Getting started with social media Op-Ed

| 25 Apr 2016 | 01:14

Social media is storytelling. We are all, at any given time, sharing an online narrative; some stories galvanize us, and our goals, some stories electrify our network, while other stories further isolate us, binding us ever tighter to our exhausting, and exhaustive fears. A good story inspires the audience, helping them make an emotional identification, which, over time, leads to connection. A disorganized presence leaves the viewer indifferent.

Of course, an intelligent, viable social media presence takes time, trial and effort, as well as personal responsibility: why are you online? What story are you telling? Whom are you telling it to, and why? What’s your audience’s take-away? Why should they care? As the Cheshire Cat famously said, “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there.” There, of course, being nowhere.

If you’re online, hoping to promote your business, or yourself, here’s some basic points to consider:

* How you present is how you will be perceived. If a stranger were to see your Facebook, Twitter or Instagram profile, what would their immediate take-away be? Would that stranger understand that you, for example, are a published author trying to get published…or would he be underwhelmed by all the cat photos? I share plenty of cat photos, don’t worry, but I also give potential and current clients a solid understanding of my personality, passion and goals as a coach.

* Identify the ways your presence actively furthers your goals. Look at your social media presence with a gimlet eye: if you didn’t know you, would you understand the story you’re telling online? Would you understand all your special skills, and differentiating qualities? Would you hire you? If not, why assume anyone else would? Does your profile speak to the professional you know yourself to be? You can shrug and say, “Well my friends all know what I’m doing, and anyway, they wouldn’t help me.” How much any of us truly know of what our friends and family are doing is open for debate. Meanwhile, it’s your responsibility to give people a reason to help you. Ideally, you want a smiling, well-groomed profile photo, a cover photo that speaks to your overarching interest, and a succinct profile that captures the reader’s interest. Helping your ideal audience at the end of the day is really about helping yourself. And your wallet.

* “Please like me!” Likes are great, numbers are lovely…but online engagement is king. What’s the point, for example, of having 10K Twitter followers if, when you tweet, no one responds? I have less than 1,000 followers on Twitter, and yet I’ve landed clients across the U.S., Australia, New Zealand and Russia. Many clients will tell me that until they can be sure of having 25K followers, there’s “no point” in getting online. So, essentially: until you’re a success, you’re not going to do the hard work of becoming a success? Tell me how that works out for you. I’ll be over here, coaching clients in Nepal, and giving workshops in Chicago, and public speaking throughout the country, all through clients and connections I met online.

* Choose one platform, and commit. Any social media platform you don’t put the time into, will ultimately be useless. You can sell yourself short on numerous platforms, with a shallow, vague, scatter-shot presence, or you can identify your goals, audience and platform-specific voice, and commit to the hard work of branding, creating the opportunities your talent requires.

* Get started by getting started. People say, “Well, once I’ve figured out my brand, I’m going to dive in.” That never works. You didn’t learn how to ride a bike by watching other people: you got on the bike, maybe had some training wheels, and started pedaling. You learn by doing: why would creating a useable, professional social media footprint be any different? Create a Content Folder for your goals-related ideas, so that when you’re doubting yourself more furiously than usual, you’ll have interesting material waiting to be shared. Start today. Spoiler alert: in this life, it’s not so much that things get easier, as you get tougher.

Today, on any one particular platform, update your profile photo with a professional version. Start liking and following the pages of your competition and colleagues for inspiration, and ideas. Today give yourself permission to speak to the world, and to presume that you will not be rejected.

I think that for many of us, the idea of being online, and sharing our fragile dreams with the world is, frankly, terrifying. But look around: our bruised, battered world is desperate for good ideas, for passion, for your weird, wonderful creativity. What are you waiting for?

As the Creativity Yenta, Carlota Zimmerman speaks nationally at events, leads public workshops, works privately with clients, and can be reached through her website,