By: Alex Barker
The worst wheel of the cart makes the most noise.
Take a moment. Stop fidgeting. Stop scratching your face. Stop thinking about what you have to do in a second, and for everyone’s sake, look up from your damn twitter feed. There. Feels weird, doesn’t it? It’s been awhile since it was just you, thinking and being on your own. Take three deep breaths, each time concentrating on your breathing, and only your breathing.
What you just experienced is what it was like to live in the early 1990’s. No one could text you, which was both good and bad, and no one would have #teamfollowback associated with them in any way, which is indisputably good. No one would send you a request to play Diamond Chaser or Farmville or any other generic, life-wasting game. You didn’t have to look at pictures of spaghetti at a middling restaurant put through an artistic photo filter. You didn’t have to sit in front of an inanimate object to feel a connection to other humans. Talking involved breathing in another living being’s face.
I know that this whole bit makes me sound like someone who eats prunes, like a man with my tighty-whiteys game on high, but just hear me out. I love Twitter (14,300 tweets in) and Instagram (posted over 1,000 photos) and I used to have a pretty serious thing with Facebook, but the problem is not everyone knows how to use them in a way to enhance us, to make our lives better. Even brilliant corporations with mind-boggling budgets for marketing and communications are faltering in the social media realm. Want some answers? Do you want to give yourself peace of mind? Here are some tips for each social media that I use to enrich my life with awesome, relevant material.
Facebook: Delete that bad boy. It’s time, it’s been time, and yet, here I am, still with a Facebook as I type this. Your Facebook is nothing but a way to waste time… which is good, but yours is cluttered with one-time acquaintances and 800 groups posting statuses like:
“LIVE LAGUH LUV 😉 ;-/ >:-( NOT!!! Hate your cheating guts, Tony!”
Let’s take a moment to think about the mental ramifications of this on your mind. You hopped on Facebook to relax and see what’s up with people you care about. In one fell swoop, you have managed to:
- Stress about the all-caps being yelled at you.
- Waste precious seconds of your life trying to decipher text-emoticons.
- Struggle with who Tony is, or whether you should de-friend him, or look him up, or if he’s just judged.
- Decide that the poster is a bitter, bitter person and has serious respect and judgment issues.
Best case scenario: You now dislike the person who posted this and have no button to show it. Worst case scenario: You accidentally hit the “like” button after spending four seconds of your life making more than one stressful decision per second and must now go through the difficult process of deleting that friend –or-submitting yourself to more chaos in the future.
That sounds like an overreaction, right? Wrong. That was just one single status. Your feed fills with thousands a day. Facebook gets over $4 billion in ad revenue a year, and it’s not so you read what you want to… it’s so you see what people who pay money want you to see. Creepy.
When is the last time you read a Facebook post that taught you something, helped you understand how a loved one is doing, or made you a better, more knowledgeable person in any way? I can’t remember either.
Finally, forget about their monopoly of your photos from the last few years. On your deathbed you will not look at a picture of you from the specific time period you had Facebook and mutter weakly, “Thank God for Facebook… I’ll miss you, life.” What is more likely to happen is the cousin you were forced to actually go see, or call, will be there at the side of your deathbed, and you’ll be glad you stopped using the social media as a crutch for your relationship and started to connect with them on a personal, non-public, non-fake, non-electronic level. Forget the photos, stop saying you use it to keep in touch with family (you’re a bad family member if that’s the only way you do stay in touch) and stop stressing yourself with other people’s grammatical errors. You don’t have time for that. You’re a dynamic brand that must be managed every single day. Do you think McDonalds, Apple, or some other juggernaut company would like to waste its time while getting worse? No. They’re smart and so are you. Go work on your passion instead and shock the world.
Twitter: This is arguably the most useful social media if used correctly, and arguably the most painful if it is used wrong. First thing first; go to who you follow right now and cut 50 of them, at least. You don’t have to follow people back… that’s what Facebook is for, remember? If someone asks you why you won’t follow them back, tell them to give you a sales pitch, like they would if they were selling you their used car. What are the features, advantages, and benefits? If they can’t clearly communicate how their Twitter feed is adding value to you, then cut them. Remember, each tweet you read is like a mental push-up. Doing push-ups is good for you, but there is no use to do thousands, or to slug through some with the added weight of absolutely no benefit to your mind. This rule seems harsh, but often, people just want a follow-back for status reasons… they’re collecting followers to brag, they’re using you!
Next, #dont #use #hashtags. Chances are, you’re using them wrong. The best way to use them is to join actual conversations that are marked by that # symbol (i.e. Gay rights are important, and this is the civil rights issue of our time. Vote no on #proposal8). People can see your tweet by searching #proposal8 and engage you in relevant conversation where you both might learn something, share interests, or bond. That is the meaningful kind of communication that social media can be used for.
