When a novice actor does a scene where his character cries, his first instinct is to “make” himself cry. He does this in one of two ways–either he obsesses over all the sad things in his life, or in the character’s life, until he can squeeze out a real tear; or he pantomimes crying by making crying sounds and scrunching up his face.
Either choice is understandable, but the effect is fake. In the first instance the audience sees a dude who is trying too hard and in the second they see a caricature of real life. Neither is good theatre.
Novice social media users can be spotted in similar ways. The “method” users can be found over-sharing the personal details of their lives from their business twitter account while the pantomimers are busy setting up automatic “thanks for following me, please visit my website!” direct messages.
Luckily, there are other (better) options.
The Voice of Experience
The experienced actor approaches a crying scene differently. He knows that when faced with sad situations in real life, most of us don’t try to cry–we try not to cry. So when he does the scene he tries to hold the tears in–creating a moment that plays much more like real life.
The same lesson applies to social media authenticity–if you want to look like a real person, ACT LIKE A REAL PERSON.
Look, specific examples!
Be (the public version of) yourself
My favorite real-world analog for social media is the cocktail party. It’s definitely fun, and yet, networking and business are taking place everywhere you look. It’s a social event, so it’s appropriate to let a bit more of the real you shine through than you would at a business meeting–and yet, you are still in public, so “everything” definitely doesn’t go.
Rule of Thumb: If it’s too personal for the office Christmas Party, don’t mention it on Twitter.
Would you go to a party, tell your best stories and then leave without saying hello, or even waiting to hear reactions? Would you hand out copies of your latest press release and then leave without saying a word? I’m guessing not. So offer your social media friends the same courtesy. Engage in small talk. Listen (and respond to) the stories and requests of others. If you ask a question, wait for and acknowledge responses.
Rule of Thumb: Social Media is a two way communication medium. If you aren’t acknowledging the input of others, you are doing it wrong.
It’s ok to use social media as a marketing and fundraising tool. It’s ok to go in with the express purpose of meeting specific goals for your organization. (I’ve never been to a cocktail party where that wasn’t the case!) You simply have to meet those goals while also playing by the rules of the medium. The world of social media is based on a gift economy,* so in order to get others to help you with your goals, you will first have to help them with theirs.
Rule of Thumb: Social Media is based on a gift economy–you have to give before you receive.
Here’s your chance to change the ways of social media newcomers (or ask questions about what is, and is not, ok.) Leave a comment with either your biggest social media pet peeve, or your questions about the do’s and don’ts of the party.