Making Sense of Social Media

frustrationIs that an oxymoron? Can we really make sense of Social Media when the rules change every day? And what the heck is “social media” anyway?

When you type “social media definition” into a google search, you get 28,100,000 results in .30 seconds. Wow.

“Making Sense of Social Media” was the topic I presented on to my Business Mentoring group this week. I’m proud to say that, 9 years ago, I was contracted to design, develop and implement a business mentoring program, and we’re now in our 8th successful year of operation.

I match entrepreneurs/business owners in early growth mode with seasoned mentors. Each matched pair meets for a minimum of 3 hours a month, and I conduct a monthly meeting that entails a presentation and roundtable discussion. A true meeting of the minds, based on a wisdom exchange model.

All the mentors provide their time and expertise for free, and the mentees pay a nominal sum for a 9 month program. Awesome value. Amazing results.

This week’s topic was “social media”, and I thought I’d share some of the questions and discussion that arose.


“I’m reluctant. I don’t want everyone to know my business, and I’m afraid of the work involved. I was hoping I’d find out that I don’t have to do it. I was hoping you’d say it’s all going to blow up tomorrow, and I don’t have to worry about it. But now it seems like a good idea, and I need to consider what I should do, and how it fits in my plans.”

This was a very common concern of most of the mentees. First: the issue of privacy. Second: the issue of volume of work.

Since the presentation’s premise was: “If you don’t know the WHY, the HOW doesn’t matter”, the group discussed “why” someone would get “social”. Key points:

Whatever you do on “social” for business, it should contribute to the Chain of Conversion or Sales Funnel, otherwise…why are you doing it?

It tells your story effectively, and positions you as an expert: the go-to business that’s known, liked and trusted.

Re: privacy…it’s kind of locks on doors…they keep the honest people out. First: set privacy settings to one’s own comfort level. Second: Whatever goes on in Vegas, stays on twitter and facebook and google+ and…So, if you don’t want the world to know, don’t press post, or send, or tweet.

If you don’t have the time to do it yourself, think of hiring it out. There are lots of excellent freelancers that can craft content, as long as you align them with your “authentic voice”.

Question: What blogging platform is good?

Answer: Most of the group indicated WordPress

Issue:  “I thought that everything online was really anti-social, but I’m coming to realize that it’s actually the opposite. People are really connecting online. But I’m not a writer, and although the idea of a blog seems like a good one, I can’t imagine spending the time to blog.”

Answer: Most of the group really resonated with this. They were torn between the sensibility of blogging/social media presence, and the time, energy and money it would take to have a “social” presence. Things that the group bandied about: hiring freelancers/ NOT doing it if it wasn’t a passion and preference/ starting small/ diving in and adjusting as you go along/ hiding under the covers (yes, I made that last one up, but it was certainly a vibe that I picked up among some of the participants:)

Question: “Why am I getting so much crap in my stream?”

Answer: The group laughed and chuckled at this one. The idea of who’s following whom, the speed at which the information streams flow (a never-ending ticker tape), the distinction between (for example) facebook profiles and facebook pages, the overwhelm of the twitter stream…all pointed to the fact that many people sign up for things without truly understanding the platforms, tools and implications. We broke down some of the fundamentals of twitter, facebook and blogging, and the lightbulbs went on. The group started to grasp the concept that each of the tools and platforms is not “social media”, just like a telephone is not communication. These are just tools that allow the communication. Collective sigh of relief. New perspective gained.

What’s been your experience with “social media”, when dealing with clients or cohorts?

I’ve found that by defining “social media” as a means of communication, NOT the tools or platforms, people “get it”.

Our group talked about how we communicated in the past…everything from smoke signals to pony express to morse code to telephone to today. Couched in those terms,  the ah-ha lightbulb went on very quickly, and people’s anxiety level went down, and interest level went up.

It’s been very interesting to see the shifts and changes happening online. Where once it was “comments are currency”, we’re now seeing people say hogwash to that. Where it was seen as essential to sell online, some companies are retracting from that. Where some sites were seen as the holy grail of sharing, some are now seeing as “gramma’s brag book and all me-me-me”, detracting from the very essence of what being “social” really is.

How are you adapting to the ever changing landscape of Social Media?

  • Ralph Dopping

    Hey Kaarina,

    I think your program is fantastic. It’s hilarious the eye opening responses you can get with some simple ideas around social media. After almost a year on this platform I know it’s like Everest. One step at a time. It’s a big hill.

    Anyway, have you suggested any reading material like Brogan-Smith’s Trust Agents or Mitch Joel’s Six Pixels of Separation? Both are good tools for budding social media users angled from the business side. Good tips and tools.

    Have a good one. Hope it’s not too cold in CDN (in FLA right now). BTW, have you hooked up to Jason Fonceca (another fellow CDN).

