10 social media lessons in being human

Don’t get caught up in the race to get fans or followers; take time to treat each other as humans—not numbers.

Social media is about human connections and building relationships. Social media’s technology empowers us to reach out to a wider circle of people. It’s up to us to decide how we use these relationships, whether it’s to push our latest product or support each other’s endeavors to do something bigger than we are.

The underlying message of the 140 Character Conference in June, which brought together presenters from around the globe, was to use social media’s power to make a difference in the real world.

Here are 10 social media lessons that help us to remember that each of us is human with our own hopes and goals. At the end of the day, we all just want to make a small difference in at least one other person’s life.

1. Share your passion with other people. Do something simple to bring a smile or positive energy to one other person. As an individual you can’t change the world, but you can touch another person in Michelle Chmielewski‘s hug-filled view.

2. Each individual is a brand. The question each of us needs to determine is who we each represent, ourselves or our companies? If you represent a brand, they own you and everything you say must be approved—in Anita Cochran‘s view. As a result, you’re not always genuine since it may not be the words that you’d use. On social media, make sure you’re comfortable associating your name with what you’re saying. Be genuine and consistent.

3. Everyone wants to tell their story. So listen to them, advises Warren Etheredge. Show you heard what they said by playing back to them in their words. This goes a long way towards getting their attention, winning their trust and earning their respect.

4. Each of us has the power to change the world. In Christopher S. Penn‘s words, social media and current technical devices empower each of us to be a superhero on a scale unimagined by the creators of the original superheros. Do you have the motive, means and opportunity to be a superhero?

5. Global is the new local. Just because someone on social media is from a small town doesn’t mean that he or she is small minded, in Becky McCray‘s words. Twitter is the world’s coffee shop because it allows you to connect with people who you might not encounter in a small homogeneous town. As a farmer from Nebraska, Steve Tucker finds the world a much smaller place even though Foursquare has no clue where he is when he tries checking-in from his tractor.

6. Persuade those who are already listening to you. In a nutshell, the art of persuasion, in Liz Strauss‘ words, is that we think people who love us are really smart. Therefore, if you think I’m really smart, I’ll do anything for you. Find people who are receptive to your content. To that end, have a place online so people can find you.

7. Invite social media into your organization. This can supercharge your employees and your audience because it allows them to do cool new things and creates engagement that employees, customers and the public are excited about. Social media can be a powerful tool that takes on a life of its own. Not convinced? If a Detroit hospital system and the Toronto police can try it, so can your organization.

8. Understand the power of saying thank you. With the small gesture of thanking someone else, you acknowledge they’ve helped you, pointed out Jeff Hasen. It’s the act of recognition that’s important, makes us feel valued. It’s so little, yet so much.

9. Customer service is the only sustainable distinguishable factor. You must know your customers individually as people, according to Becky McCray and Cody Heitschmidt. Good or bad, word travels fast in a small town because at the coffee shop everyone talks to each other.

10. Measure your return on relationship (Or ROR as Ted Rubin puts it.)When you use social media, your goal shouldn’t be to see how many people like or follow your organization, but how you can build relationships. From a marketing perspective, the goal is to guide messages, not control them.

Whether you’re an individual or corporation using social media, it’s critical you acknowledge there are real people at the other end of your communications.

Heidi Cohen is president of Riverside Marketing Strategies. Follow her on Twitter @heidicohen.

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