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Lee Odden

Social Media Participation — A View Of The Bigger Picture

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Social media technologies and platforms are now everywhere internet connectivity exists: desktop, tablet, smartphones and even kitchen appliances, cars and wearable devices.

While social technology usage has matured significantly, there are many business professionals who either haven’t started or aren’t comfortable with the behavior of public sharing.

One of the most common criticisms or objections I hear is that an individual Tweet, Facebook post or image on Instagram isn’t going to make a difference amongst the stream of social noise published every second. In fact, it can seem pretty overwhelming to executives my age, because expectations of their position are generally high and so is their own uncertainty about the impact of social media participation.

Therein lies one of the most profound misconceptions about being active on the social web as an individual or even as a brand: It’s not the single social post that matters, it’s the story that evolves out of the cumulative experience.

Sure, people still share what they had for breakfast (I had a classic oatmeal from Caribou) but they’ll also share other useful information that provides a bigger picture of who the person is, what they stand for and insights into their professional expertise. The conclusion we come to from just one social message is nothing compared to the effect over time.

That’s the disconnect. Don’t evaluate the impact of personal social media participation from the moments shared in individual posts. Think of your social media participation (curation, sharing, engagement, promotion) in terms of a story you’re telling over time.

In my case, my social participation is intended to communicate creativity, domain expertise in the marketing and PR field, thought leadership in those areas and appreciation for our team and customers. Those key areas are the filter for many (not all) of the social messages, interactions, curation and promotion that I do on my combined network of over 250,000 social connections.

When you combine cumulative social messages on different platforms in different media with traditional digital (email) and offline experiences, the playing field is decidedly leveled.

So if you’re tentative about social media participation and evaluating whether you should Tweet, use Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr, YouTube or any other social network, think more about the overall story you have to tell about yourself, your brand and especially those around you (co-workers, clients, partners). You’re just doing it 140 characters or one image or Vine video at a time.

As you decide how you’ll engage personally on the social web, think about what it is that you stand for. How do you want to be known? How can you be the most helpful to others? As you answer those kinds of questions, make choices about the kind of information you share on the social web. Use the answers as a filter for where and with whom you engage.

Think beyond the moments towards the overall story you can use social media to tell. You’ll find it to be a more satisfying and productive experience.


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About the Author:
Lee Odden is the CEO of TopRank Online Marketing, a provider of innovative Internet marketing consulting for progressive B2B companies ranging from Marketo to PRWeb to McKesson. Odden has been recognized for his expertise with enterprise social media, SEO and content marketing strategies by The Economist, Advertising Age and Mashable. He writes a monthly column called Social Media Smarts for ClickZ and his blog at has an active community with over 46,000 subscribers, 12,000 Facebook Fans and has been rated the #1 Content Marketing blog 3 times by Junta42. He is also the Author of "Optimize: How to Attract and Engage More Customers by Integrating SEO, Social Media and Content Marketing" published by Wiley.
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