This past Sunday, August 14th, was my birthday. Facebook brought me 150 “Happy Birthdays” yesterday from the whole spectrum of my social network – family, people I know well, industry people, and even people I only know through Facebook. I made a point to say “Thank you” to every single one of them in as personalized a way as possible. Why?
Other than the fact that it’s polite and I wanted each person to know that I recognized them and appreciated them taking their time to recognize my birthday, social networking is about involvement. It allows you to be involved in people’s lives and days. I view this as a privilege. People use social networks for all sorts of different reasons – whether it’s all about work, all about family, all personal or some mash up of these.
Regardless of HOW you choose to use social networks, the fact remains that behind each and every one of these “accounts” is a person. It’s easy to forget that the Facebook profile for a car dealership actually has someone on the other end posting things and interacting with people, even if it is on behalf of the dealership.
I think everyone would agree that it’s a best practice to send birthday cards to your friends, family, and customers and to recognize important occasions or be empathetic when they have a bad day or had some hard luck. Doing the same things on your social networks is no less of a best practice.
My personal philosophy in regards to social media use is this. I try to be myself. I let people into my life and get to know me for real not only what news stories I’m interested in, what inventory I have, what I’m “selling”, what quote I like, or what games I play. I believe that many of my social network friends that know me in real life would agree that I accomplish this pretty well. What you see if what you get. Don’t get me wrong, there are subjects I stay away from. A general rule of thumb I follow is that if I wouldn’t say it in a room full of people at a party; I don’t say it but I ALWAYS stay true to myself.
I believe that people want to network with people, not with the AP Newswire.
Just as every one of those 150 wall posts yesterday brought me a smile and made me appreciate and enjoy my birthday just that little bit more, I also reciprocate and make sure I say “Happy Birthday” to people daily. I also, as many know, post a “Comic of the Day”. I try to be encouraging, funny, and personal.. but, most of all, real.
One universal truth is that people like to smile. They like to be heard. They like feeling that people are listening and that they are making a difference and/or are part of someone else’s life even if it’s in as small of a way as saying “Happy Birthday” to someone or having someone say “Happy Birthday” to you, whether you really know them or not. There’s a reason that some of your highest interaction on social networks will be with humorous and personal posts.
Disneyland is a master at this. It gives people buttons to wear around the park showing everyone that it’s that person’s birthday. Their company’s policy is that every employee who sees a guest with this button says “Happy Birthday” to them. I even see other park guests take the time to say “Happy Birthday” to complete strangers. This smallest of policies can make a huge difference in someone’s day. Disneyland is “the happiest place on Earth” for a reason, and that’s why people love it and will spend hundreds of dollars to go there on any given day. Over 2 million people registered for Disneyland’s birthday promotion in 2009.
True social media influencers are influencers because they are genuine. People want to listen to them because they are real people, and that comes through in their posts, what they choose to share and how they interact with others.
So, if you only follow two rules in your social media networking, follow the same ones that you should follow in real life: be yourself and deliver smiles.
(Originally published August 15, 2011 on Dealer magazine)