Social Media and Simplicity, Part 7: Emotion
Muhammad Saleem is a social media consultant and a top-ranked community member on multiple social news sites.
This post is part 7 of 10 in our groundbreaking series on how freelancers can use social media and the principles of simplicity to build their business.
With these tips, over 10 days, you can simplify and streamline your social media workflow and ensure that you take advantage of all that social media has to offer but still have time for other things.
Day 7 – The Seventh Law of Simplicity: Emotion
More emotions are better than less
The internet has revolutionized our existence. In most ways this is a positive development but in many other ways it has taken us a step backwards. For example, many people have questioned the value of online relationships. Not the kind of relationships you can develop through Match.com and its kind, but the kind of relationships that a designer in Russia has with her client in Portland, OH, or the kind of relationship a blogger in Sydney has with his audience all over Europe and the Americas, or the kind of relationships we have through social media.
Is someone you know through the social web really a friend? And if not, how do we improve our relationships on the social web?
Note: This post isn’t for everyone, particularly adherents of stoicism.
Emotions are the Universal Social Lubricant
As human beings, almost every decision we make is at least in part driven by emotion. By expressing happiness or sadness, anger or elation, it is through our emotions that we connect with each other. Somewhat paradoxically, the web allows us to connect, network, and collaborate, but makes it harder for us to build lasting, personal relationships.
BYOE: Bring Your Own Emotions
One of the reasons that most people have a hard time connecting with their audience, or making a lasting impression on a community they are a part of, is because they fail to show emotion. People like to connect with other people, not nameless and faceless entities (one of the most basic reasons why most corporate blogs are bound to fail). Ask yourself, would you rather visit a blog with no “about me” page, no author profiles, and no hints at the person behind the content, or would you rather visit a blog where you recognize the author and know a little about his or her background?
One of my favorite new authors of the last few months is Skellie from Skelliewag. I know that she has a background in web design and consulting, and now does freelance writing for her own site, Problogger, NothxEast, as well as Freelance Switch. I also know that she is studying political science in Australia and enjoys gaming and football (European, not American). While I certainly don’t feel like we grew up together, not only do I feel much more comfortable approaching Skellie, but because I have gotten then Cliff Notes version of Skellie, I am much more inclined to follow her content all over the web and to contribute to the conversations she is having.
People don’t want to consume information put forth mechanically, they want to learn from the experiences of others, and want to hear what you’re passionate about.
Similarly the most successful social media operators are the ones that are most open, human, and emotional about themselves, their passions, and the people they network with. People want to know what you like as much as they want to know what you don’t like, what frustrates you and why. If you want to succeed, use your name, use an actual photograph (or an avatar along with a photograph), make it personal, and be honest with your audience. Take a page from my book, here’s what I say on my Digg profile:
Please add me as a friend and add me to IM. I would love to get to know you, chat with you, and help you out on Digg in any way possible. I have 5 different IM options listed so shoot me a message and I’ll be there
And following the message I have multiple ways to get in touch with me. I don’t do this as a marketing gimmick (because being genuine is just as important as being open), but I do this because I actually value relationships with different community members. You’d be surprised how many people actually add me to their IM and strike up conversations with me just because they know I’m open and willing to take the time.
Let Emotions Run Wild
How wild you let your emotions run is a personal choice. While some of my favorite sites, such as Problogger, try to be very politically correct and curse-free, there are many other popular sites that have built careers out of the exact opposite (eg. Valleywag and Uncov). Though it is usually a good idea to keep your emotions somewhat in check (controversy is okay, you don’t want to say something that will cost you your career), it’s always a good idea to let the emotions of your community run wild. In fact, I discussed the issue at Problogger recently, how you should go out of your way to encourage people to disagree with you (not just for the sake of disagreeing, but if they genuinely have a problem with what you’re saying). Here’s a quick summary:
1. Disagreement makes you a better writer
2. Disagreement makes your community think
3. Disagreement makes for better conversations
4. Disagreement increases engagement
If you’re going to leverage the social media audience, be prepared to come face to face with your harshest critics every single time. Unlike your loyal followers, the social media audience is incredibly unforgiving. For us, however, this isn’t a bad thing at all. Take Scott Adams’ advice to heart: “If everyone exposed to a product likes it, the product will not succeed… The reason that a product “everyone likes” will fail is because no one “loves” it. The only thing that predicts success is passion, even if only 10% of the consumers have it.”
Not everyone has to like what you have to say. Not even most people have to like what you say. If you can get enough people to love you and hate you enough to be interested in what you have to say and respond to it, you’ve accomplished what you set out to do.