That’s a good question and I’m glad that a tweet this morning triggered me to write this post.
Last weekend I attended VidCon, one of the biggest video conferences in Melbourne and let’s just say, I was underwhelmed. You can see my thoughts in the videos below which were taken on Day 1 and Day 2 of the conference.
I had been thinking about why I felt annoyed at some of the presentations (especially the ones that were presented by the platforms such as Facebook and Instagram).
The constant reference to creating content that was all about increasing follower numbers and subscribers irked me. In particular, the presentations that were led by these platforms seemed to dictate how content should be created and published on their platforms for the sole purpose of them to place ads into the work of others. (In other words, destroy the creativity because you’re placing restrictions and constraints on it).
I walked out of three presentations because I felt that how I use social media and social networks is different from how many of these people view it. After all, they’re using it to build a brand, business or a following. But what am I using it for? Why do I feel that I’m constantly at odds with how others on how it’s to be used?
I was so disheartened after VidCon that I decided to take some days off social media – in particular, Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram – anywhere where I felt “bombarded” by platforms for my attention.
I needed to take time to reflect on all these mixed feelings I was having. The only platforms I allowed myself to use was WhatsApp and Snapchat where I could share my own thoughts and reflections about it all and in the process had wonderful conversations with people who felt the same way.
Around the same time….
I was mulling the question in my head as to why I couldn’t share my creative projects on LinkedIn. (You can see the video below where I have a little rant about this).
After all, many of the creative projects I do outside of work are critical and instrumental in how I learn and how I collaborate with others. One particular project, a fake news channel inspired and created by Cammy Murray (@cammysutra6) called CNT Newschannel on Snapchat is where I learned to get out of my comfort zone and inserting more creativity into my work. In this sideline project, I take on the persona of a luddite Foreign Correspondent, Shazza Breaknews who has an inept cameraman named Mike. That project has taught me how to work with a virtual team, allowed me the freedom to experiment with acting, editing, scripting, filming. This video also inspired conversations behind the scenes with people around the world.
After a few days without Twitter, I decided to check my tweet stream and saw this tweet from Peter Staal (@peterstaal) and he asked a pertinent question that couldn’t go ignored.
Curious to learn what Working Out Loud on Snapchat brings you. #wol
— peter staal (@peterstaal) September 3, 2018
and this was my response:
Allowed me to express my creativity and throw me into a new world of acting, filming, editing and story telling through https://t.co/ZtmLoQtOyH and @CNTnewschannel which a group of us (who NEVER met) created 30 min weekly show for an entire season.
— Helen Blunden (@ActivateLearn) September 6, 2018
I use Snapchat to share and show my work and then create a visual portfolio of my work, learning and networks – a visual CV if you will through collation of monthly videos https://t.co/nVEOUa5Klj – I have over 400 to date and out of these have come opportunities.
— Helen Blunden (@ActivateLearn) September 6, 2018
This promopted Peter to ask:
Dit working out loud increase your follower count on Snapchat? I have been struggling with my Snapchat account in this regard. Find it hard to build an audience there. Instagram seems to work better.
— peter staal (@peterstaal) September 6, 2018
and therein lay the rub, “build an audience”.
I kept thinking about this word “audience” because I have lost count of the people who query WHY I use some social networks over others.
For example, why use Snapchat when I could use Instagram where there are MORE people on it.
Why use X over Y?
A over B?
Why am I still on Facebook?
Why don’t I use LinkedIn video because that’s where I’ll find more of an audience.
Why do I still blog?
Isn’t blogging dead?
Shouldn’t I create a YouTube channel and vlog instead so my numbers of people watching can increase?
Peter hit the nail on the head. I wasn’t in social media to build an audience – I was in social media to build a NETWORK.
A network of people I know, like and trust – and people I have connected with and know their work – for the purposes of building personal learning, collaboration and networking experiences that bring to me, new insights, new perspectives, new ideas and inspire me to become a better person.
It’s never been about building an audience around my business of Activate Learning Solutions instead, I have seen social media as MY PERSONAL CANVAS where I can LEARN, CONNECT AND CREATE….and to express it in my own personal quirky style.
The audience was ME.
And this is where I have often come to points of difference with people who take an alternative approach especially if they’re building their own business around their professional brand, reputation or expertise and using social media as a broadcasting platform to show their expertise and to educate. At the same token, there are others who are using social media to sell their products and services. I understand and accept that they use social media in this way for their particular purposes but let’s not discount other ways to use it.
There’s no right or wrong way for using the social media platforms. Just because you use it one way does not necessarily mean everyone else does.
This was my focus on a recent workshop I conducted in Ghent Belgium for LearnTech Day. My workshop was titled, How to Build your Personal Learning Network using Social Media and this is where I hoped that I conveyed that message in the hope that people understand that using it need not be focussed on marketing but of learning and networking.
Building not an audience, but a network.
I was humbled that Mirjam Neelan (@MirjamN) and Paul Kirscher (@P_A_Kirscher) had written an article this week on How to Effectively Build and Leverage a Personal Learning Network based on Mirjam’s attendance to the workshop.
In this post, they referenced research articles that support the building of personal learning networks as a means of self-directing and self regulated learning. I recalled how I created this workshop for the specific purposes of not wanting to “muddy the waters” by getting into an argument of what platform is best to use when, where and how because it was all about “where the people you need to learn from are hanging out” and to “go where these people are”.
It’s taken a lot of reflection in the last few years being an independent consultant to understand the differences between my identity as a “continual learner” to my identity as a “business person”.
On the one hand, I want to use and explore these social tools for the purposes of learning experiences through building networks of people I know, like and trust who make me a better person – continually learning, developing and growing…
….Using the platforms to sell my products and services and using only the platforms where my actual customers and clients happen to be.
The two are very stark differences and goes a long way to explain why I had been feeling frustrated with the perception of how I use social media and why I avoided using social media with a marketing hat on.
So thank you Peter for clarifying this question in my mind.
From now on, I will ask, “are you building an audience or a network?” because the answer to the question determines your intention*** for how you use social media.
For me, it’s all about the network and it explains why I’ve steered away from undertaking the typical activities and content marketing approaches that we see and this has been at considerable short-term impact to my own business but built long-term value through exceptional and long lasting and trusted relationships with a global network.
*** The word ‘intention’ is directly attributable to Cammy Murray who talked about the concept of “hollow intentions in social media use” in our many conversations on this topic. Thank you. Thank you also to Oliver Kay Photo (@OliverKayPhoto) and Kim Brand Fearless (@BrandFearless) Danny Seals (@dannyboy83), Jamie Good @thejamiegood and Shannon Tipton (@stipton) for the thoughtful discussions this week.
This blog post by Helen Blunden was written in Melbourne, Australia and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.