Being a mom has a lot of advantages. Sure, I have to sacrifice some of the things single women get to enjoy, like going on a date without planning a babysitter. But in the end, the benefits far outweigh these little disadvantages. I’ve been a mother for more than half my life now and if I had it to do all over again, I wouldn’t change a thing. I believe one reason I embrace the role so well is that I learn to apply family life lessons to other parts of my life.
While everything has its proper place, my children have taught me a lot about business and how to react in business situations. They’ve also taught me a great deal of patience and not to react until I have the full story from all sides. These life lessons have taught me a lot about using and working in social media.
Here are five things my kids have taught me about social media.
We Won’t Always Get Along
Sometimes we disagree and that’s ok. The key to a peaceful family is knowing when to let go. You don’t always have to fight to the death or prove you’re right in an argument. My kids have taught me this with my interactions with them but also with how they interact with one another. More than once I have pulled one sibling aside to have a conversation somewhat like this:
“But Mom! He’s wrong!”
“I know, but it’s not that important. We don’t have to argue about it.”
“But I’m RIGHT and he’s wrong.”
“I know that and you know that and that is what matters.”
“But HE needs to know that!”
“And he will soon enough on his own…”
In social media, we often get into e-battles with people trying to prove that we’re right but what’s the point? You can present your side and any supporting facts and leave it at that. It’s not your duty to try to force a person to come around to your side, even if you believe you’re right. Continuing to fight it out in public will only make you look stubborn and foolish. Present your case and then leave it alone.
What’s In It for Me?
This is the magic question in social media and any parent will tell you that kids will often have this same attitude. While it can be an extreme that becomes fault, in general kids just do it because it comes naturally. It’s in our nature. This is why children will respond so well to positive reinforcement and behavior modification. As a parent, you can take advantage of this naturally selfish side of the child by teaching them to use it for good.
The same is true for social media. Users will ask “What’s in it for me?” and if your page/profile/account does not answer that, then they will not stick around. You can look at it and say “Wow, that’s selfish! They don’t even appreciate me!” but if you break it down to the facts, why should they?
What reason are you giving the visitors to be loyal to you? What are you doing to help them, to entertain them or to educate them?
If you can’t answer that question, then why do you expect them to care about what you’re doing?
If you Give Me a Prize Once, I Want One Every Time
One of my children suffers from autism spectrum disorder and sensory processing disorder and as a baby to toddler, we faced many challenges with him. One of the worst parts was that he did not like having his diaper changed. No matter what we tried to make him more comfortable, what types of diapers or products we used, he hated the entire experience. By the time he was old enough to walk, he would kick, scream, flail, punch and try to run away naked. It was a 2-person job to try to get him changed.
Well, one day in desperation, I tried to bribe him with some candy. To my surprise, it worked. He still fussed and squirmed but he managed to suffer through it like never before with the promise of a treat at the end. I was ecstatic! As a parent of a special needs child, you sometimes have to go with what works, even if it’s not conventional.
So what’s the problem?
Well, if you’ve been here before then you probably know where I’m going with this story. He became so used to the candy with the diaper change that he refused to be changed without getting a treat afterwards. I had now made the problem even worse than it was before.
Social media works somewhat the same. If you give the visitors something special once, they’re going to expect it again and again. So don’t do it if you’re not willing to continue with it. Once you show them the best you have to offer, they will expect your best every time. And when you don’t deliver, they’ll head off to someone who will.
This doesn’t mean you should never do anything different or special with your social media but it does mean you need to be as consistent as possible, just like a parent would with their children. Let the people know what they can come to expect from you and they will trust you.
Don’t bribe them with candy; but instead give them a solid reason to come back again and again because it’s mutually beneficial.
I May Love You, But I Can Still Get Irritated with You
My kids love me unconditionally, as I do them, but that doesn’t mean we don’t get irritated sometimes. In fact, the older my kids get and the more they become their own personalities, the more they test the boundaries of the things I say and do. They love me but sometimes they don’t like the things I do and they will let me know it. Of course my job as the parent is to treat them how to do so with respect.
Keep in mind that your loyal fans or friends on social media may care about you but they may not always agree with you and that’s ok. You have to respect the differences of opinions. Do you want to be part of a community or do you want a bunch of raving Yes Men kissing your butt after everything you say or do?
When I work really hard on a blog post, a social media share or a graphic only to have someone criticize it, it hurts a bit. When the critique comes from a long time fan, it stings a little bit worse. But what I have learned from this (with the help of my children) is that this doesn’t mean they hate me or my brand. I actually stand to learn a great deal from the experience if I am open and willing to listen.
Sometimes we will just agree to disagree (refer to point #1) but sometimes the irritation of a loyal fan has some truth to it and it’s worth listening to and respecting. When you take it personal, you put up a wall that prevents you from growing or expanding. So remember that they may love you but they still have the right to be annoyed, irritated or unhappy with something that you do. And that’s OK.
What We All Want is Mutual Respect
In the end, all anyone wants is to be treated with respect. This goes for family, for business and even for social media. Sometimes I get frustrated with my kids when they disappoint me and sometimes they get angry with me when I lose my patience with them. But in the end, it all works out if we just remember to respect one another.
The same can be said for social media. Whether you are using it for business or pleasure, you need to remember to respect the people who are within your networks. Respect doesn’t mean being a pushover and letting others tell you how to think or feel, or being a fake who agrees with everything anyone says. It just means having a little common courtesy for others, differences and all.
In Kindergarten terms, play nice on the social media playground and you’ll have more friends.
You can’t control how others will choose to feel or react to the things you say or do but in general, Thumper’s Rule applies. I mean, who wants to be Facebook friends with a big, fat jerk or follow a brand account that insults its customers?