You Have Something to Say—Say It!
Last month, I was forum-hopping on LinkedIn as I usually do, and I commented on a topic in the Harvard Business Review discussion group, “HBR wants your tips for better meetings.” Because I don’t always read everything in front of me (luckily, I wasn’t signing away my car), I didn’t realize that they were looking for input for a new publication, Guide to Making Every Meeting Matter, and as it happened, they chose my suggestion to be printed among others. My contribution is small, innocuous, and part of clever filler for the white space on the pages otherwise occupied by the main contributors of the booklet, but nonetheless I was tickled and flattered that my few words are perceived by others as fit to print.
I’m struck by the fact that with the advent of social media on the web, people anywhere at anytime want to genuinely connect and hear about your experience on any given topic. It’s obviously no substitute for a intimate conversation over a meal with good people. I’ve heard colleagues and friends lament over how little interaction we have with others these days, either because of commuting solo in cars, working remotely at home, or because our daily tasks keep us isolated to the computer screen directly in front of our faces.
Despite our choices to separate ourselves from others, we crave contact. Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter feeds and blogging—along with countless number of websites that offer opportunities to review songs, movies, products and services—all point to our collective desire for the interaction, the exchange of opinions and ideas, from the silliest of jokes, to the most personal of politics, to the most thoughtful reflection of work and life experience. Whether you represent your organization, small business, or yourself, given the right context, your peers and customers are hungry for the learnings, anecdotes, and small details you’ve accumulated. They are hungry for what you have to say, what you have to offer, no matter how seemingly fleeting your thought may be.
If you’ve barely delved into social media or are reluctant to try, Facebook for personal use can be a good place to start. If you haven’t already, set up an account and start adding your friends. Then read the newsfeed—find out what people are talking about, whether it’s the meal they just had at The French Laundry, Peter Jackson’s latest YouTube video on The Hobbit, or pictures of your sister’s birthday outing. Write comments back to them, and get used to the discourse that follows. Observe etiquette, which is, simply put, to respect what other people say.
After you’ve become familiar with how Facebook works, start posting, yourself. Of course, there’s always room to talk about the fun parts of your life, but you can be more deliberate as well. Choose three or four topics of personal interest to you. Explore news outlets online or your favorite sites for articles, videos or pictures related to those topics and begin posting them on your Facebook account. Say why the piece interested you and why you wanted to share it. Keep it up, at least twice a week, for one or two months and stay in touch with people by both commenting on their postings, and answering their comments back to you.
Posting on Facebook in this manner accomplishes a few things. It allows you to experience social networking in a friendly (no pun intended) environment among an audience that knows you. When posting, you have an opportunity to play with your voice and your writing style. You can make mistakes and learn from them without any cost to your professional life. Because of what you post, your friends will perceive you and offer feedback through that lens. In a sense, you will have developed a “personal brand” that you can manage. Finally, you come to understand and choose the level of commitment you make toward building your presence on a social medium, and it’ll give you an idea of what’s ahead as you participate in other media.
Give social media a try. You may find that it does not work toward your business needs given your priorities. You may also find, given your career and your life’s passions, that you have a particular perspective, and a cache of insight that many will find invaluable.