Americans are spending a lot of time on social media. A 2018 Pew Internet study found that we use an average of three different social media platforms regularly while a Nielsen survey from the same year revealed we spend about 45 minutes every day on these platforms. But even as social media become a daily part of our lives, our anxiety with social media is growing.
Many of us worry we are not using social media in rewarding ways. In this blog post, I want to explore what the latest research tells us about how to use social media effectively to post and share content. I will provide four tips that emerge from the research findings.
1) Identify specific goals you want to accomplish with your social media activity.
Source: People with Smartphones/ Rawpixel/ Unspash
Many people participate in social media for self-centered motivations. They give little thought to other outcomes. For example, studies show that (unsurprisingly) narcissists tend to post heavily about their achievements, what they eat, their exercise routine, and so on. Similarly, bragging is common on social media for its own sake.
While such activities may satisfy a person’s narcissistic impulses, pursuing a broader set of goals on social media is more productive. In the personal domain, such goals can be of the type “I want to stay in touch with a wide circle of my friends who are dispersed throughout the world,” or “I want to share a joke or have a laugh.” In the professional domain, one may have goals like “I want to share my expertise on a particular subject” or “I want to grow my professional network and mentor young people.” Whatever your goals may be, it is important to identify them and conduct your social media activity accordingly.
2) Every social media platform is unique, use it in ways compatible with its purpose.
Nothing is more cringe-worthy than seeing an inappropriate joke or vacation pictures on LinkedIn or having to scroll past a dissertation about the value someone would bring to their employer on Facebook. By now, every social media platform is clearly demarcated. What is appropriate for one platform is unsuited for another. Experts suggest distinguishing between personal and professional social media use and using different platforms for these different uses.
For a long time, I posted the same content on different platforms. Now I try to segregate my activity. I use Facebook for sharing jokes, memes, and so on with friends. I find it’s a great way to stay connected with valued friends I rarely see in person. I use LinkedIn to post and share interesting stories or articles related to pricing, customer experience, consumer welfare, and other topics in my professional sphere. And I use WhatsApp to stay closely connected with my family and close friends, sending texts and making calls on a one-to-one or small group basis. While there is some overlap in my connections on these different platforms, there’s little in common in my posting and sharing activity.
3) Be consistent and persistent in what you post and share about and when.
Most people evaluate their social media success by how many people pay attention to what they’ve posted and shared. Social media engagement can be measured in any number of ways, from the number of impressions to likes, reactions, shares, comments, and so on. But it’s difficult for a person’s content to be noticed and heeded (which, I assume is what you want). One study of 1.6 million social media posts found that 99% get no engagement whatsoever.
Source: Woman checking smartphone/ Kev Costello/ Unsplash
Marketing experts advise that the key to getting people to engage with your content is to do two things: (1) post consistently on the same topics over a lengthy period, and (2) be persistent, without being discouraged when your posts receive no engagement. (I’ll develop these ideas in greater detail in a future post).
The engagement challenge in social media is so widely recognized in marketing circles that practitioners refer to the online engagement generated by posts and shares as “earned media.” Through consistent and persistent activity, each one of us has to earn the engagement of our social networks.
4) Be stingy with posting or sharing your private, personal information.
While most of us enjoy using social media and find these platforms to be useful and entertaining, a recent study found that from 2010 to 2015, our collective concerns about privacy on social media increased significantly. Many social media users feel they have little control over their personal data and worry about its safety. What’s more, what we put on social media can be accessed by any number of unexpected entities, from potential employers, romantic partners, insurance companies, law-enforcement officers, and would-be thieves, for a range of reasons that are not all benign or in our best interests.
The easiest solution to this problem is to be stingy with the private, personal information you share on social media, even in the most carefully controlled online setting. My tack is to avoid posting or sharing any private, personal information, even when it is about seemingly innocuous things like photographs from a social event or a vacation on my social media feeds. Nor do I check in anywhere or allow my location to be accessed or posted.
We don’t have to share our private, personal information to have fun, share laughter, build a strong professional network, and achieve other significant goals from our social media activity.