Social media is not going away. It is maturing though. People are jumping in tweeting, using LinkedIn and being a little more cautious on what they share on Facebook. TV commercials and programs are displaying hashtags to encourage Twitter discussions about the show or products. We have moved beyond the “early-adopter” phase and into the mainstream. But at the same time, people and organizations are trying to understand what the real value or return on their time investment/effort is in taking on social media for personal development or for their business.
A useful analogy for me to communicate with people on the use and mindset of social media is to think of it as you might think of exercise. Here are some reasons that I think the comparison works on a few different levels.
Getting Used to the Equipment and Tools and Deciding to Continue
Whether its a bicycle, free weights, an elliptical or some other setup we use to exercise with, there is that initial phase in getting used to how the equipment works. You want to make sure you understand the basics of what you can work with based on your personal preferences. You might not know even what it means for you. You make mistakes, you see what your limits are, etc. This is absolutely the same when you start tweeting or posting on other social media networks. You might play with various settings and styles. You might want to stick to certain subjects or topics as you might only be into Pilates. You might try different ways to post and posting on different topics or things that interest you. It is called “social” media, but really it isn’t going to work for you if you aren’t into it. This goes for both working-out or your efforts on Twitter or the other networks.
This is also the time where if it doesn’t click for you or you don’t get any results in just dabbling, you probably don’t continue. You might have a bad experience. Dust starts to build on the weights or you don’t go to the gym anymore because you’re just not into it. Yoga was okay, but didn’t really do it for you. Similarly, people abandon their twitter accounts or only check their LinkedIn accounts when people send them invites. With both, you might not know what to fully expect, but something either clicks or it doesn’t. If it does, you continue and may even be hooked. Also, the more you get comfortable with the routine, the more you understand how it can be effective and how it works for you.
Repetition, Setting Limits, and Goals
If something does click for you in exercise or social media, and you are into it, it is natural to set some limits and goals for yourself. Maybe you can allocate some time everyday to the treadmill or you ride your bike to work daily. It makes sense to get exercise into a habit and work it into your routine. People who use social media effectively (based on their personal goals) roll it into their daily routine.
It’s one thing to carve them both into your schedule, but you can also over-do it. If you workout too hard, you can pull a muscle and hurt yourself. You feel it. If you over-post or over-communicate, your social media followers will unfriend or unfollow you and you will feel it. But, no matter what others tell you to do on either front should change what you internally feel is right for you. You might not like yoga. You might not like going to the gym. You might not like Twitter and maybe Facebook works for you.
For me, posting or tweeting is a form of mental exercise in translating what is happening in the world to my interests and concerns. People who follow me are probably interested in those topics too. Being able to deliver relevance as best I can is my goal and working through that when I read news or participate in discussions is my goal.
Getting Back What You Give, Seeing the Results and Being Realistic
Depending on whatever goals you set for yourself in what you do to keep healthy and participate in social media, in order to keep going you need to see results. If you are riding the bike everyday, you have to start seeing and feeling some results to keep going. Social media is really no different. If you are tweeting stuff that makes sense to you, but not getting followers or making new connections, it can be as discouraging as jogging everyday but not seeing the weight loss or new muscle tone.
Another angle and perspective on this is to be realistic on the return for both workouts and your success in social media. There are truly no shortcuts in both but you do usually get back what you put into it and more. When you are a healthier person, you find all kinds of unexpected benefits in your life and there are all kinds of positives when you figure-out what your efforts in social media mean to you. But, being realistic and understanding that posting a lot doesn’t mean you will get a million followers just as running a lot doesn’t necessary mean you will automatically be a healthier person.
If you are seaching for a way to comprehend how to approach social media, thinking of social media as exercise is a useful way to see how it can be a valuable endeavor for you and your organization. These are just a few points to consider but looking at social media along these lines can help you understand how it can be part of your routine and how your efforts contribute to your personal development.