Social is the great ice breaker. It allows people to get introduced, forge relationships and to share experiences and information, of all types, with ease and speed. The world of social media has changed immensely over the past 10 years. When I think back to my early forays into this medium, I’m astonished at how much it has grown; exploded is actually a better description.

Social media is a what?

Initially, many people were befuddled with social, so it got a bad rap as a waste of time. Seeing updates about what someone was eating or watching on T.V. were not highly received, however over time, people learned and adjusted their POV to socially interact in more meaningful ways. It, also, became apparent that social could unlock the door to reaching greater masses of people in meaningful, business ways. This is when opportunities opened up to greater possibilities and social was allowed to assume its place among other media and communications platforms. In the scheme of things, social is still a relatively new medium and undergoing immense evaluation.

Newness aside, social is certainly a highly sought-after communications platform and without a doubt has eclipsed other media sources as the go-to source for a multitude of interactions. In my opinion, the only other two communications platforms that come close to social with a substantial share of audience capture are broadcast and mobile. Where social is concerned, it has done something which few other communications vehicles can boast; it has brought groups of people together in such a way as to unite them with like causes, beliefs, professions, and pursuits. And more to the point, social has given them a platform from which to interact in real-time.

Social as a public service

Never before have strangers been united and able to interact in such a familiar way.  For example, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children uses Facebook, to issue Amber alerts. Prior to this, Amber alerts were broadcast in more traditional ways using television, radio and on highway signs. Comparatively, these communication vehicles pale by comparison to social. When given the time sensitivity of finding missing children, social has certainly stepped up to the task of disseminating urgent information.

Enter the marketers

People much more creative than I have found ways to optimize social and turn it into the behemoth it has become. Marketers continue to find ways to manipulate it to their benefit, but its full potential has yet to be recognized. A few years from now, it would not surprise me to see it as a different and very grown-up communications source. The professionals who research it, study it, calculate its value in terms of money, and apply tools to uncover who in the population is paying attention to it, will find ways to help social develop into a more functional and well-rounded medium. Marketers have already found that social can be included as part of a successful integrated marketing solution, when coupled with other more traditional communications.

Social for employment

Another way that social is being used successfully, is by recruiters and employer branding professionals who are seeking out potential new talent and promoting the employment benefits of their organizations. Given the number of people and job seekers (passive and active) using social, this makes a lot of sense and is a good way to promote jobs and branding.

It’s not perfect and neither are we

As with anything, common sense and discretion need to be used when interacting on social media. There is such a thing as TMI (too much information.) This can be an area where it can go wrong for people. In our desire to forge relationships and show the human side of ourselves, we can lose sight of what we say and how we say it.

We have all heard the stories of how someone lost a job because s/he bad mouthed the boss or revealed a proprietary company situation broadcast style on social. What these individuals lost sight of is that social is, well, social. This means that comments published on social becomes public knowledge for anyone to see, and this also includes, photo opps and selfies that reveal too much.

Likewise, social is a great vehicle for promoting products, events and recognitions, but no one wants to be barraged with information that is self-serving. Also using social in high-volume for the purposes of selling is tantamount to telemarketers calling during dinner.

So in closing, some of the nuggets we have learned about social to date are: use it with care and conscience, integrate social with other communications vehicles when it makes sense, be friendly and show your human side but don’t over share, be sensitive to how social is used for the greater good, use it as a resource in job searches and job updates, build relationships and share valuable content and last but not least, have fun and enjoy it for what it offers. Social is the great ice breaker.

Previously posted at 8/10/2015