You can't help it. You can't learn something you haven't experienced. I would go as far as saying you can only learn from something you have failed in. Well, at least that's my case. When I look at social media today, I look at it in a radically different way than I did two years ago. Partly because the social web has evolved, undoubtedly. However, I think that the key to this lies in an evolution in how I use it and what for.
9 things I wish I'd known before I started
If I were to start using everything the social web has to offer today (I'm not talking about tools or platforms here) and if I had the experience and the history of failures (and successes) I now have, then this is what I'd take into account:
0. This doesn't create work. This is key: the best social medium in the world will never be able to create any project in the long term, not even a bad one! Take this into account: what you have in front of you are communication and marketing devices through which you can, essentially, connect with people and maybe, change a few things. They help us humanise a product, reach our potential public. OK then, but if you arrive empty-handed, there won't be much you can do. It's your project, idea, service or product that should be valuable; that's your starting point!
1. I'm entering a world that's no longer new. Right here, right now, this is no longer a field where it's the inputs that your personal brand, business or organisation can receive that count; rather, it's a place where it's the outputs you can generate that matter and, with it, the positive impact they may have on your community.
2. Community management isn't the solution. The market is increasingly open if we're talking opportunities, collaboration and innovation, but increasingly narrow in regard to segmentation. In an organisation demanding flexible, multidisciplinary (and ultra-tasking) and highly specialised people, being a community manager doesn't really add the value that organisations need to think of you as an interesting option. The work that will set you above the rest isn't creating, launching or distributing content; not even answering to tweets. The work that this new world requires of you is that you decide what's coming next using your instinct, ingenuity and talent and, then, go and make it happen.
3. A blog is your best choice. Don't think about it, you should open a blog from the start and get writing. Take it easy and understand that you're going to need three of four years of constant work, effort, passion and genius. This is the way to attract a great deal of attention and connection, which is exceptional in the social web. Upload to Instragram less, check-in on Foursquare less, avoid thinking about ingenious tweets all of the time. Instead, write more posts.
4. It's (highly) likely you don't need a Facebook account. Unless what you're looking for is to become self-centred. It's OK if you decide to have one: use it to keep in contact with the people close to you or to meet certain, very specific (professional) objectives you can easily evaluate monthly. As regards having a business page on Facebook: think of what value you're bringing to your audience, objectively; what is it you bring besides constantly publishing images that try to grab their attention, get many "likes", comments or "shares". Also, think about the value that your community brings to the business: (measurable) conversations, direct traffic, (measurable) recommendations or information about your client. If you can't find any of these elements, then possibly something of what you're doing is failing or this platform is irrelevant to you.
5. You can go without checking your social networks for a whole day. If you allow yourself the pleasure of doing so for a set amount of time, you'll be able to check what doing the work that really matters feels like. Staying logged on to Twitter or LinkedIn all the time won't make your bank account grow.
6. Help objectively. Focus on the people who need your help and, more importantly, on the people you can help out. Sometimes, people whom you cannot help will contact you through the social web. Be honest and tell them; if you know someone who might be able to help, then recommend them and, if not, simply apologise and move on. An audience knows nothing about gods.
7. Disconnect from any negative currents. When you hear criticism, consider that the critic (or cynic or hater) shouldn't even have the option of holding the mike and talking. Don't even ignore them, simply pay no mind to them, block them wherever you can, push them out of your world. They'll continue at it, whether you're there or not. They'll get tired one day and leave to become someone else's cynic. A life envied.
8. It never ends. You'll always find a new platform to try out, a new tool to subscribe to, a new comment to leave, a new video to watch, a new follower to follow or a new post to read. There will always be more but you'll still have the same limited time. Problem.
If you dig a little, you can always find out things you wish you'd known before starting to do what you do. The treasure lies wherever you find these things and share them with people who're starting to follow the same path.