The Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge is home to hundreds of birds in New York. On a walk there recently, I saw a seagull with an enormous clam in its beak. A few feet in front of me, the gull hovered above the trail. Then, the bird dropped the clam.
The gull flew to the ground, inspected the clam, picked it up, and flapping its impressive wings, climbed higher in the air. The bird opened its beak, releasing the clam.
The gull dropped the clam once more and failed again. Then, the bird changed its strategy. By gliding even higher in the air, the gull spotted a rock just ahead on the trail. It released the clam. Splat! The clam burst open and the gull enjoyed a tasty clam on the half shell lunch.
What does the seagull teach us about social media skills? A lot.
At first, the gull's instinct was to climb higher in the air, increasing the gravitational force when it dropped the clam. This is similar to our instincts when we amplify the volume of a marketing message because we're not getting the attention we want. The 'louder works better' assumption is not a realistic marketing communications strategy for the twenty-first century.
Each time the seagull flew higher in the air, more options came into view. The rock, the gull recognized, was the right platform tool for the job. Today's state of social media marketing zeitgeist makes every platform tool sound like the perfect solution for being seen and heard. But what we really need is to practice taking a bird's eye view on a regular basis, and always start with your audience in mind.
The 2017 Social Media Map from Overdrive Interactive provides a helpful bird's eye view. Notice the categories by function and topic. You can download this map for your own reference.
Social media platforms evolve quickly and are guided by the invisible hand of number crunchers, many of whom hold PhDs in the psychology of social media. Behavioral data, relating to search, discovery, and conversion to sales, is the holy grail. My point is not to comment that this is a good or bad development, it just is where we are in the evolution of our digital era.
My goal is to help you choose the appropriate platform tools to reach your audience and to scale your activities in order to achieve measurable results.
1. Record your habits. For one week, keep a social media journal. Which applications do you access most often and how do feel while you are using them. For example, do you feel relaxed on Facebook or agitated? For each application, what is your level of trust in terms of content veracity and security of your data? (rating scale of 1 to 5) For instance, do you consider LinkedIn more trustworthy than Google+? At the end of the week, review your journal and consider the value these social platforms contribute to your professional goals.
2. Listen to the voice of your target audience. Identify published authors in your field. In addition to reading reviews of their books, read the comments from book buyers on Amazon. Read the comment sections of their blogs or comment sections from the top blogs in your specific field. What's the tenor of the conversation? What are the hot button words and phrases? Before you can understand how search and discovery algorithms operate on a social media platform, you need to understand the language of your audience and their emotional connection to topics and brands.
3. Collect examples of the best social media practices from experts in social media. There is a difference between the subject experts in your field and the expertise of social marketers. Invest fifteen minutes per week reading articles in The Social Media Examiner. These practitioners answer to clients who expect results. Your goal is not to become an expert in social media. Rather, your goal is to understand how the experts think about social media platforms and the results these platforms deliver for their clientele. Then, adapt their best practices to your goals.
4. Learning comes from solid, written goals. Remember the seagull. The bird dropped the clam three times before it found the right platform tool. When it comes to social media skills, we are all learning and it is a continuous learning curve. With written goals, you have a baseline to evaluate your efforts objectively, allowing you to construct good questions for next steps.
5. Get outside and take a nature walk every day! No headphones. Walk. Listen to the sounds around you. Appreciate what it means to be part of something larger than yourself.
When you know how to keep social media in perspective, the world is not your oyster. The world is your clam.