As I become more of a coach and mentor, I recognize the need to step outside old boundaries and create new pathways of connection. The first step in this journey has been to recognize the need for learning how to create a presence on social media. In order to learn, I decided to take a Social Media Marketing Specialization from Northwestern University offered on Coursera. I had no idea where this path was going to lead and in the brief time since I started this journey, it has taken me through the most delightful twists and turns. At times, I feel I am in a magical wonderland of discovery.
For years, I resisted the idea of marketing. I believed that marketing was a necessary evil in my profession. In order for people to be aware of my capabilities, they have to know who I am. But, I also hated the idea that I had to promote myself. I felt disingenuous. I believed there was no room for genuine relationship and connection and no room for having honest communication. Over the years, I relied on the companies that appreciated my work and hired me again and again. My business model was definitely not a growth model, but I was satisfied that it gave me an opportunity to give to my community as well as do meaningful work.
Over time, industries change. Available work dwindles and the necessity for changing one’s way of doing business must change. I found myself on the precipice of change and realized it was time to become more proactive and rethink my approach. So, with that in mind, I enrolled in the marketing specialization. The best way I can describe it is that I was blind to the realities in the field. My preconceived notions of social media marketing were so far from the reality. My eyes became opened.
Here are three lessons I learned:
- Social media marketing is not about being someone you are not. Yes, you are getting yourself out there. Yes, you are branding. But branding is identity and you choose how you build your identity. You have control over the messages and they don’t have to be fake or disingenuous. They can be real and honest and actually work better when they are.
- Social media marketing is about connection and relationships. The new technology allows for an explosion of possibilities with regard to how you build connections. And, it works best when you start to build relationships based on trust. If you are a real person, you have the potential to be recognized far faster than if you are trying to be a persona. I am not saying there are not those in the marketing sphere who don’t build a persona, I am saying you have the power to be who you want to be and that being genuine works more powerfully than being something other than who you are.
- Give to get! Wow, what a saying! One of my favorites and my mantra! This adage supports my belief that creating social connections is about giving and not finding a way to take. I also believe that if we honor the exchange, we will be supported in the process. The biggest takeaway for me has been observing people on twitter, for example, who are willing to give unconditionally and who step forward and offer! And, this giving leads to more connection and more opportunity in one form or the other.
The most exciting message I have learned since I entered the field is that the social in social media marketing is the most powerful marketing tool I know. I recognize that this is my view and that it is skewed towards my own personal philosophy in life. But, how does that matter? The joy is in discovering that I can make this field work according to deeply held values and beliefs that are important to me.
Let me tell you a story…
Let me tell you a story — an example of all the good experiences I am having while learning social media marketing. After all, these are the experiences that are going to propel me forward. These are the experiences that support how I use social media and how I develop in social media. Here is the story.
One of the habits I have developed is to reply to tweets that interest me or where the message is meaningful to me. I schedule ten minutes a day to read and reply in this manner or to tweet something of meaning to me. During one of my reading sessions, I replied to a tweet that really spoke to me. I was in a playful mood and that mood was reflected in the playful way I answered the tweet. That lead to a short, enjoyable conversation. At the end of that conversation, however, I was invited to speak to an international group of professionals over a telephone conference. The talk would be recorded and saved on a database which is promoted and accessed internationally.
The only thing I had to offer was my own experience and a slice of who I really am. The only thing they wanted from me was to be open, honest and genuine. The group of people attending the call was comprised of fascinating intellectuals with a passion for learning. In the short week since I have met them, I feel I have gained a network of colleagues and friends from around the world who inspire me to do more! The group who invited me to speak is called Project Starfish. The program they run that invites speakers is called Sixty Minutes To Impact.
Here is an excerpt from Project Starfish’s website: “Project Starfish creates employable blind people. 80% of blind/visually impaired people are unemployed. We are trying to include them with mainstream businesses to experience real work and become employable. But we do much, much more than that…” They definitely do more than this and they work with multiple groups of disabled or disenfranchised people.
In fact, their Sixty Minutes To Impact mission statement says, “Our mission is to offer solutions where business value solves social problems for diversity employment. We achieve this by creating knowledge ecosystems, relationships, workforce development/internships, which includes contemporary skill building, relevant work experience development and inclusion with businesses…”
Behind all of that though are the people involved. The people are incredible representations of passion, poise, and power who inspire and motivate all who pass within their realm to do more and to be more.
And, this is the social in social media marketing. I have not only marketed my own “brand” through the inspired moments of meeting incredible individuals but have also enhanced my world view.
The featured image in this post was taken by Samuel Zeller. It is a picture of the Tate Modern Museum in London, United Kingdom. The image is available on Unsplash. I chose this image because it becomes the metaphor that represents closed thinking that starts to move towards the light. A “greater than oneself” feel is represented as one looks out the large window to the greater cityscape.