Speak for Yourself: How to not let the bad stuff get you down

Starting out can be scary, and that fear is totally justified.

The Internet in general, and social media in particular, is full of bad stuff that you’ll come in contact with, and that you will have to learn to keep your distance from – either to keep physically safe, to keep your possessions safe, or to keep your mental health intact. There is the really obvious bad stuff we don’t mention, there are viruses and Trojans, there’s people trying to get something for nothing. There’s people posing as all kinds of things to get something out of you. Keep yourself safe online.

What I really want to talk here about are the subtler ways social media can be awful. I was reminded of a time a few years ago, when one one of my friends from an online community that predated facebook by several years (and worked better, in many ways) got interested in Twitter, after I started ranting about what a brilliant thing it was.

There was no real tribe for him to connect with that he was already in touch with (and he was too independent to connect with mine), so he ‘fell in with’ (it’s the only way I can express it) a certain brand of social media user who is only using social media to talk about their social media services. There is a huge network of people who have learned to do social media consulting from other social media consultants, it’s like multi-level marketing. Mari Smith is a good example, and Social Media Marketing World is their annual gathering. This is what that looks like.

They are marketers. The content they share, and their online personas, are as mind numbing as you imagine. My friend, predictably, thought Twitter was a crock of shite (he’s a Yorkshireman, they say these things.) It was a shame, he was one of the first and longest-serving community managers of online forums and always had one of the funniest online voices I knew, he could have added a lot if he hadn’t thought that was all there was.

It’s important here to note that a lot of what people tell you is important on social media comes from that group of ‘thought leaders’ and shouldn’t matter to you at all. As a person, you are there to connect with others. As marketers, their motivation is profit. Always remember that.

Another dispiriting phenomenon are follow-back lists. There still is a lot of respect from novices (and potential clients) for huge follower numbers. You can easily buy Twitter followers or facebook likes, or if you know what you’re doing you don’t even need to spend money to grow huge numbers of followers. You can do this simply by using ‘follow-back’ lists. These are full of fake accounts full of automatically generated filler content that instantly follow back when followed. You sometimes end up on their radar and wonder why there’s an estate agent from Ohio who follows 27,000 accounts and has 28,000 followers following you? That will be why.

You can experiment with the follow-back lists, but please don’t do it on your main account – your timeline will turn into incomprehensible mush.

These things exist because it’s a market for people’s attention. My advice is: if anyone follows you, you’ll quite quickly differentiate if they are 1) after a follow back or 2) a real person and interested in you. Sadly, the more successful you are, the more likely you are to get fake followers – on the bright side you don’t need to worry about them at all. Don’t even waste time blocking them, just ignore.

There are a lot of things in this world that aren’t good, but that doesn’t take away from the good that’s there. The most important thing when starting out is finding your people and other good people. Adding people you’ve met in real life is a good start. The obvious opportunity for this:

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