Five reasons why social media is like … high school

In previous blog posts, I’ve looked at how social media was like tennis – different surfaces, a sustained energy level and the need to show a full range of shots.

Social media is also like a place from your history, whether you want to go back there or not.

Five reasons why social media is like … high school

1. Because we mistakenly believe popularity automatically translates into success.

It has been forever immortalised in Hollywood movie after Hollywood movie – the popular kids at school are where you should be.  Popular, confident and surrounded by people.  Everyone flocks to them and waits on their every word. We are taught from a very early age that popularity equals success.

It’s also not a historical message either. Today’s reality TV shows promote the fact that the person with the highest votes stays in the house/competition/kitchen/insert reality TV set here. Those who form the best alliances and the widest support base who survive.

But this success is often short-lived.  The reality TV star stays in the house for weeks but disappears back into obscurity months later, never to be heard from again.  Those popular kids at high school are now working in menial jobs or sometimes for the very same ‘nerds’ they terrorised at school, who now own massive software companies.

In social media, we’re also taught that popularity equals success.  Companies – perhaps even yours – have been told that Facebook is where it’s at, based on numbers alone.  Or that Twitter is so ‘now’ so you should be part of it.  Or that you’ve only succeeded once your YouTube clip has 10 million views. Or your Insta channel needs a whole army of followers to be worth it.

This is wrong on so many levels.  Your social media program should be based around where your audience is … and measuring things apart from popularity.  And if you’re unsure as to what’s actually valuable to you when you’re in social media, ask yourself this questions: when was the last time you took your one million Facebook likes down to the bank and they accepted them as a deposit?

2. Because word of mouth is both a boon and a curse.

High school is a place where you build a reputation, both good and bad.  The corridors pulse with gossip, whispers and half-truths.  Some of these whispers build you and your reputation up.  Some of them cut you down.  It can require a lot of hard work to address these half-truths and put the real story out there.

This is probably one area where social media is MOST like high school.  The corridors are now in social media spaces that traverse the globe and the whispers continue. It still requires the same hard work – and you still have little control over what people say.  You still need to put the effort in to quell the rumours, set the story straight and make sure people have a clear picture of what you’re really about.

And you can’t control what other people saying. Not at school. Not in social media.

3. Because you’ll get even better results if you do your homework.

Some kids have decided that homework is a waste of time.  They struggle through assignment after assignment because they haven’t done the basic work that will help them understand the work they are doing.  Other kids understand the value of doing the research or not leaving things until the last minute … and their results reflect their efforts.

Social media is no different.  If you do your homework (understanding your audience, preparing posting schedules etc) then your work will be better for it.  But if you’re the kind of person who posts at the last minute because they’d forgotten about it, you really won’t maximise your social media efforts.  You’ll be posting because you have to – which is never a good angle from which to approach social media.

Preparation is the key. It always has been.

4. Because sometimes you just have to pull the kids into line.

Sometimes teachers just let things take their course.  Arguments dissipate or the antagonist walks away.  Certainly every schoolyard I’ve seen has had its share of ‘discussions’ between people – both keen to see that they win the argument.  But at other times, they step in before things get really ugly.

In our social media space, sometimes you see fights break out.  Many times the community itself self-moderates as people step in.

But at other times, you need to step in and remind people of what is expected of them as good citizens of your community.  You might need to figuratively take some people by the ear and lead them away from causing more trouble.  Nicely, of course.

5. Because a good classroom is one with true interaction.

We all remember the teachers we enjoyed.  They engaged with us, they were entertaining, they were knowledgeable and they brought the best out of us.  A good classroom is one with true interaction.  I remember lectures – unless you had my undivided attention in the first minute, it was a struggle to stay focussed and I wasn’t Robinson Crusoe there.  One-way traffic was often a good way to lose your students.

If your social media is more lecture than conversation, it isn’t working like it could.  Social media is a true two-way street.  Talk TO people, not AT them and your efforts will generate far more benefit for your organisation.

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