I was born in the 80s, so I was a teenager during the social media boom. By the time I went to university, everyone had Facebook and used it to connect with each other. So of course I joined, everyone was doing it. I didn’t understand Facebook’s full capability at the time, but no one really did. All I knew was that it was a great place to remember everyone’s name in my residence, and know to wish them a happy birthday.

Some people posted what they were eating, where they were going that night, what club they were a fan of, or who their best friends were. (Does everyone remember that weird “best friends” option?) I’m a simple Facebook guy though, and a timid user. I just used it for the basic need of connecting with people.

I’ve never felt comfortable boasting about what I had, what I could do, or where I was. That just isn’t me, and that’s how my parents raised me. I guess you could say I was social media shy – I would rarely post things unless Sidney Crosby won the Stanley Cup!

The funny thing is, anyone who knows me offline knows that I love to be the life of the party. Even though I went to university with Facebook, I think I’m still old enough that it doesn’t feel natural to be my offline self, online.

Let’s fast forward 6 years! I started my own company with Brandon Hardy (creative genius), and I started to realize how crucial social media is for all businesses, large and small. Talk about a change in mindset. I’ve gone from being afraid to share anything about my personal life, to knowing that I need to engage for both myself and my business. It was difficult 6 years ago and it still feels like a constant struggle!

I always think about what is the right amount to share, what are people most interested in, who’s going to give a sh*t, and whether I’m too spammy. I worry about finding that fine line between posting about yourself and engaging with others. Because I see it every day, on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook. People post five times a day about things I don’t care about, and I’m not interested in what they’re saying.

But on the other hand, when I connect with people, and they comment and engage with what I’m saying, I always get excited! It’s almost like when you meet someone, and then run into them three months later, and they call you by your first name. It’s a great feeling that everyone has – that you’ve made an impression.

So here’s what I’ve learned about how to live my offline life, online:

  1. Be real, be human! Act like you would in real life. At Oak & Rumble, we have a rule that if we wouldn’t say it to each other in real life, we don’t write it online. Relationships need to be real, and that goes for social media relationships as well.

  2. Talk about your passions, not just your work. (This is really the same thing as “be real” but I think it’s important enough to be its own point, because…) Sidney Crosby will never be an off-limits topic of conversation on any medium that you can reach me on. And yes, that means I’ve talked about Crosby during business meetings.

  3. Make it about other people, and raise up your friends and community rather than just talking about yourself. We like the 80/20 rule on Twitter: 80% of what you post should be contributing to other conversations, engaging with your audience, and sharing content from your community. Only 20% of what you post should be messaging from you or your brand.

  4. Participate in existing conversations. (This is a great way to hit that 80%!) You wouldn’t just walk up to a group of people talking on the street and start spouting off about something totally random, right? It feels spammy when you do that online too. Instead, talk about what other people are talking about, and join conversations that are already happening.

  5. Use images, emoticons, gifs, and video to share emotion. Humans are visual, and it can feel a lot more natural.

  6. When you’re talking about yourself, make sure you’re adding value. There’s so much content online and so many posts on all of our social platforms every minute. If you want people to pay attention and engage, you have to give them a reason to care.

    Like this post! I want to just ramble about why I’m so uncomfortable with social media, but unless you’re my marketing director, you don’t really care about that. You’re here to see what I’ve done about it, and how I try to walk the line.

I guess it’s a little ironic that I’m not posting a blog about how to not always make it about myself. So let’s consider this part of my 20% value add!

How have you adapted to the social media era?