“I enjoyed myself more than ever because I was catering to a natural strength of one-on-one engagement.”
In 2007, I helmed website development for a financial services company. We were at the beginning of social media, what we then called “Web 2.0.” The interactive playground was just starting to come into its own. LinkedIn, in particular, was only five years old.
Resistant was the senior vice president of the corporate communications department where I worked at the time. She was in her 60s and had made her professional bones in print media. Our department of 20, all on social media learning curve, encouraged her to join LinkedIn. After much grousing she did. In an email to our team she wrote: “I joined. NOW, to what end?!!!!”
Ten to 18 years after the birth of Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube and Facebook, many of us are still formulating answers to that senior V.P.’s question. In blog posts, business articles, TED talks, online classes, talk shows, and on the platforms themselves, we are having never-ending, exploratory conversations about the “best” ways to “engage.”
This exuberant think-tanking used to be the sole province of newspapers, advertisers and communications juggernauts. The ubiquity and democratization of social media now allows the general population to ponder, experiment with, and opine on the dynamics of engagement.
Who (are audience is)
What (content to develop)
When (to share it)
Where (social media platforms, apps, websites, blogs)
Why (business, pleasure, social change), and
How (digital text, audio/video and graphic imagery).
These are heady decisions.
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As I’ve evolved, so too have my online habits. And, along with them, my answer to the senior V.P.’s question.
2007: It was my job to understand and experiment with the business imperative of social media, notably LinkedIn and YouTube.
2008: Friends supportive of my independent book author career prompted me to join Facebook with this maxim: “If you want to sell books then you have to be on social media.” I had no clue what that meant. Still, I signed up. To this day, I remain confused.
2014: During a sabbatical year, my stated growth project was to “play with Windows Movie Maker and see what happens.” No one will mistake my work for Marty Scorsese’s but I created a robust library of video content for my YouTube channel. And for the first time on social media, I had fun.
2015-2017: Visual storytelling explodes. I took advantage of royalty-free graphics and photography from Flickr, Pinterest, Pexels, and Unsplash, and hired a graphic designer to develop imagery for my fledgling Instagram account. That was fun, too, seeing raw ideas come to life. I also reconnected to LinkedIn.
The mantra was “amass the biggest network possible.” Then, your “content is only as valuable as the number of likes and/or comments it attracts.” And “always end your posts with a query, a call to engage.” I studied posters who were successful in these metrics and tried to emulate them. I failed. It wasn’t “me.”
2018 and the first half of 2019: With a focus on launching a new Website and blog, I disengaged from all social media except LinkedIn where I reposted my blog weekly, hopefully to garner more views. It felt more authentic to write about what jazzed me first, and then share relevant content on this business platform.
Second half of 2019: I shifted to more consistently engaging content of others on LinkedIn and posting less of my own. Why? I saw those views steadily drop and after two years of blogging, observed a sameness in my posts. I was bored and it showed.
Engaging others’ content became my new toy, a way to inject novelty into routine. Only then did more profile views and invitations to connect become the new norm. Too, I enjoyed myself more than ever because I was catering to a natural strength of one-on-one engagement. Lightning strike: when my online engagement mirrors my offline behavior,
I enter the Introvert Social Media Zone.
Two hours per week devoted to social media means I can’t be present on every platform subscribed to – Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube and Pinterest. At least not meaningfully. I have to choose.
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Six years ago, a suggestion in an article about managing one’s social media time deeply resonated with me: don’t try to master every platform. Pick three you genuinely enjoy. To that suggestion I add, “Engage with your innate strengths.” One of mine that helps me to win online (be authentic and have fun) is introversion. My tools of engagement are reflection, queries, deep dives and relevant shares of content other than my own.
These are had more authentically in one-on-one interaction than group dynamic. Engaging globally with like-minded others at my own pace, from the comforts of computer screen and home solitude is an introvert fantasy come true.
On LinkedIn, I scroll different feeds and authentically join conversations that:
Legitimately interest me.
Teach – last year I noticed that people invited me to connect after I favorably commented on their post. I thought, “Good idea.” In that narrow space of a few sentences, there’s potential alignment. This organic entre to connecting is an introversion standard.
Inspire me to add value by sharing relevant content in the moment from other sources.
Prompt me to celebrate others.
Share mutual observations about below-the-radar trends.
Connect to the far side of the globe – 2:00 am in the United States is middle of the night but daytime in the Pacific Rim. A lot easier to engage people when they are awake to view a comment on their post in real time.
In a 2014 Business2community.com article, 8 Reasons Why Introverts Rule the Interactive Age, John Doyle writes, “Social media is about sharing – sharing your ideas and opinions; sharing the ideas and opinions of others with your friends; and sharing your website with guest bloggers. Introverts are experts at sharing, especially when it involves ideas. Because introverts live in their heads, they are fascinated by new ideas. And they’ve long since discovered that you’ll come across new ideas faster by listening than by talking.”
Social media guru Gary Vaynerchuk has said that Twitter was “made for him” because it’s the digital equivalent of a cocktail party.
“Having spent their entire lives avoiding small talk,” writes Doyle, “introverts are experts at cutting through discussions about the weather and getting right to the issues that matter.” As I write this I recall the too many cocktail thingees I’ve endured, and the visceral relief upon returning home. There I recharge: with reading a book, advancing a visual art project, really listening to music or, indeed, probing infinite, and often, life-enhancing questions on the Web.
“To what end social media?” asked the senior V.P. I reported to 13 years ago. These days, a discovery mindset, transparent engagement and interest enough in others to be welcomed back.
How about you? To what end…?