Social Media & Me: Philosophies & Theories From Our Long-Term Relationship

Social media and social media marketing have been a substantial part of my life for almost eight years. As a result, recently I was invited to share some thoughts on social media with Brigham Young University's marketing and advertising students at their AdLab.

With an added layer of pressure resulting from the opportunity to present to the bright future of our social channels, I decided to touch on some personal (and business) social media theories and philosophies, or general best-practices, rather than they step-by-steps they may have been expecting.

After much thought I decided that if I was going to truly represent the parts of social media that I'm most passionate about, this was the very best way to do this. Want to truly grasp social media and position yourself as an expert? Here are my simple suggestions.

1. Recognize That You Don't Know As Much as You Think

Sound harsh? Unfortunately for 96.5% of the general population, we don't know as much about social media as we think we do. Myself included. This became apparent to me in 2011 when I left JetBlue after helping pioneer their Social Media Team. I was naively confident for a short time and considered myself a Twitter expert.

When jumping into social media for other brands and organizations I realized that I'd really only been an expert in a couple of things - making cheeky comments and understanding the logistics of the Twitter platform, itself. Don't get me wrong, there was probably more to what I was doing than that (I hope), but what I'd learn didn't translate into every avenue like I hoped it would. 

I learned a valuable lesson in that transitional time, one that I never again let slip my mind. Just because you champion a social space or two, for one brand, doesn't necessarily mean you can do it again, at least without a lot of trial and error. Social media is no one-stop solution and most certainly isn't a plug-and-play operation. Never ever underestimate the value of really learning the 'ins and outs' of every platform from as many different perspectives as possible.

Here are a few simple truths you can count on:

  • Every platform is different within every industry and between every organization. That's an exponential number of variables.
  • Best-practices and social media strategies (even this one) are suggestions, not guidebooks for instant success.
  • Social media changes daily, sometimes even hourly. What you know today may have to be different tomorrow. Stay on top of it. 

2. Pay Your Dues

Every single job I've had in the last 5 years (at least) was given to me with a qualifier. "We've never really had anyone in this position before...." or "We've played around in these spaces but we haven't really had a strategy or a personal designated to facilitating things." These are all things that often accompany jobs that incorporate social media positions - at least in our current times. 

If you're working in social media, or considering a future there you need to quickly embrace that there is no standard or traditional path to follow. Be prepared and be okay with paying your dues. So many passionate social media strategists are also tasked with converting others (even their own leadership) to the ways of the medium. Be prepared to carve your own path. It's likely that you'll need to. 

Beginners - don't expect to step into high paying jobs until you have some solid (and extensive) experience. Make the most of your internships. Work your way up. Prove your worth with your passion for the space. It may take longer than you wished it would. Get scrappy and work your way through it. It's totally possible. 

Need more? Here are a few tidbits:
  • If you haven't noticed, social media doesn't sleep. Get used to almost working around the clock. It may be addicting and charming at first, but eventually you'll realize that you'll need to harness a solid work-life balance. Find it sooner than later.
  • I'm not confident that there are many jobs out there that are strictly social media. Anticipate that you'll have much more on your plate than just that. 
  • Give. Give. Give. It may seem simple, but going the extra mile becomes especially convenient when digital - so plan on going the extra ten or twelve miles. 

3. Embrace that Sincerity Speaks Volumes

If you find yourself as the voice for a brand, it's likely (or seriously hopeful) that you'll have some level of passion for the product or service they offer. Guess what? It's not likely that everyone else will share that same passion. Want to truly connect and spread your message? Sincerity speaks volumes.

No matter how often you hear experts preaching the importance of SOCIAL in social media, we easily forget how much noise exists in each platform's space. We promote and attempt to broadcast our brand message just assuming that others will accept it with the same resolute passion we have shared it with. How easy it is to forget that those most successful in social media have found a way to connect their message with emotions that resonate with the masses. Craft something relatable. Be human. Be funny. Be clever. Be fresh. Be yourself... unless you're a billboard, then be someone else. 

People are smart. If you're out there in these social spaces strictly to be seen, people will know, and you'll be wasting your time.

4. Create Your Own Brand

It seems like a no-brainer, right? It may sound corporate but what so many don't realize is that everyone is already creating their own brand with each and every social post that's shared out to the interwebs. Beside the simple logistics of attempting to claim all of your vanity URLs (or matching handles for each platform) there's so much more to truly understand with personal branding. 

It could be cliche, but who doesn't need the extra reminder. Whether you have 204 followers or 2K followers, those people are your community. They've tuned in to see what you're saying and what matters to you. Perhaps you ask yourself what they get from the content you're sharing. Ensure that it's not all totally indulgent. Maybe a few less selfies would be okay, too. (And by less, I may mean like 1 a week - at most)

Be smart about it. Remember what we talked about in the section just above this one? Don't just promote yourself. Find things to share that enrich the lives of those that consciously chose to follow you. Want to be considered a 'social media expert'? Then prove it in your own spaces. 

What else should you be doing?

  • Work with an abundance mentality. Social media is all about sharing. Learn something new? Figure out a trick or two? Spread the love. There's enough out there for everyone. Be the first person to share your knowledge - and do it proactively.
  • Use proper grammar. Spell things properly and use punctuation. Pretty please?
  • If you think you should be able to do or say anything you want on your personal profiles, adjust your privacy settings. Don't put anything out there that you don't want the entire world's population to see. 
  • Save the drama for your mamma. Yeah, you know what I mean. 


  1. Great tips from someone I admire in this field. Thanks for reinforcing that social media is always in flux. The key is to be open to change and keep learning: every single day!!!

  2. Thank you for sharing so much insight, a phenomenal read :)

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