Mar 10

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Think Local: Enhancing Your Social Media Experience

Bank of America

Reports touting the economic, environmental, and health benefits of locally grown and produced foods increased consumer demand for those particular products over the last several years. This created a chain reaction of restaurants and other food vendors emphasizing the “local” aspect in both their offerings and marketing. As a result, I have consumed more and more locally grown food and realized that in addition to the benefits laid out above, the locally grown foods are fresher and more flavorful.

Just as locally grown foods enhance a diet, thinking locally enhances our social media experience.

As someone who suffers from ADD, I bore very easily. This combined with an insatiable thirst for knowledge drew me into the social media experiment. I longed for an outlet to discover the fresh and new, an avenue for the free exchange of ideas and information. The Internet, specifically social media websites and applications, seemed to quench this thirst, but I continued to make a couple of rookie mistakes.

When I first ventured down this rabbit hole, I adopted an antagonistic approach of participation, choosing to use my chosen applications as a soapbox from whence to air all of my grievances. I felt that if I screamed the loudest, I could get my point across on every hot button issue imaginable. This prevented me from ever reaching a sizable audience or generating a core following.

Of course presenting your message constitutes only part of the equation. In order for your social media experience to be complete, you must also interact with others, consume information and ideas. Finding the proper sources proved difficult.

My sister and her boyfriend maintain a rather influential social media presence, one whose footprint expands around the globe. I wanted to emulate that in my own experience, especially as I started out on Twitter, so I followed many of the same people and organizations initially, but many of the accounts they followed shared their interest in the legal industry, which I cared little about, so I adopted the popular practice of following celebrities, mainly my favorite athletes, sports teams, and organizations. Politics figured heavily into who I followed, as I felt it might be the best way to connect with other folks, but none of it seemed to matter as my social media experience remained stale.

Last year, I gave up political commentary for Lent. This created a huge void, not only in my Twitter timeline, but also on my blog. Desperate for new material, I ventured out to see what other Dallas-ites were talking about in their social media interactions. For forty days I followed no one outside of the D/FW area. The experience exposed some serious flaws in my routine and convinced me to shake things up a bit.

I launched an in-depth examination of my blog’s analytics. I discovered that my site’s most popular piece, both in terms of visitors and comments, was one I posted on bill involving marriage equality for transgendered individuals in Texas. As I reflected on the composition of the piece, I vowed to use it as template for future posts. Though political in nature, the piece featured three key elements: it was local, it presented an issue I am passionate about, and it presented an argument in a non-antagonistic tone.

Shortly after Easter, Lon Morris College, one of my alma maters made headlines for the wrong reasons. Mired in financial insolvency, unable to even make payroll, the school hired a restructuring firm that furloughed almost of all of the school’s employees. For the next few months, the Lon Morris story consumed my social media experience, as I covered the school’s bankruptcy proceedings, broke the news of the Department of Education’s decision to strip the school of its Title IV status, reported on the school’s closing, all while adding my own unique commentary.

The response was tremendous. Not only did web traffic to my blog increase, but legitimate media outlets, from local TV and radio stations to Forbes magazine, began using my blog as a source. Of course the most rewarding response came from my fellow alumni.

Since my Lenten experiment last year, I have become far more judicious in who I follow on Twitter, following mainly D/FW or Texas folks. When I do follow a nationally prominent figure, I first  read through their tweet history to make sure their tweets are original and not  merely endorsements of their employers or sponsors. As a result, I follow fewer people, but feel far more engaged.

While most folks won’t commit to a diet composed entirely of local foods, we understand that the more local foods we include will lead to increased benefits. Similarly, I don’t think you can expect for your social media experience to exist entirely in the local realm, but the more we commit to local issues, the more enjoyable our experience will be.

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