I recently read an article on Mashable about my generation's increasing desire to detach from Facebook. More and more millennials are making the decision to deactivate their accounts to get away from nosey relatives, judgmental peers and future or current employers. Lately I’ve been flirting with the idea myself, but in reality, I need a Facebook account to do parts of my job. But even if that aspect wasn't locking me in, I’m actually not sure I would have the willpower to go through with it.
So, I have to ask myself – why is this? Why am I so attached to this over-sharing, over-exposing social technology?
Part of the appeal for me (and I think many others), are the voyeuristic aspects. Humans are curious creatures by nature, and we all know it’s undeniably fun to spy on each other. What Facebook has done is to introduce this giant window of space that begs you to fill it up with personal information, and we do it willingly.
But why do we want to give so much of ourselves away? This leads me to what I believe is my Facebook hang up, and that’s the desire to be heard and responded to.
I have a degree in communications. I like to talk, I like to make people laugh, and I like it when I say something witty and intelligent and everyone around me shakes their head and says “yes – yes, I totally agree.” That is, perhaps, exactly why I am addicted to Facebook. What we should be looking to do is to turn that addiction into a healthy, productive one. So, how can that be accomplished?
First, we need to be asking ourselves, how should we really be using Facebook? We can make our time and presence on Facebook so much more meaningful and beneficial if we just take a different approach to how we interact with it. Specifically:
Learn more, judge less. There are millions of people on Facebook, and all of them are writing about something or someone - most likely an experience or opinion. If we used Facebook as a platform to learn about people and their behaviors, wants, and needs instead of judging and challenging them (as is so often the case), we could find answers to some pressing business questions. For example, every organization, charity, and school has a certain audience, and that audience needs to be identified for said establishment to succeed. So naturally, we should be asking “who is my audience?” and immediately following that, “how can I help them?”
Get involved & ask questions. If my revelation about people’s desire to be heard holds water, then Facebook is basically one giant forum full of people waiting for the opportunity to offer their opinions without looking arrogant. So, why not ask them questions? I guarantee that at any given moment, if you ask a question on Facebook, people will answer it. You can use this to your benefit by asking insightful questions that will help you to establish your audience, figure out what your services and expertise can do for them, and how those elements are missing from their lives.
Spread the word about something meaningful. With all the junk that floats around the Internet, we should make it a point to post something from the heart once a week. Many of our clients are nonprofit organizations that do a mountain of good, and sharing their content is the easiest way to spread their message. Here are a few examples to get you started; note how each page consistently shares meaningful content and in return, generates genuine engagement.
Music Empowers Foundation (music education)
Lainie’s Angels (pediatric cancer familial support)
Cure Breast Cancer Foundation (breast cancer research)
Network. We all know that LinkedIn is the "official" networking platform for the professional world, but the truth is that more people are on Facebook, and we shouldn’t write it off. Our agency, for example has been able to use staff’s personal Facebook accounts to find freelancers, get nods and mentions, and expand our client base.
So, will I be quitting Facebook anytime soon? Doubtful; but I’m making it a goal for 2014 to give it a bit more of a…mature, approach.
What do you think we could we be doing differently on Facebook, as professionals and as individuals?