Sharing is caring: Promoting your contemporaries while promoting yourself on social media

Earlier this week, I Twitter-stalked D.C.’s latest Social Media Breakfast, listening in (or, reading in, as it were) to the great ideas being presented by speakers and attendees alike.

One of the awesome things about Twitter, of course, is that it allows me, a woman in San Francisco, to eavesdrop on a conversation happening some 2500 miles away.  And, with the incorporation of hashtags, I can even participate in the event myself, if I see a tweeted comment to which I feel compelled to respond.

One of my favorite tweets from that discussion came from Mandy Jenkins. I have mentioned Jenkins before for the insight she has provided Re: how blogs, news sites, and any other spot on the Internet that allows for reader input can have a robust comment section without getting overrun by abusive trolls. But the discussion for the most recent Social Media Breakfast centered around collaboration within organizations, a topic that spurred this tweet from Jenkins:

Her comment here underscores the idea that social media is social first: it’s about people connecting with one another through the sharing of information, ideas, and experiences.  Social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, Foursquare, and Loopt are obviously powerful tools for connecting with an audience, but if businesses, marketers, non-profits, and others treat these tools as media through which they announce only their own great qualities, the message will sound to audiences like the obnoxious person at a party who talks only about herself–and I think we all go out of our way to avoid getting caught between that person and the hors d’oeuvres table.

When I saw Jenkins’ tweet, I immediately thought of @Slate, the Twitter account through which the online magazine shares with followers, “What Slate is reading and discussing.”  The majority of the content in this feed is information from publications other than Slate–Gawker, the L. A. Times, Salon.com, and many others.  Slate has a separate account, @SlateArticles, for folks who want to keep up with what Slate itself is producing, but the @Slate Twitter feed, in sharing information from other sources with readers, helps Slate to establish itself as a publication that readily acknowledges the interesting, humorous, or profound content produced by others.  In this way, Slate plays the role of the kind of person at a party who is fun to be around–not only because of all the different stories she has to tell about herself, but also for the ways she gets those around her to share the funny and interesting stories they have about themselves.

Other folks who are “good at Twitter” include those who are involved in the San Francisco food cart scene.  What you will find if you follow any of the cart proprietors is that most are just as willing to give a shout-out to another cart on the scene as they are to notify followers of their own happenings.  It’s an approach that helps to foster the spirit of camaraderie and collaboration that has made the cart scene so popular and thus so successful.  Here’s an example of what I mean, from Soul Cocina:

Notice that instead of tweeting simply his own presence at an event, Soul Cocina mentions who will be there with him, thereby promoting himself as well as others.

The same spirit of collaboration is present in the carts’ approaches to Follow Friday on Twitter; many of the carts use this time to recommend the carts they like, as in this example from the Gumbo Cart:

The “more is merrier” approach adopted by the carts has helped make each individual one more successful than they would be if they each promoted only themselves.  Eating is a social activity, and a strong scene with lots of different “players” ensures the health of that scene, thereby securing each member’s place within it.  Plus, this kind of “promote thy neighbor” credo brings an energy and fun to the Twitter discussion about each of the carts that carries offline, when the carts and their followers meet up at various events.

So if you’re beginning to ramp up your efforts on the social media front, the important thing to remember is that while your main goal of using social media may be to “build your brand,” followers are also branding you as a company, organization, or publication that is either “good” or “bad” at social media.  The more you can capitalize on the social in the media (as we saw Old Spice do with their wildly popular YouTube campaign), the more your followers will appreciate what you bring to the party, and the more likely they’ll be to share what you’re sharing with everyone else they know.

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