    • Kaarina Dillabough

       Good morning @twitter-229922134:disqus . Two great suggestions on reading material: thanks! And as we all take a step at a time on this Everest that is “social”, it’s great to have solid resources to help along the way.

      The weather yesterday was beautiful, but we’re fogged in this morning. But I think the snow might be gone (I hope I didn’t jinx things by saying that:) Don’t know Jason, but will now be looking him up.

      Enjoy Florida:) Cheers! Kaarina

  • Bill Dorman

    Did you notice when you typed in ‘social media definition’ and the 28,100,000 results popped up it also mentioned my name in the first 10? But that’s because I’m a guru and I know how to game…, uh manipulate the system so my name always makes page one, right? 

    I know I will be going out on a limb making this statement, but I feel because of my guru status it gives me leeway to be bold at times, but here goes ‘social is here to stay’. Easy now, settle down; but mark my words, look back on this reply in 5 years and see if I was not prophetic. But I’m smart like that…….

    Social is fickle and social is funny; you will still have the tech/geek crowd being the early adopters for every new platform that comes along. They will ultimately be the drivers of what sticks and what doesn’t. Once these platforms become too mainstream (parents know how to use it) they will be off to the next new thing. The tech/geek crowd likes the feeling of being in the know over knuckleheads like me who is still looking for the on/off switch. 

    On top of that, throw in the different levels, the different purposes, etc, etc, etc. You have one big mix of ‘stuff’ and trying to find out what is relevant and works for you, or what you can just ignore (which in reality is probably most of it…….:). 

    That is my story for today and I’m sticking to it. 

    • Kaarina Dillabough

       Excellent story @twitter-34985693:disqus , and yes…of course your name popped up…number 1 I believe:)

      There’s not question that the group (somewhat reluctantly) agreed that “social is here to stay”. Although some might have hoped for the contrary, I know that they knew it wasn’t going anywhere. Just layers upon layers, changes upon changes of an ever-evolving reality.

      I think I came late to the game as to what to ignore. I found myself immersed in a never-ending-story and quest for information…a gerbil wheel futility of trying to get “everywhere” to comment…a realization that there are only 24 hours in the day. I’m now much more sensible in my approach (although I must admit…every time there’s a new post, an update, a whatever new, I have to ask myself…does it contribute to my passion, productivity, purpose and profitability?

      Loved the photo of you, Adam and Shonali: wish I coulda’ been at that get-together. A road trip to Florida would be so much fun:) Cheers! Kaarina

      • Bill Dorman

        A road trip indeed; it was good to be able to spend about an hour together before the event started. I think they might have thought my eating/drinking prowess was a myth until they saw me in action………:)

        • Kaarina Dillabough

           You proved your prowess, I’m sure:)

          • Adam Toporek

             It truly was! Sometimes the man exceeds the myth!  :)

  • Anonymous

    Great post that I found via @kmueller62:disqus.  For the last 5 years I have communicated professionally on LinkedIn which is a form of social media.  I am experimenting with twitter but don’t see much return on investment yet in terms of retweets and click throughs.  Since I don’t have a professional blog, I primarily drive people to my LinkedIn profile ( and my page (  I think a lot of people misuse LinkedIn and Twitter to be about “me-me-me” as you say.  I like to use it to start and enhance a conversation.  Thanks again for your post.  I am now following you on Twitter!

    • Kaarina Dillabough

       Hi @bennyearl:disqus , and thanks for dropping by. Glad to hear how you found me too! The welcome mat’s always out here, so I hope you’ll feel free to drop by regularly. Next week I’ll be continuing my Alphabet Series (see here for example ) so if you have some words that begin with the letter “N”, bring them on:)

      In our Mentoring meeting, we talked about the fact that “social” is just an evolution in the way we communicate. Many companies are using the tools like a megaphone, rather than a two-way communications vehicle. When we shout out “me-me-me”, it makes people want to flee-flee-flee. Conversation, engagement, education, enlightenment, entertainment, information…SHARED…is what it’s all about.

      Great to meet you Ben. Now following you on twitter as well. And if you have any questions about ROI, things I’ve learned along the way, or just want to chat, you know where to find me. Welcome:) Cheers! Kaarina

  • Michelle Quillin

    “The group started to grasp the concept that each of the tools and platforms is not ‘social media’, just like a telephone is not communication. These are just tools that allow the communication.”

    That’s perfect! 

    The way I explain social media is that it’s just like going to a huge party (networking opportunity) where you don’t know a soul. What are you going to do? How do you get to know people? What do you talk about? This is terrifying for some, but at least behind a keyboard, it’s easier.

    Now, let’s say every person at that gathering has a balloon above his or her head that tells you what they do, who they work for, and what kind of business they’re in (think “social media bio”).  

    Anyone who’s ever read “How to Win Friends and Influence People” by Dale Carnegie will have no trouble at that point. If they haven’t read it, I teach them a few pointers about how to engage people in conversation. Whatever their purpose is for being at the gathering, now they’ll know who to approach and what to do. Really, no matter the platform, it’s all one big party. And if you love people, you’re going to have a great time!

