You might be surprised to hear that despite my passion for social media, I am also a skeptic. I’m allotted the same 1,440 minutes each day as everyone else, and I don’t like wasting any of them. As we head into a new year, I think about where I should be allocating my time over the coming 12 months, and what I might have done differently in the months that have passed.
Since social media is a major part of my job, I spend time studying the major social media platforms and how they can best be leveraged by my firm’s myriad clients. But I have learned enough over the years to know that there is no universal formula that can be applied to social media to bring magical results to its practitioners.
It’s not about social media, stupid! That was the message of a column I wrote nearly three years ago – just a short time after I’d made my very first foray into the world of Facebook and Twitter.
Despite my profound interest in these new horizon-broadening technologies, I realized early on that social media was just a collection of tools that could be used to make it easier to build communities, connect with others and to amplify one’s message.
The foundation of social media is not Twitter, Facebook, YouTube or your blog. The real foundation is you and your business or organization. It’s the people you work with, the networks you build and the content you produce. It’s your attitude, your integrity, your passion and your work ethic.
If you think I’m discounting the importance of social media, I’m not. It’s just that social media can’t correct a foundation that is built on sand.
The good news, however, is that it’s never too late to start your involvement with social media, especially if you have a solid foundation to build upon. Social media is great for businesses and organizations trying to build their communities, but it works equally well for individuals.
I use social media to my advantage in my personal life nearly every single day. Just last month, when I wanted to learn more about techniques involved with food photography, I went on Twitter and did a simple search for the words “food photography.” Within minutes, I was conversing with experts in the field who were giving me advice and suggesting ways I could learn more.
My interest in food photography grew, and a few days later I had created a community — Westchester Food on Facebook. One of the features of the community is, you guessed it, photos of food from all around Westchester County.
I have seen social media work wonders for individuals and organizations all across Westchester and beyond. I’ve seen it used to recruit volunteers to feed the homeless, help churches build a presence on Facebook, and to help community groups let others know what they do, and how others can join them.
I’ve used Facebook to help build the world’s largest forum of baseball art and artists — a community that has brought together buyers and sellers, helped artists connect with each other, and shined a light on an interest that has turned out to be much bigger than anyone knew.
How are you going to use social media in the coming year? If you’re interested, but not quite sure how to proceed, I urge you to reach out and talk to someone who is already using social media. There are many people right here in Westchester who would be happy to help get you started. Send me an e-mail at Chris@WestchesterSocialMedia.com if you need a hand.
Chris S. Cornell is the Director of Social Media at Thompson & Bender — a Westchester-based public relations, advertising and marketing firm. He manages several online communities, and consults, speaks and writes about social media. You can follow Chris on Twitter at Cornell140. This column first appeared in Generations, a monthly Westfair print publication.