How To Unlearn What You Think You Know About Social Media

by • September 14, 2015 • Experts TalkComments Off on How To Unlearn What You Think You Know About Social Media5972

Sometimes, my job is like unschooling for small business owners.

“Holy Crap! You were NOT kidding,. I’m getting messages and responses from everywhere. And all I’m doing is being MYSELF.” — a real conversation from this morning.

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Much of what a great social media person does amounts to helping her client UN-learn everything she’s read about social media for business.

Because a new client wants to know “The Rules.” They want the formula. They want the instructions. They want to do it “right.” They want, of course, to succeed.

So, it can be tough work breaking it to them that social media simply requires them to talk with people in a new venue (y’know, just like in real life!) — and is not, in fact, the equivalent of prepping for the GMAT or planning a trip to Mars.

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So, with each new client, the “unschooling” begins.

“Okay I’m on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram. Is that enough?”

“Well, do you enjoy them all?”

“Oh NO! Twitter makes me cross-eyed and I’m not really sure what I’m supposed to be doing on Pinterest.”

“OK, well let’s put those two aside for now. Just forget them. And let’s talk about the ones you DO like.”

“But so-and-so said that if I’m not on Twitter …”

Thus, my new friend and I settle into a long chat about the word “should” (It’s high on my $hit list).

And how social media is little different from a party — just online — and people can tell if you don’t want to be there. Why you really don’t have to go to every party. And how everyone will have a lot more fun if you just hang out where you have a good time.

Y’know, just like in “real life.”

An Unlikely Analogy

If you’re unfamiliar with the idea of “unschooling,” it can be loosely described as learning free from externally-imposed structures, values, and scoring systems.

My family experimented with it last year when my then 7 year-old daughter got so interested in learning to code and building robots that the elementary school’s curriculum seriously lost its luster.

We quickly learned that there is an in-between, transitional period that proves itself necessary called “deschooling.” Mainly, you allow the learner to do whatever she wants to for a few weeks, effectively dislodging the “learn-master-perform” programming of a traditional school setting.

This period is an adjustment to not having to do things in a certain order and way — now you will do math, now you will practice reading, now you will eat, now you will be tested — in order to gain approval.

Deschooling ends — and unschooling begins — when the learner tires of waiting for/expecting instruction and starts doing what she enjoys. She learns what is necessary and useful to her toward a meaningful end.

In the example of my robot-building, coding daughter, she worked in her 3 R’s en route to what she really cared about. She honed her reading, math, and writing for a purpose that made sense to her.

Anybody Else Seeing The Parallel Here?

A small business attempting to “master” social media in the way one would memorize a list for a standardized test is an odd thing to do. Seriously, no one is grading you!

Except, of course, you.

In fact, you will find it woefully difficult to innovate while studying for a test that doesn’t exist or matter.

What’s more, you KNOW this already! If you didn’t, inspirational quotes in your Facebook feed would look like this:

wersm satire steve jobs

wersm satire albert einstein

Speak Human, Win The Internet

All jokes aside, my work as a self-titled social media mixologist becomes that of ushering out the “shoulds” a small business has painstakingly collected so that we can get to the fun stuff.

“Well, what should I post then?”

“What do you post on your personal page?”

“Quotes. Jokes. Really cool articles. My shoes. My ridiculously adorable puppy. Oh. I’m overthinking this, aren’t I?”


Isn’t This A Lot Of Work Just To Learn To Be Yourself Online?

Well, sorta. But it’s also really hard to do in a medium where you have the luxury of crafting your image.

It’s not exactly “Be yourself.” But, rather, “Do whatever the hell you want to.” I mean, many people have trouble “being themselves” in real-life skin-covered company.

Maybe you really want to dress up in a Grover costume and give tax tips. Awesome! Do that.

And THEN measure the results! Not for approval, but because there are a lot of sides to “yourself.” And a lot of things you want to do.

But we’re looking for the thing that works. Just like that story you always tell at a cocktail party because it kills.

Your social media person helps you unlearn the crap. So you can create something that truly comes from you. Then we let the data decide.

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