When I tell someone how to reach me, I usually rattle off my list: Facebook, LinkedIn, E-Mail, Whatsapp, Phone, Twitter, Instagram, Skype or Xing. I’m of course signed up to many more services, and am a more or less active user on all of them. I’m 30 now. I’ve been online since I turned 13, and I started with „social media“ back in AOL chatrooms. I’ve dealt with social media professionally for 7+ years now, consulting on and building up entire social media and digital communications structures for corporations, SMBs and personalities – locally as well as internationally. In 2006, we clumsily called it the „participation web“ – because you didn’t need programming skills to create and distribute your contents. Now we’re almost done calling it social media, because it’s become so professionalized that it’s basically made the full 360° back to being just another facet of digital communications.
And speaking in a business context, that’s what it should be. I’m a big supporter of meaningful and sensible use of social media channels for companies. You shouldn’t „do facebook“ just to „do facebook“. You should have a strategy, a mapped out user journey, and you should optimize your actions on these social platforms towards your business goals (NOT how many fans you can get). As a company, you should also invest in your content. It should look and feel professional, and should meet current quality standards. No blurry phone videos, no sub-par pictures and – especially important – no infuriatingly bad social customer support.
On the Edge: Digital Burnout
Looking at my own personal use of social channels, I’ve had the creeping realization over the past few months that I was on the verge of a digital burnout. With all the grooming of my digital profiles, the regular second-guessing of how this post will land with my „audience“ or what responses that picture might get, I was stealing the fun from myself. Of course you should post with potential consequences in mind. You just shouldn’t let vanity dictate your decisions.
There were no new (viable) social apps, no new (fun) features and a boring assimilation of every social network out there – until it all became a big mashup of the same features strung together in different ways. And other peoples‘ contents were boring as well. Because they were doing the same: carefully crafting an online image.
There’s been hundreds of articles talking about the over-stylized versions of ourselves that we put up on social media. How that affects our self-image, and society as a whole. This is not one of those articles.
Bringing the Fun back
Instead I’ll talk about a couple of trends, apps and features that have helped me bring the fun back into social media.
- „Valar Morghulis – all men must die.“; Game of Thrones:
What a relief Snapchat was. When it burst on the scene, the concept of „fading“ content was novel. You snap a pic, and ten seconds later it’s gone. We know, of course, that isn’t really the case. Anyone can screencap. But the perceived perishability of our pictures, videos and texts seemed to flip a switch in our brains. It doesn’t have to be the carefully crafted picure with just the right lighting. It can be a fun five seconds with the latest ghastly Snapchat filter. And since the content doesn’t live on your profile forever, you can post whenever you feel like it. A LOT.
- Video killed the radio star:
Video is the new normal. But GOOD video content is tough to create. Videos that you’d find on Facebook or YouTube are, if they’re any good, professionally produced. And, especially on Facebook, they work without audio. Which is boring. Music and voice add emotion. Sub-titles add information. Information is okay, emotion is fun. I was always hesitant to post videos on my private social channels because I knew how hard it was to produce great ones. Enter Musical.ly. And Snapchat. And Dubsmash. And Instagram. Especially with Musical.ly I’ve rediscovered the fun in audio. Film yourself lip-synching to your favorite song, in a manageable 15 seconds or so, edit within the app and post it to have some fun with a community full of creative (and super young) users. It’s by far my favorite app at the moment for actually having a good time on social media. Here, the videos auto-play on LOUD.
- “Big flashy things have my name written all over them. Well… not yet, give me time and a crayon.”; Doctor Who:
Yes! The Doctor is spot on here, even if he didn’t talk about Snapchat at the time. What a great feeling it was to finally „get“ Snapchat. The rest of the social media sphere is easy. It’s meant to be understood. It’s becoming all the same. Then there’s Snapchat and all of a sudden I feel transported back into my childhood, conquering Donkey Kong on my Super Nintendo. Swiping up, down, left, right – tapping, holding, swiping some more. Figuring this out took a little while, and it was oh-so-satisfying when I finally got it.
- „That’s my spot.“; The Big Bang Theory:
Sheldon Cooper makes an excellent point here – if you relate his iconic comment to live streaming. With Facebook Live the trend started by Meerkat and Periscope is now becoming a mainstream feature. And I can already tell – a mere month after the official announcement – that we’re going to be hit with a wave of meaningless glimpses into uninteresting lives. But if you ARE doing something interesting (like flying over the Arann Islands with a little propeller machine), then live streaming your adventure is a fabulous idea. Find „your spot“ (aka make it relevant and interesting) and share your experiences. For me, the fun comes in when you receive real-time comments and likes from your audience.
I hope we all reconquer social media – for the fun of it. That we stop losing ourselves in the meticulousness of the latest profile picture, and instead we play again.
„It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live, remember that“. – Albus Dumbledore