    • Kaarina Dillabough

       Well said @michellequillin:disqus . I like the image of a party (will they be serving single malt scotch, haha!) And whether someone’s an extrovert or introvert, shy or bold, there’s a place for everyone’s personality to shine on “social”. Party on! Cheers! Kaarina

      • Michelle Quillin

        I do love a good party, Kaarina! The best part of social media is I never have to figure out what to wear, and I’m always having a good hair day! 😉 

        • Kaarina Dillabough

           Touche (and if I could figure out how to put the symbol over the “e”, I would) Tooshay!

  • Hajra

    I so loved this post K! 

    Social media is here to say. Maybe the platforms will change and their popularity will change. But instead of making sense of social media itself; why aren’t we trying to make sense of how much social media we want in our lives. Social is here to stay; maybe more online than offline but nobody can underestimate how huge it is.

    Social media is funny, is fickle but don’t make it run your life; you run it! 

    • Kaarina Dillabough

       Words to live by @hajrak:disqus : “you run it!” Spot on:) Cheers! Kaarina

  • Anonymous

    Hi @twitter-257025239:disqus !!  I couldn’t agree with you more that “defining “social media” as a means of communication, NOT the tools or the platform” is paramount to a successful experience with social media.  Once we start attaching the words”tools and platforms” , we have taken the “social” right out of it…eliminating, of course, its communication capabilities.  The other important (I think) aspect of looking at SM as a means of communication is that it MAY take out the designation of “cliques” that seems to have happened.  If I look at it as communication, I don’t care WHO I am communicating with…I am more interested in WHAT we are communicating so that there is an outcome…
    Thank you for sharing about your Business Mentoring group’s social media topic discussion…it was fascinating!!

    • Kaarina Dillabough

       Delighted that you enjoyed the post @socialmediadds:disqus . Our mentoring meetings are always chock full of great questions, animated discussion and valuable exchange of ideas. There’s nothing finer than participating in a group that strives to learn, exchange and improve. Cheers! Kaarina

  • The JackB

    I break it up into pieces:

    Why are we doing it?
    What is our goal?
    How do we measure our goal?

    That is the simplified version but without  that information you are just blowing about in the wind.

    • Kaarina Dillabough

       I like your pieces @TheJackB:disqus :) Cheers! Kaarina

  • Adam Toporek

    Sounds like a great discussion Kaarina. Similar to Jack, I think having a purpose is paramount. It is the only way to manage the deluge of social information.

    • Kaarina Dillabough

       Spot on @twitter-223833082:disqus :)

  • Jens P. Berget

    From my short experience with clients, it seems that they’re on social media, because everyone else is and they feel that they have to be there, or else they’ll miss out on something. They’re not sure what they’ll be missing, but they know that it’s something. And, here in Norway, everyone is on Facebook… and the only reason is, because everyone is on Facebook. Not many companies blog, I haven’t worked with one that does (not yet). 

    What’s interesting, and I agree with @twitter-223833082:disqus and  @TheJackB:disqus that purpose is paramount. The companies that I’ve worked with are creating a purpose eventually, but they aren’t adding the resources to make social work for them. They see social as something people will (and should) do during their lunch or when they’re at home, and they are not adding it as part of the business plan / marketing strategy. They’re just there, because they need to be… well, that’s my experience so far :)

  • Howie at Sky Pulse Media

    There is no such thing as social media. There is media. and there is social enabling technologies and social communication technologies. But there is no such thing as social media. Drives me crazy.

    The problem with ‘Social Media’ is it is a person to person platform first and foremost. It is not very good at brand/business to people. And as people have networks that grow they see less and less of the stuff shared. and we share so little. We probably could share about 4000 things each day. And I bet we actually share less than 10 a person. So lot’s of limitations. But as part of a broader business plan it is essential.

    For certain people though Social Media is not a 
    should I…it is a you have no choice. While it hasn’t gotten me any business yet I do have a network of peers and associates and friends now in and around my industry that I have learned a lot from, grown from, and is my support when needed for clients or pursuing new business. In fact I think Twitter is the most powerful B2B platform out there for networking followed by blogs.

    • Kaarina Dillabough

       You are so correct @howieatskypulsemedia:disqus , but what do you call “social media” when everyone is calling social media, social media? A conundrum.

      To quote from a recent workshop I gave:

      “Let’s clarify a few things from the get-go. First: social media doesn’t exist. But you’ll find hundreds of definitions of social media. Second: it’s simply new school tools to add to your existing toolbox of “things” that allow you to communicate with others. Third: Most people get it backwards. They think that tools and platforms are “social media”, and they’re just tools. For our purposes, “social media” is simply a shift in how we give, get, receive and convey information.”

      At least the crazy-making stuff gives us something to chew around and talk about, right? Cheers! Kaarina

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