Sean O'Byrne

Smashing the 'social media paradigm' - Do brands really need a 'Handshake 101'?

How many articles have you read today on how to have a conversation with your colleagues, make an appropriate phone call or give the best damn handshake you can? None I hope. That's because we all know instinctively how to communicate; we've been doing it all our lives. It's part of our DNA. Making connections and building relationships is what we're all about.

I must admit I have struggled to find an appropriate title for this article. I played with "Don't trust your social media guru', 'Social media articles are boring" and " Are you tired of seeing stories on how to use Pinterest/Twitter/etc to revolutionise your business". Ok, that last one was a bit of a mouthful but it kind of expresses how I feel at the moment; the notion that somehow, by reading the cacophony of ‘how to’ articles it’s possible to chuck a Robert Langdon, crack the social media De Vinci code and become a hyper connected influencer overnight.

No one really believes that right? It’s like trying to become a trained fighter pilot by reading a book about plane engines.   

By expending all this energy talking about the tools, the do’s and don’ts, the etiquette of how to engage etc we’re distracting ourselves from the real point of social media – to have a real, meaningful exchange of ideas with people, some of which we’ve never met, from all over the world. To take part in a conversation, to talk, to chat, to learn even.

This comes from my own experiences of sorts.

I’ve been on Twitter for 3 years now, which isn’t a long time compared to many – I still regard myself as a bit of an latecomer. Early on, I spent many frustrating hours trying to understand the dynamics of Twitter. I read a lot about it, the etiquette, the rules of engagement, how to get more followers and how to climb the ladder to social media popularity nirvana etc.

And of course none of it worked!

Twitter remained for me a vast empty void where my attempts to ‘reach out’ withered like flares in the night extinguished in the dark, swirling waters of the Twitterverse. What was I doing wrong?? Why couldn’t I plug into the natural, east going manner of engagement I had with friends and colleagues in real life?

I eventually realised I was placing too must trust in social media articles and ‘so called’ experts telling me how to use a tool to communicate, interact if you will. Something I already knew how to do but in the maelstrom of “How to’s” and “What to avoid’s” and “You don’t know this so I’m going to tell you” articles, I had simply forgotten. I had lost faith in myself. 

Once I remembered to trust myself again, I gave up reading articles on how to be a social media success. Instead, I spent time responding to people’s conversations on twitter, commenting on their posts and generally adding in my 2 cents. I was being true to myself, my own beliefs, having genuine conversations and it paid off. I suddenly started to gain more followers, received more responses and unsolicited messages from my network. I was ‘getting’ twitter and it was easier then I ever expected. My experience became infinitely more satisfying and nourishing.

I’m still experimenting with Twitter. I don’t regard myself as an expert per se (can anyone be an expert on how to have a conversation?). But I love my network, I am grateful for the inspiration I receive daily from these amazing, intelligent, creative and connected minds. I now understand that I cannot build relationships with my network by simply posting a link to an article, story or blog but rather it’s when I reveal my own thoughts and beliefs; a nugget of my mind and personality through my posts that real engagement and interaction happens.

Brands, take note! This is essence of my argument.

Social media engagement is neither rocket science nor a mystical language known only to the chosen few. Brands and companies need to stop thinking that it’s something outside of their scope of experience and stop putting the conversation agenda for their brand, product or service in the hands of inexperienced employees. Take responsibility for their relationships and discussions and cease being afraid of the unknown.

So stop reading, and start doing.


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Sean O'Byrne Sean O'Byrne
I have over 10 years experience working in digital marketing and social media both here and in the UK. Currently I am a director at Agent Sydney, a new strategic marketing consultancy specialising in digital, social media, PR, events, experiential and brand development Read Sean's full bio

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