This post is a response to a great article written by Vett Vandiver published in Social Media Today titled "Why Social Media is Costing Our Generation Opportunities — A Student Perspective". I loved Vett's post, and this response is not purposed to discount the points Vett makes in the article. Instead, I would like to offer the other side of the coin from my own experiences… The Huge opportunities I see social media providing to our generation!
I understand that the first response when you mention social media to the Y or Millenial generation is not personal branding, business opportunities, opportunity to lead, or the opportunity to impact and influence. As highlighted in Vett's article, perhaps it is much less "value driven"… That being said, it does not mean that this value does not exist.
Defining Goals, Objectives, and Success
Just like anything else, if you want to use social media for more than just seeing what your friends are up too and what the latest celebrity gossip is, than you have to start with some bigger thinking and questions… A plan, and a strategy.
- How do you want to leverage the capabilities of the way that social media allows us to connect?
- What would value look like? Connections? Referrals? Relationships? Sales?
- Who would want to have conversations, exposure, and build relationships with?
When you approach social media from this lens, you can begin to understand how it can be used to add value, and ultimately increase the meaning of your offline conversations, experiences, and relationships!
At least for me, this is one of the most important end goals of any time spent on social media.
What Works for You?
I agree that spending 24 hours a week on social media is a lot, and if none of it is productive, goal oriented, or contributing to a greater purpose, it may be time to take a step back and re-evaluate. I also completely agree with Vett in the value of fully showing up to great experiences that we have in life (as opposed to being glued to your device). However, I have also had experiences where social media has allowed me greatly enhance a given experience. One of the transformational moments in understanding the value of social media was going to one of my first "Local Meetups" and reaching out to the organizer and a few other attendees to introduce myself via Twitter before hand. These were people I had never met, but I was able to jump right into engaging conversations that evening because I had already made the soft introduction and started the conversation online. And, I consider the organizer, Teri Conrad, a good friend and mentor to this day. I can't say these connections would been made had I just shown up now knowing anyone (PS- I am also highly introverted, so this is an extra good way for me to initiate conversations!).
The Opportunity to Create a Personal Brand Hub
Okay, so I believe that there are tons of opportunities to enhance the conversations, relationships, and experiences we have both online and offline, but this is what I am really excited about…
University students (and really anyone) today have an opportunity to build a brand and make hugely important connections that has never been available before. It is a simple equation, I was lucky enough to stumble across it by curiosity, but it is applicable to anyone (beyond Students) that have a passion and want to build a brand in a specific space using social media…
Here is what I am talking about:
Personal Website = Authentic Voice, Credibility, Thought Leadership
By starting to share my unique voice using a simple wordpress based website, I have been able to create a hub for my personal brand- whether I connect with people personally (online or offline), or if someone is simply searching Google for an area of thought leadership, they are able to find my site which earns me immediate credibility and trust.
The goal here is always to express my voice, be authentic, personal, engaging, and add value!
Social Networks = Qualified Conversations and Relationships Building
Using the various tools on social media like twitter chats, lists, and geolocation searches, facebook and linked in group, and other qualifying tools- I have been able to sort through all of the noise (this is what I am doing right now, eating right now, fill in the blank!) and make every interaction and conversation count online.
The reason why this is so effective is because I have my personal website (brand hub), that anyone who I engage with in social media can always come back to learn more about me (credibility, trust, value). To some degree this is a process of filtering in itself- if I can create a true reflection of self through the brand I create on my website, than the content and brand should ressonate strongly with some (those I want to connect with) and turn others away (mis-alignment of values, beliefs, perspectives, etc).
Taking Initiative = True Opportunities Appear Offline
The final step is the piece that seems to be missing. After you have made the connection with that person who seems to be perfectly aligned with who you are, what you believe, and what you do- initiate taking that conversation offline! While the opportunity to filter, quality, and connect online is huge, the real opportunities and conversations typically take place offline. If you do a good job of finding the right people to engage with online, you will be surprised at how vibrant, deep, and meaningful the conversations you have offline will be, and what opportunities will arise!
From the time that I launched my simple wordpress site and started engaging on the various social media channels I have been blown away at the amount of opportunity that is out there. I have connected with hundreds of leaders, entrepreneurs, and incredible positive influencers both here in Vancouver and around the globe. I have had the opportunity to take well over 100 of those new relationships offline, which has led to countless job offers, opportunities to speak to groups across Western Canada, and a multitude of other opportunities that never would have appeared had it not been for the opportunity to connect via the online world. I have built amazing new friendships, learnt a ton about myself, and had conversations with people who I consider to be making huge impact at a global level…
I am by no means trying to use myself as a "the example", but simply expressing the incredible opportunity that online social networks possess. Whether it is differentiating yourself in the job force, having a conversation with a CEO as opposed to sending in your resume to HR, leading a lobal or global movement, or simply expressing your true passion and voice - the opportunities are endless, IF you approach it with the right frame and lens.
I want to thank Vett and Social Media Today for such a great article. I thoroughly enjoyed the read and also believe that this is really a place of missed opportunity in the high-school and university space- I hope we are able to continue these conversations as our society moves forward.
What do you think?
Is social media a waste of time, or is there something more there?
If so, why? If not, why not?