Our Social Selves

Five tips for more effective use of social media



Many of us use social media every day of our lives without even thinking about it, we use it in all sorts of ways – to communicate, to publish, to broadcast, to share, to promote – there are many different ways we use it but what does ‘social’ actually mean to us?

If you follow my blog you’ll no doubt be aware that my overriding passion is retail and in this sector, social media is playing an increasingly important role, way beyond what many dreamt possible. So what is social and what does it mean to be ‘on’ social media?

There are many definitions of ‘social’ but to me it describes a state of being, a type of behaviour; one I like: “relating to, devoted to, or characterized by friendly companionship or relations”.

Many of us, I would suggest, have been guilty at some time or other of liking or retweeting an article almost without thinking, certainly not taking the time to actually read it (yes I count myself in that number and have sworn never to do it again). In our haste we miss the point of social media, we broadcast without thinking.

” Generosity of spirit is one of the most powerful ways to engage with your audience”

I’ve learnt an awful lot about social media after more than 6 years on twitter and it seems to me that there is protocol to be followed if we are to make the most of our social (media) lives; I’ve listed my personal favourites below, the last of which may be surprising:


  1. Be generous

This means being generous with your thoughts, doesn’t equate to having to agree even though a retweet can be interpreted as a sign of endorsement. Generosity of spirit is one of the most powerful ways to engage with your audience;

  1. Be engaging

It’s been said many time before but worth repeating; always try to add value through opinion, thoughts, ideas or suggestions. Social media is awash with benign, nebulous and sometimes downright crass statements that it is often rewarding to read something which adds real value;

  1. Be personable

By this I mean, be nice; terrible word but in this context it accurately describes how our persona, especially if it is our professional persona, should be portrayed. Social media should always be a friendly, safe environment in which to express and share our thoughts and opinions without fear of retribution;

  1. Be grateful

So it follows that we should be grateful – and that means showing it – to others who engage with us and share our thoughts with their audience.

  1. Be provocative

This may at first appear contradictory with the above however it’s really just an extension of adding and creating value. No one wants to hear the same old same old, being provocative for me means stimulating debate by looking at something from a new, different dimension. Social media is all about debate, learning, finding out so go on, don’t be afraid to challenge perceived wisdom – just do it in a friendly, positive way.

Above all – social is for sharing, whether it be thoughts, content, blogs – such as this one, pictures, video, news – the list goes on. The way in which we conduct ourselves on social defines us.

Finally, if you thought none of this really matters, consider this; according to a survey conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management, 77% of companies use social media to identify candidates for positions.

Think twice before firing off that Friday night tweet from the pub!



Andrew Busby is ranked 25th most influential UK retail twitter account and founder of Retail Reflections & The Retail Advisory Board

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