Social media: all talk, no action

“In a crowded marketplace, fitting in is a failure. In a busy marketplace, not standing out is the same as being invisible.”

Seth Godin

I haven’t just arrived at this habits ‘thing’, intent on selling you another service. I’ve come to it because I’m tired of talking to people about the miracle that is social media (it can be a curse in equal measure), training them and…waiting.

The thing is, you can’t afford to wait or, worse still, do nothing. For every minute that elapses someone else is filling the vacuum where you should be.

I accept that for many people they will say their work is not social media — they build, make or help others — but in a world where nearly everything is the same (certainly on the web), those that get picked will be those who are willing to put in the time and effort to create remarkable content, build a tribe and then extend a helping hand, even if they don’t see an immediate return. (How hard can it be?)

Take my niche — professional services. If I was in practice now as a lawyer, I would have:

  • Joined Twitter
  • Created multiple, client-centric lists
  • Opened an account with Hootsuite (the free version is fine)
  • Worked out a daily routine that enables me to post something more than once a day
  • Watched my competitors, taking note of the similarity of their offering (trust me, with a bit of lateral thinking, it’s not hard to differentiate your offering; actually the best way to do so is to shake off the notion of developing a firm brand, and focus instead on your brand)
  • Engaged with people, i.e. talk to them as if they were human, not an alien from another world
  • Opened an account with LinkedIn (trust me there are people who still don’t have an account)
  • Built the best possible LinkedIn profile replete with lots of great content (a video or Soundcloud recording wouldn’t go amiss)
  • Integrated my connections via Outlook or Gmail (you don’t then have to worry about how many connections you have)
  • Written a few posts to LinkedIn that chimes with my connections but also have the potential to spread beyond it’s relatively narrow compass (you can share it to Twitter too)
  • Started a blog; don’t wait for your firm to change its website (I could set you up with a blog on Tumblr or Livejournal within five minutes)
  • Created a blogging/editorial calendar
  • Opened a Flickr page
  • Uploaded some pictures that depict me as a real person, i.e. not wearing a suit and tie with a stuck on smile
  • And, if I’m feeling brave, I might even use Vine for a few quirky self-promotional, six-second videos

As the (truncated) list above demonstrates, there’s no shortage of places to hang out and grow your tribe, but, of course, you have to want to do this stuff. Better still, you have to ask yourself the serious, grown up question: Am I serious about social media, or am I doing it because everyone else is?”

More than that, if you’re not willing to put in the hard graft without the instant gratification that so many expect — show me the clients! –then my advice is not to bother.

I’m deadly serious.

If this stuff doesn’t excite you, then stop reading now, and go back to the coalface where, as likely, you’ll spend the rest of your working life having the same tedious conversations with your inner self.

Even if you’ve started, chances are you’re either ‘on’ or ‘off’; namely, you have this burst of energy which sees you post wildly, and then…a big fat nothing.

And that’s where habits come into their own.

Even for someone like me who thinks they have high motivation and gobs of willpower, I would be lying if I didn’t say I’ve struggled in getting my social media Mojo together for extended periods.

But what if I told you that by taking the smallest possible step every single day — i.e. log on to one of the aforementioned platforms or if that’s too hard, write 140 characters or if that’s too big, open a tab in your browser and search for the word Twitter — that, in time, you would establish an almost bullet-proof habit that just might get you over the line, would you do it? (In my experience what starts as something so mind-numbingly easy ends up being part of your daily routine; and more than that you actually exceed your stated aim.)

If you think this is all hocus-pocus, you might want to watch B J Fogg’s video below, or read James Clear’s post. But actually, what you should do, right now, is write down the smallest possible action you could take to embrace social media — ignore any goals you might have — and resolve to do it this instant. If you can then do it the same time every day thereafter or link it to another habit then so much the better. The trick is not to lie to yourself that you have half done it (use something like HabitBull if you must), commit to the habit every day and do it.

In truth, I’m not really doing justice to the idea of ‘mini-habits’; but what I want you to think about is that if you can make it so damn easy that your subconscious doesn’t start blocking you with all sorts of non-social-media thoughts, then in time you will embrace that element of social media which up to now you’ve ignored. One thing to note, habits on the whole take a lot longer than 21 days to become part of us. In truth, no habit is immutable, but it becomes easier to maintain the longer you continue the routine.

For me, as I said in last week’s post, I intend to bring into focus my own habits journey. Right now, I’m working on a number of simple habits (they’re a bit more than mini-habits, i.e. practice calligraphy) and if, as I hope, I’m able to keep going until Christmas, I’ll have a body of evidence to share with you (I promise to give you the true version minus the BS).

In summary, if you can achieve a breakthrough with social media, who knows what other life-changing doors will open to you.