The Emotional Side of Social Media
Learnings from #140cuse
My friends and family are often shocked when I tell them that, as part of my job, I am routinely on Facebook, Twitter and a host of other social platforms. As many of you can likely relate to, this only furthers their confusion on what exactly it is that I do every day. However, they might be interested to know that it’s because of my job, that I am able to connect better with them.
While my sister, a kindergarten teacher who routinely is trying out the latest social tools, can take partial credit for encouraging me to first sign up for MySpace, and later Facebook – the real reason I did it (don’t tell her) is because I viewed it as a necessity for my job as a communicator.
Last month I attended the #140cuse conference at Syracuse University. In advance of the event, I looked forward to learning about new tools, metrics and how gurus from a variety of industries are using social to succeed on the job. While I certainly did learn that, what I also saw – a look at the emotional benefits of social – surprised me, but was definitely a memorable takeaway.
One of the day’s first sessions was from George Couros (@Gcouros) a principal at the Parkland School Division in Alberta, Canada. Now admittedly, George’s track was not one I had highlighted in advance of the conference – though I did like the name of his session “140 Characters of Kindness” – sounded refreshing. During his presentation George talked about how his brother first introduced him to Twitter – but it wasn’t until he joined conversations using the hashtag #edchat that he started to discover what a great platform it was to share ideas and thoughts with other like-minded educators. However, what really brought emotion to George’s story (and definitely led to some teary eyes in the audience) was the story of how via one tweet “Taking Kobe (his dog) to the vet” led to an outpouring of care and concern from his followers at the later news that he had to put his long-time pal down.
Shortly after, #140conf producer Jeff Pulver (@jeffpulver) took the stage to discuss “The State of Now” – which included having the entire audience hug the people next to them at the start of his talk. One of the more powerful thoughts Jeff shared was how via social platforms – our lives are being archived via the pictures we post and the thoughts we share at different moments of time. These “digital breadcrumbs” we leave for our children and grandchildren will give them a perspective into what we were thinking on any given day when we posted a Facebook update or commented on a photo.
Other stories of emotional connections via social were shared from presenters including three-time cancer survivor Alicia Staley (@stales) who discussed “Building Virtual Cancer Support Communities with Twitter Chats” and Amanda Hite (@sexythinker) on “Using Your Social Influence to #BeTheChange” – covering the impact groups of people can have by sharing their networks and influence in support of a joint cause via tweetathons and other shared initiatives.
Looking back at the goal of the #140cuse conference to “expose you to the power the real-time web has to disrupt businesses, change lives and create serendipity” – I shouldn’t have been surprised to hear the above stories. And while hearing stories like these will likely prompt me to add a few more captions to photos and engage with communities I’m interested in on a personal level, it will also help professionally. As we continually look for new and creative ways for the brands we work for or represent to engage in unique ways with influencers – it’s an important reminder to consider the power of emotion as a commonality that unites people. Discovering a way to make an emotional connection between a brand and its audiences – via large initiatives or simple Tweets – can be the differentiator for what makes your brand memorable.