The art of connecting
Social media has made us even more connected with the rest of the world. Has it increased our abilities to communicate, or created a void we thought we could fill with this fast and easy way to interact with others? Whether we’re meeting friends, colleagues or clients, we’re social beings. We thrive in communities. Alone, we manage but, as the pandemic has shown, we’re missing something that our virtual connections can’t replace.
Our brains are wired to decode information in 3 dimensions and multiple senses.
"Really? Surely, that’s not the case! We read, watch TV 2 dimensions. We do the same on social media."
" Yes, but we involve the brain areas of our muscles and senses in reading to recreate the action and spatial construct of the scenes. Our brains are probability processors that will extrapolate the missing information to fill the gaps. Reading and watching TV won’t replace life, it allows us to escape in our dreams. In 2D, we’re missing out on cues that enhance our communication, we’re imagining a lot of it."
I like to meet face-to-face.
However, I use social media because I’m beginning to understand how it works, how the algorithms can increase my online presence. I’m not an expert in social media. I appreciate it usefulness, but I still prefer to meet in person. This blog isn’t about explaining how the algorithms make one post go viral and another dwindle in the abyss of doom. I’m presenting my perspective on our social activities in the digital era. How can I help others and make it more human? In the last few years, we’ve all made parallels between virtual and actual interactions – especially in the pandemic months! This table summarises what I think.
Before I continue, there is a critical difference between actual and virtual interactions. At a party, a minority of people will spend most of their time looking around. However most of us – and I include myself in this statement – will spend the majority of our time scrolling the posts instead of engaging. The anonymity of our androids allows us to be sitting in our corner to watch the virtual party. We become very choosy. At the same time, there is so much data that it’s harder to find what would interest us. It’s a huge space scrutinised by billions of people. We worry about everything we do on social media – at least most of us do – so we keep a step back to watch or we interact only with a handful of known acquaintances.
I’ve been using social media for years; lately, I stop to think what my interactions do for me as viewers? What it does to the person who is posting?
When I like,
I'm more likely to get other posts from the person.
I'm letting the person know I have seen their post and care.
When I comment,
the platform will let me know when something new is added to that post.
In a way, social media made it easy to write whatever comes to our mind, even things we would never dare to say to someone. I’m not talking about constructive criticism or disagreement. I wouldn’t go in a meeting to be rude to the speaker – although I remember having to defend my results against an ‘attack’ from a member of the audience. My analysis had shown their theory was wrong… But that’s part of the job and I knew it was coming. Being nasty for the sake of being nasty is easy when hiding behind the virtual anonymity.
I'm letting the person know what I think about their post. It’s a dialogue, I'm helping, they feel connected and they can improve.
That’s the big hurdle. Some of my friends or contacts might like the post, but the poster and I know the same people. They must have seen it too and will be annoyed. Ah! but very few of my friends have seen any of the posts I see, including this blog (see below).
When I share,
I will know how many people have interacted with the post I shared.
I'm letting the person know that I would like them to meet my acquintances. I'm creating trust.
When I follow
It's like joining a social club, a sport team, a group. I joined Facebook because of a group.
I will be receiving a notification for each post (unless I change your settings).
The person I follow will slowly be noticed by the algorithm and other people interested in the same topics will be introduced to them. Their post will start getting a wider reach.
That’s the best thing I can do to help someone on the digital realm. I mean subscribe to their (own) digital space, their website. Up to that point, all the information I shared online belongs to the social media platform.
As a subscriber, I'm invited in the inner sanctum of the person who posted.
The website I subscribed to belongs to the person I'm following.
I create a stronger connection, and they repay me with deals, exclusivities, bespoke communication that bypasses the virtual platforms.
Engagement is up to the viewers.
Social media reach remains appalling. Organically, we reach between 2.2 and 9.4% of our network depending on the platform. (See ignite blog). Therefore, it takes a lot of time and effort to grow organically. I’m still doing it, that’s how you reached my blog!
When we pay for it, the reach increases and some platforms have better return on investments than others: Facebook and Instagram leading the way. (see hubspot blog)
Money makes the world - and social media - go around.
I'm paying for the information that will allow my content to target the people interested in what I have to say. Yet as mentioned in the ignite blog above, one can’t be separated from the other. In a way, organic reach should be done before wasting any money as it helps me to define my offering and identify what my target audience wants. It gives me an opportunity to populate my profile with relevant content so when others explore my digital footprint, they’re more interested in interacting.
I’m sure I’m not the only one who doesn’t like sponsored posts. I may look at the sponsored posts of small companies to see if they offer something that could help me. I know they can cost a lot to run for someone who is but a drop in the virtual ocean. Funny my perspective on sponsored ads stops me from spending too much money on advertisements. On the other hand, knowing the power of my interactions, I do my best to engage with people in my networks. I hope to add some wind to their 'sails' and maybe they’ll dock at the first 100 followers 'port' quicker. It might not be something that I’m interested in, but at least I help by sharing so that they can reach people who in turn will become their active followers and subscribers.
Either organically or sponsored, the key qualities of posts are consistency, truthfulness, pertinence and perseverance.
Social media is both a great and terrifying tool.
It’s changing the way we perceive the world and others. It brings us closer, breaks borders and allows to interact across the planet instantly. Yet it drives us in an even lonelier place, not because we don’t see and know people, but because we’re abnegating our other senses. We’re desperate for more sensorial stimulation, a written post isn’t enough, you need an image … still not enough, you need a video … with sound! We’re talking more yet we’re losing the art of communicating in its multisensory experience. The brain will evolve to adjust to the lack of richness, eventually. Until then, there’s nothing to replace a chance encounter by the water cooler or sharing a cup of tea or coffee with someone to connect.
So, quick recap:
As a viewer,
Don’t sit in the corner.
You’re interested in the people you follow, let them know.
If you wouldn’t say it in person, don’t write it.
Take time to interact with your network.
As a poster,
Know what you offer.
Understand the needs of your followers.
Give them content they will love.
Adapt to the quirkiness of the platforms.
Now to my sales pitch...
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