If you are just using it to indicate you were joking (i.e. I love dogs #not), the joke wasn’t very good. If you are using it randomly (i.e. I want #to eat cheese) people think you are insane. If you are using it to say #followback you are whiny and need a life. I know this sounds harsh, but what I’m typing is what everyone is thinking, and we’re all just here to help each other.
Now let’s talk about subtweets. A subtweet is a passive-aggressive tweet aimed to show distaste for something, be it a situation, person, or life in general. These are the absolute worst tweets that exist, and among some demographics of tweeters, seem to be the sole reason of having a twitter. An example of a subtweet is: “I’ll never know why it had to be this way. Guess it doesn’t matter.”
This is a bad tweet for many reasons:
- It applies to two of the millions of people on Twitter. The brain-stress of reading many of these, like we outlined above for Facebook, is bad.
- Adds nothing to, if not detracts from, one’s personal brand. It’s a written statement of insecurity and negativity.
- No one in your feed knows the situation, so it’s like an inside joke, only negative, and in front of the world.
- At best gives someone the message you’re upset at them, and at worst embarrasses them and angers them further at you, the tweeter.
- Ultimately wastes everyone’s time. We call anyone who tweets like this “TNT” at the Barker home because “they know drama.” Tweeting poorly can lead to people liking the actual-physical version of you less. Remember this.
*side note: inspirational tweets, while positive in nature, are becoming more and more common and can be interpreted as insincere… limit any inspirational ideas and quotes that aren’t directly out of your unique mind*
A good rule of thumb before tweeting is to think: “Will this make me look good? Will this help someone else? Will my target market (people who follow you and care about what you have to say) grow from this content?” If the answer is no to any of those… think twice.
Now, that’s an awful lot of egg on the ‘ol Twitter-machine’s face, but when used positively, Twitter can make you a more intelligent and informed person in your field of choice, can build you a reputation, and even help you become an expert while helping others. Treat your tweets like a product that you are selling, but won’t get any money from. Instead, you get credibility and trust. Universal good things to tweet are innovative ideas or interesting observations on the world… both the physical world you’re living in and the larger world. Post links to stories that you know your followers will find interesting. Remember, you are trying to create content that followers can only get from you, otherwise, why would they follow you? An easy way to do this is to take a news story, about anything that interests you, from any news source, and comment on it. Anyone can post a link. Experts get paid to analyze… and it’s all easy because it’s just your thoughts. Too much info can clutter the minds of your followers and maybe even encourage an unfollow. My personal rule is that a subject can go 1-5 tweets, and that’s the max. 5-20 tweets deserves to have something like this written about it, and more than twenty tweets deserves a book. Go make money.
Are you funny in real life? Do people, other than your close friends and cronies, laugh at things you say? Then you have the green light to tweet humorously. I suggests self-degradation. Anyone can make fun of others, or a situation, but themselves? It shows you’re humble and down-to-earth, an increasingly important message to send people who only read your tweets regularly and don’t get to see the way you act and speak around others in person.
Use twitter as a discussion board. Tweet at people or businesses if you like what you see, and customize your follows so that you are growing and eager to read tweets, not slogging through them. Would you follow you? If the answer is yes, you’re at least doing okay. If not, switch things up… it literally does not matter at any point and time if you change the way you tweet because you only tweet to benefit you.
Instagram: Sweet baby Jesus this is an easy one. Photos say a lot, so do not say that you are boring and do not constantly say the same thing. If someone follows you, they likely already know your interests, so no need to post picture of a basketball each day, taken at different angles around the same driveway.
- Get artistic
- Post pictures of people (specifically their face)
- Pay for an app outside of Instagram to edit photos in cool ways, it’s worth it
- Use your captions well (see: Twitter)
- Post things you think the world deserves to see
- Post food pictures ANY
- Post selfies, non-stop
- Take poor pictures (search Google for actual photography advice if desperate)
- Feel required to post
Admittedly, these guidelines are not comprehensive, nor are they perfect in any way, but they have helped me become a better person overall using social media and I hope they will help you too. Just don’t forget the Golden Rule: “Post unto others as you’d like to be posted.”
Silence is better than trash.
Alex Barker has a great social media presence. If you want a little bit of Barker every day, follow him on Twitter @alexbarker763. He’s got a Facebook too, look him up. And an Instagram so however you kids look that up, you know, do that too. If 140 characters doesn’t quench your thirst, stay tuned for more articles under Breaking Barker.