In Defence of Social Media (and How It Can Be Awesome for Business)

I hate it when people are like holy shit, you need to spend less time on social media. It’s such a waste of time, man. Get out there into the real world.

I mean seriously, what the fuck? You just know the people who say that are the type of douchenozzles who ‘streamline their processes’ and ‘optimise their days’ and ‘hack their lives’ and ‘make me want to stab myself in the eye with one of those little corn-on-the-cob forks’. (God, I bet they take the ‘readability’ function on Yoast seriously too.)

Because hey, guess what? Those usernames on the other end of Twitter are real people. You know that, right? They have fingers and eyes and anxiety just like you do. And that is kind of the whole point. Because getting to know those people can be pretty fucking excellent, both for your personal life and for your business (often closely entwined when you run a personal brand).

As an online business owner, you probably feel like you should be doing social media ‘better’ somehow – either that or you think you waste way too much time on it. You’ve probably thought about signing up for every single platform out there to ‘maximise your success’ or whatever. You’ve probably also thought about deleting all your accounts, because OH GOD THERE’S JUST SO MUCH.

So I want to share my thoughts on social media with you and how it can be fucking awesome for your business and life.

Why Social Media is Awesome

1. Easiest networking ever

Being a fabulous millennial, I grew up with the internet. So ever since I was about 12, making friends on the internet is something I’ve done. Yeah, back before it was a normal and socially acceptable thing to do. Man, MSN Messenger. Remember that? I still have friends from those days, only now we talk to each other on Facebook and Twitter.

Don’t listen to anyone who says you can’t form ‘real’ friendships online, because you totally fucking can, even if you never meet them in person. I’d argue you can form deeper friendships online, because you end up talking to people you have shit in common with and ‘hanging out’ much more regularly than you could in person. Though that’s not to say you can never meet in person. I jump at the chance to meet people I’ve become friends with online and have already met several so far this year (and am looking forward to meeting a few more who’ll be visiting Edinburgh later this year).

Why am I talking about making friends when this section was supposed to be about networking? Well, because as far as I can tell, they’re basically the same thing.

2. It’s easy to stay in touch with people

As someone who loves to travel and meet new people, social media is the best. FOR EXAMPLE! Back in 2013 I met a couple of travel bloggers, and when I was in Lisbon last year I ended up hanging out with them a lot. But that never would’ve happened if I hadn’t been able to add them on Facebook. And this goes for so many other people I’ve met at various points throughout my life: I’m able to catch up with them because we can easily arrange shit via Facebook – but I’m also able to get to know them better, which is a crucial component of friendship, you know? And that’s really hard to do when you meet and then pass each other like ships in the night.

3. You can meet new friends via your old friends

Although I love getting to know new people, I hate making the effort to meet new people. Like, how awkward is rocking up to an event where you literally know NOBODY? My favourite way to meet new people is to be introduced to them by somebody I already know – and social media is fucking brilliant for that. The best part of this is that you don’t have to spend any time vetting these people or figuring out whether they’re total weirdos you should probably avoid. Because they come with a pre-approved stamp of, er, approval from people you already know. (Plus, you know, internet stalking.)

4. When you work alone, it can be a lifesaver

I legitimately think that one of the reasons I am able to handle so much time alone is social media. Because I AM talking to people every day and having meaningful conversations. Sure, it can’t replace a deep, soulful bear hug, but it’s just perfect for alleviating those everyday lonesome blues that creep up on you after too many days in sweatpants, hunched over your laptop.

5. Referrals

This is the most beneficial thing business-wise, of course, but it doesn’t often happen without the above steps. Because here’s what happens when you get to know people on social media: they remember you, they learn about you and that work you do, they grow to trust you and, hopefully, like you. And that makes them much more likely to think of you and send people/customers/clients your way. They might even suggest collaborating on a project together, or something else unforeseen that could help grow your business. You just don’t know, guys, so throw yourselves out there and get to know people!

How to Use Social Media for Business

1. You do not have to do it at all if you don’t want to

First of all, let’s get one thing straight: you do not HAVE to use social media to run a successful online business. If you really don’t want to, you shouldn’t. Because if you really don’t want to, you will do a shit job of it. And what is even the point of that? (But don’t just rule it out because you’re shy!)

2. You can choose whatever damn platforms you want

Twitter is the place where writers and editors hang out all the fucking time. (ALL THE FUCKING TIME.) It’s a good place to be, but that doesn’t mean you have to be on it. I use it because I enjoy it. I am on LinkedIn, but my profile is half-formed and I log in once a quarter to reject everyone who’s tried to connect with me. However, I know some of my students make great use of it. Pinterest? No fucking thanks. I will occasionally use it to show my mum how I think she should decorate her bedroom, but that’s it. Nothing business-related at all and I’m okay with that.

3. Actually talk to people, would you?

If you use social media purely to share links to your latest articles, just stop it. (I mean, you can do this, but don’t ONLY do this.) You’re supposed to talk to people. The worst thing you can do (I mean, okay, maybe not the WORST thing – *glances at a certain corrupt president* – but definitely not a very effective thing) is exclusively share links to articles, without ever saying anything to anyone. Even worse are people who exclusively share links to their OWN articles, without ever saying anything to anyone.

Like, it’s called SOCIAL media, guys. The whole point is to get to know people on it. And for people to get to know you. This is difficult to achieve if you never have any actual conversations.

TL;DR

Do it your own way. Make friends. Meet some of them in person. Enjoy a fantastic new network of potential referrals. Don’t feel so fucking isolated all the time. Procrastinate a bit too much, yes, but who the fuck wants to be perfect anyway? NOBODY LIKES A PERFECT PROTAGONIST. Also, puppy memes.