of the Bluetooth SIG at the TweetHouse party during CES last week and he said something that has really stuck in my craw. In discussing his role in a previous lifetime when he worked at Mozy, and prior to that Microsoft, he said he came to the realization that social media was not his cup of tea because it was really made to serve the ‘all about me’ folks.
I cried foul immediately. The social media lover in me quickly defended that these tools are about connecting people and community. They are the opposite of ‘all about me’ – they are about everyone. They include everyone. They give a voice to those who would not normally be heard. Egotists? Never.
Once I stopped taking shots of the kool-aid, it occurred to me just how right Andy was. Avid social media users like to talk about themselves – what they had for breakfast, what they thought of the Apple press conference, what their favorite gadget is, what their least favorite airline is – a whole lot of me, me, me. And this isn’t a bad thing. Promoting ones thoughts, feelings, concerns and joys is what authentic social media use is all about. Those who truly excel at social media also like to listen and respond to others who are out their talking about themselves – and in the end, relationships are formed, conversations are had, and opinions are validated.
But that initial self-promotion and personal involvement is something that I think a lot of people, and certainly companies, have a hard time with – myself included. I am in PR. My career revolves around telling someone else’s story. And I like it that way. I love watching my clients excel. I am happy to be behind the scenes. So when an opportunity arises for me to take center stage (uh, TweetHouse session with Scoble), I definitely balk. Same goes for all the social media channels. I lurked in the blogosphere FOREVER before starting my own blog. I followed (and still follow) people on twitter without commenting on anything they say, but yet I read every tweet. I peruse my Facebook friends pages ad nauseum, but rarely do I post a status update.
When I was sitting on the above-mentioned session, someone in the audience asked how to encourage and sway social media doubters into use. At the time, I recommending highlighting to these folks successful campaigns (the session was focusing on businesses using social media). And I think that is still a good first step. But immediately after that, get them to start lurking. Listen to the conversation at hand, find the self-promoters that you want to follow, tip-toe ever so slowly into the water. Because one of those people will say something about themselves that will spur you to act. And then you will authentically tweet YOUR reaction (or blog it or update your status, whatever). And when you do, social media heavens will open and the angels will sing. And you will realize it is okay to be ‘all about me’ every once in a while. And that authentic participation, be it every hour or once a week is what it is all about.