A Question of Social Media Etiquette

By Masimba Biriwasha | Global Editor-At-Large | January 01, 2013 | @ChiefKMasimba

Many a time I find myself thoroughly outraged by social media. My blood boils. I cringe, gritting my teeth. My frustration is not at the technology itself but the way some users post half-formed, uninformed, misogynistic, racist, homophobic, narcissistic, splenetic comments. Even if you try to comment, what I have realized is that many of these postings have little engagement value or quickly degenerate into rants.

To save myself, I breathe in and out – slowly. Thank God, social media’s ephemerality helps to calm my nerves.  I don’t mean to be censorious. It’s just that I find myself scouring the social web for discussions of value, spending precious amounts of time, to only come up with zilch. As a firm believer in freedom of expression, I am aware of the deep and sweeping vista of opportunity to free expression opened up by social media.

In fact, the power of social media has been evident in dislodging dictatorships and giving goose bumps to those cloistered in corridors of power. With social media information is moving at a faster pace making the world flatter. It’s a great connector. It has helped me to connect with friends and relatives, some of whom had fallen by the wayside.

Maybe social media’s global capacity to connect everyone is also its source of banality. As New York Times’ columnist, Frank Bruni, puts it, “it feels at times as if contemplation has given way to expectoration with speed overtaking sense and nuance exiting the equation.” He even suggests reading fiction as a counter to the rit-tat-tat nature of social media conversations.

Lack of civility and decorum in many social media conversations is certainly undermining the medium’s value as a connector, town crier or public square. Instead of serving the common good, social media has fast become a poster for a rapid succession of inconsequential conversations, escapism, pandering to the base and vulgar. At  worst, it provides a false sense of participation – a voyeuristic fetish – in causes that more often than not need foot soldiering.

Even the role of social media in the Arab spring was not merely in relentless postings and rants but in people taking to the streets to fight for a new political order, risking life and limb. Everything happens too quickly on social media, maybe a tad too quick for sensibility which is essential for engagement.

As long as its used a megaphone for self-centeredness, rants and diatribes, social media’s full potential will never see the light of day. That is why its important to have a sense of decorum next time you make a posting social media. A bit of etiquette on your part can help to build a social media universe that advances humanity.

How to Be A Social Media Superstar in 2014

By Masimba Biriwasha | Global Editor-At-Large | December 30, 2013

Social media is not going away anytime soon whether you like it or not. It’s now the staple food of the Net, multiplying on a daily basis. While it’s virtually impossible to jump on every social media junket out there fact is you can ignore the phenomenon at your own peril especially if you’re in trying to reach huge volumes of people at the lowest cost possible.

The caveat though is with social media platforms getting clogged by the day, it’s becoming harder to be noticed or get your voice heard. To rise above the fray requires astuteness, creativity, hard work, playfulness, consistency and user sensitivity.

Ultimately, the content you produce is the currency that will define your success in the social media universe. Content is the lynchpin to cut through the noise. To help with framing your content, remember the principle of Five Ws and one H. But you need to add a B. to that, that is, short for budget.

That content needs to be on target and to the point. It does not magically come out of thin air, you need budget for it and devote time to producing it. Attention spans are short-lived in the social media space. Only highly-engaging, interesting, funny, thought-provoking content will attract audiences and provoke interaction with a brand, issue or cause. But it’s always to say it. Often times, sharing on social media is self-serving; after all, social media platforms tend to promote narcissism.

If you want to get more value out of the medium especially for marketing or promoting a cause, you’ll have to be adopt a more nuanced approach. You’ve to cut all the narcissistic crap and put your audience first: informative, engaging, and shareable content that is relevant to a user’s location will be a winner. Understanding user location will drive greater ROI in social media efforts. That’s why it’s important for your content to speak directly to a specific target audience.

“Understanding customers’ location patterns will help companies better predict the behavior of their users, thus a chance to market to them in the right place at the right time,” says Kevin Alansky, CMO at SocialRadar.

Micro videos have great engagement power if executed properly. People like video. But it has to tell a good story. Other visual tools such as images and infographics have potential to increase engagement.

Because of the ephemeral nature of social media, it’s important to adopt a constant and consistent strategy. This will help to build rapport with target audiences. Otherwise you risk becoming a victim of out of sight, out of mind. In the social media world, for you to matter, you’ve to keep showing up.  Real engagement takes time and attention on a daily basis. Most important, don’t forget to measure and report on your efforts: it’s what will tell you whether your are succeeding or not.