A MATTER OF PERSPECTIVE

Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, and many other social media platforms have changed our public service world. Is it for the better? Are we more informed? Are we more transparent? Are we more connected? Does it help our self-esteem to measure popularity in likes, retweets and shares? Many would answer, yes.

Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, and many other social media platforms have changed our public service world. Is it for the worse? Are we misinformed by inaccuracy? Are people hiding behind ghost accounts to antagonize others? Are we avoiding real conversations in exchange for distant, electronic, emotional commentary, laced with false bravado? Have we become overly self-important as a result of false popularity? Many would answer, yes.

I would say, perhaps the case is a little of both perspectives. Maybe it is a lot of both. My opinion is irrelevant though. Whether I like it or not, social media is here. It’s all around us, and as long as there are users, there will be platforms. I can complain about it, but that won’t stop someone from incessantly taking selfie photos on Snapchat like a documentary of facial expressions. 

Let’s face it, social media is now the most common and popular form of communication. It’s how you keep up with Aunt Susie. It’s how you idolize your favorite celebrity. It’s how you get your news for goodness sake! Remember the newspaper? Everyone can be a self-designated journalist now if they post the gospel according their own flock of followers. There are whole segments of broadcast media productions that discuss postings of the Great Dane doing yoga stretches. You address your political figures and political figures address you in the virtual congress of social media. 

For those of us that communicate and serve others for a living, this platform can’t be ignored. I have literally gone from years worth of standing in front of groups and discussing their challenges to now posting information and interacting through live feeds and virtual exchanges (both can be the proverbial shark tank situation). 

For many of us, this has been a challenging shift, and at times a frustrating one. Why? Here’s just a few reasons. The response is not always pretty through social media. As a matter of fact it can be down right hateful. If you interact regularly, you are likely to have your very own “troll” who’s total mission in life is to make you miserable. In addition to that, much can get lost in interpretation of electronic exchange. The less factual informers can often win the popular opinion poll as a result of being quicker to post or more dynamic in their presentation. Misinformation can be so detrimental. It can be a threat to public safety. A threat we can’t always predict or stay in front of. This often leaves you with a feeling that you must obsess on social media so that you don’t miss that one critical clue leading you to the next big damaging viral post.

I never have claimed to have a monopoly on wisdom. I will not start with this topic. I do however have an earned perspective which is just this. The social media train is not coming, it is here. You can not stop it. You can not stop it. You can not stop it (cognition through repetition). You can however, manage it. There are some simple steps to managing this labyrinth of social media. Step one, accept it as a platform for communicating your services and connecting with your customer. This platform can connect you in a more powerful way than television or radio. You want to reach your audience. Don’t let the platform dissuade you. Step two, pace yourself. Schedule what you do. Over-sharing becomes part of the constant chatter and gets ignored, so consider your frequency. Don’t be like the person that posts every meal and every trip to the mirror. Give your audience enough to be connected but leave them wanting more. Step three, connect with your audience by providing honest, dependable, consistent, short messaging, that can be fun, but doesn’t have to be over-sensationalized.  Short attention spans demand brief communications. Novels are downloaded, not posted.  In a feed of thousands of messages, you need to stand out visually, so stick a picture or video in there. Messaging that provides accuracy will overshadow false posting in the long run. Step four, accept the negativity and don’t give it traction. Those who troll get more traction when you engage. Serve your audience, not the singular voice that seeks to distract. Ever wonder why they have so much time on their hands? Wait……there it is. Yeah, exactly what you are thinking. Finally, step five. This one is a biggie. Accept that you do not control everything, you deserve a life, and this is one facet of what you do, so keep it in perspective. You will make mistakes. We all do. Correct it, own it, and move on. 

I am fortunate to have many wonderful communications experts in my life who provide great insights. Their success with social media platforms aided in connecting with others and getting information out that provides public safety and quality of life. Everyone can fall prey to some of the pitfalls of social media on occasion though. Stick to the steps folks. We can do this. Frankly, we don’t have a choice.

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