Social Media Pool

Over the years, I've become somewhat proficient in the use of social media as a way of building networks, exerting influence and sharing information.  On an increasingly regular basis, I get asked to share my knowledge with companies, nonprofit organizations and individuals.  Often these are free-flowing conversations, unstructured, and completely come-what-may. I like it this way.

Tomorrow, I will be leading a workshop on social media for members of the nonprofit community at the Redpoll Centre (Social Media Matters).  The session is sold out with a waiting list, indicating the thirst for a forum to talk about these new virtual worlds that penetrate into all strata of our culture.  Social media has supplanted traditional media, not completely but substantially, growing into the primary way that people get and share information, engage with one another, and get a sense of the world.

Social media matters, and outliers who have resisted its allure are in danger of being left behind, missing out on important conversations and information, not to mention the incredible potential that resides in this world for changing the world for the better.

Any conversation about jumping into the social media pool needs to start with which end is going to meet your objective - the shallow or deep end? Or, maybe you want to end up somewhere in the middle.  The important thing to realize and accept is that nobody expects you to be a power-user with a stratospheric Klout score, a seasoned swimmer in the deep end.  Unless you're in a job that demands that level of acuity, you need to settle into a personal social media practice that works for you, a section of the pool with which you feel totally comfortable and safe.

LURKER - the vast majority of people in the social media universe are mostly watching, learning, seeking.  They post from time-to-time, connect with people they know well, and use Twitter as a news aggregator.  They are dipping their toes in the water, which is great.  We are happy they are here.

PROMOTER - if you're connected to an organization or company, you may want to use social media to promote or market an event, product or service.  You've now jumped into the shallow end, where your feet can stay firmly planted on the bottom of the pool.  This is an excellent place to be with lots of little tips and tricks that can help you be successful. I'll be sharing some of those during tomorrow's workshop.

BROADCASTER - as the water makes it up to your shoulders you are moving into the area of the pool filled with information dispensers.  These folks are talking about their activities, but they're also sharing other news that helps build awareness, support and community.  This is still a very safe place to be, even though sometimes you'll need to stand on your tippy toes.

INFLUENCER - if your goal is to use social media as a way of influencing policy makers, public opinion, and attitudes you can no longer touch the bottom of the pool.  You need to be a comfortable swimmer at this point, having a set of tools at your disposal to begin to shape the public conversation about your topic or issue of interest. If you ever panic, it's easy to reach down below the water to find bottom, gain back your confidence and float back up again.

AGITATOR - there are many words to describe these folks who are floating about in the deep end: curmudgeons, s*#t disturbers, contrarians, to name but a few.  These are the folks who stir the pot, encourage conflict, incite debate, niggle at the negative, and create turbulence that can affect almost anyone in or near the pool.  Beware of the shark-like social media creatures as they are highly proficient at coercing people into the deep end where you can and will become their prey.  Choosing to join this explosive shiver has its own set of risks as someone jumping off the high diving board might come along and gonk you on the head.

BRAND BUILDERS & WORLD CHANGERS - these are the folks who are comfortable in all areas of the pool and the graceful divers who pop in and out, making everything look easy.  They are highly conversant in the medium, making excellent use of rich content, and hyper aware of everything that is happening.  From their perch on the diving platform, they carefully observe, learn, adjust and respond.  Much like Wayne Gretzky who observed that "a great hockey player plays where the puck is going to be", these folks are watching for trends, anticipating what is coming next, and responding to opportunities instantly and intuitively.

At the end of the day, you may not want to get in the pool at all.  That's OK. I know many people, usually of a particular age, who have no interest in getting their bathing suits wet.  They are content to sit on the bleachers.  But no matter what way you slice it, they can't deny that there is a pool full of people right in front of them, and unless someone comes along to permanently pull the plug, nobody is leaving any time soon.


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