Have your social media habits gotten in the way of the people and projects that matter most? Here’s how to kick your approval addiction and leverage your social network for your business.
Are your social media habits out of control?
Here’s a test: the last time you had something meaningful to share—a nugget of wisdom, inspiring story, request for advice—where was the first place you thought to share it?
Was it with a particular friend, loved one, or associate—someone who might actually benefit from what you had to say—or did you immediately go to your favorite social channel?
If your mind started selecting filters and hashtags before you even finished the question, don’t worry, you’re not alone.
Social media is so woven into the fabric of our lives that for most of us it’s automatic. Of course, we want our posts to be fun or benefit others, but we’re also hoping for likes, shares, and comments. Ultimately, we are looking for social affirmation, approval.
It’s not a bad thing to have a network. But much of the time social media has nothing to do with being social. People follow us for pictures of our dog, not who we are or what we’ve accomplished. Our emotions rise and fall on the “performance” of a picture, and we find ourselves chasing the approval of complete strangers. Eventually, we lose sight of the reason we’re there in the first place: to connect with, encourage, and serve others.
For entrepreneurs, social media overuse and abuse is equally bad for your business. If you’re constantly worrying about your channels, you’re wasting precious time and mental energy. And do more Likes mean more sales? All too often, we end up chasing meaningless statistics simply because we think they will impress others.
Don’t get me wrong, social media is necessary for the modern business. Heck, we have a whole module devoted to it in the StartupCamp program. I’m not telling you to shut down your accounts. But you didn’t quit your job to make “Instagram” your boss, right?
Let’s get real for a second. Find your safe space, and ask yourself:
- Do you worry about how many likes and shares your posts are going to get?
- Do you spend an hour or more a day brainstorming clever posts for your business with nothing to show for it?
- Do you check your phone in the middle of a conversation? (Something I’m guilty of and trying to get better at.)
Social media can feel like an emotional rollercoaster, but the good news is, it doesn’t have to.
If you’re ready to take back the reins and make social media work as it was intended—as a tool for communication and a platform for your business—these eight guiding principles can help get you there.
1. Before you post, consider your motives
A whole lot of pics, videos, and chatter get thrown up on social media for the sole purpose of getting approval. But even if you get the Likes, it’s not going to make you really feel good about yourself. Trust me.
Before you post anything, ask yourself why you’re posting it. Are you posting it because you think it will engage well—likes, shares, and comments—or because you think it will actually help, inspire, inform, or form a connection with others?
Your answer might be a mix of both, and that’s fine. You shouldn’t not share something because you think it will get engagement. The point is only to become conscious of your own intentions. Changing your relationship to anything or anyone starts with awareness.
This exercise applies to both personal and professional posts. Remember that the purpose of your business should be the same as the purpose of its posts. If your business aims to help people, to make their lives easier or more enjoyable, that should be reflected in the content you share.
2. Be unquestioningly honest
Social media platforms are not often places where people bare their souls; they’re highlight reels where people create an idealized version of their lives. Just think of all the vacation pics you’ve seen, and you’ll understand what I’m talking about. Yes, Fred, Costa Rica looks beautiful. Thanks for tagging it all over our feeds eleven-hundred times.
Just as you should consider each and every post for your motives, also think about how their sum portrays you as a person. If everything in the social media world makes you seem flawless, maybe it’s time to dig up some hard truths. The same can be said for your business profiles. People admire success, but they trust honesty and vulnerability.
3. Don’t get hung up on your most recent post
It can be very tempting to track the performance of your most recent post. Resist. Those numbers mean very little without analysis.
Now, we absolutely do want to be analyzing our posts for takeaways. We’re in the business of entrepreneurship—learn or die. But checking for engagement in real-time is just going to get in the way of any honest analysis. Better to let your posts percolate and study them in aggregate when you’ve established a little emotional distance.
Obviously, if people are commenting on your post or you’re suddenly trending, you want to respond in a timely fashion. But that urge to check in, “Okay, how’s it doing now?” is really your ego talking.
4. Resist the urge to compare
A study by clinical psychologists Rachel Elphinston and Patricia Noller found that one of the most negative ways social media overuse impacted relationships was by increasing jealousy. Even “harmless” snooping around led people to compare their partners and themselves to others, decreasing trust and relationship satisfaction.
There’s a lesson to be learned here for entrepreneurs, as well. Be wary of comparing yourself to others, your competition or your friends. From a business perspective, you should be analyzing your competition as you’re building your social presence. But take care to consciously separate their content from their metrics.
Comparison won’t just drag you down emotionally; it will also slow you down. We’ve got more important things to focus on than how popular the competition is.
5. Connecting, not Collecting
It can be said again and again that we need to stop worrying about how many Likes our posts get or how many Followers we have. But what should you care about?
The real measure of your account’s value is how many engaged connections it has, not the total number of followers. This is StartupCamp 101. Try to start seeing your followers as people, not points in a weird popularity contest.
We all see the people gaming the system with bots and hacks to grow huge accounts, and most of them are more than happy to teach you to do the same (for a price). Shoot, you can even buy accounts that already have built-in followers.
But all this is missing the point. Your “following” is only as important as the depth of your connections. One hundred Followers who know you, respect you, and listen to you are infinitely more valuable than ten thousand graymen on Twitter.
6. Know your metrics
So how do you measure “depth of connection,” anyway?
Two metrics to consider are Average Engagement Rate and the number of Direct/Private Message conversations on your accounts.
Engagement Rate compares how many clicks and comments your posts get to your total following. You can use the free analytics that most channels provide to calculate engagement rate averages for specific time periods. This is a more useful statistic than Daily Engagements for understanding how your habits are impacting the people in your network.
Just like in “real life”, the most powerful communications in social media happen one-on-one. The number of active conversations we have going in our Direct/Private Messages is a strong indicator of how well you are connecting with your audience. Direct/Private Messages are also a useful tool for reaching out to people to establish those real connections.
7. Set physical boundaries
I’ve been busted for checking Instagram by my 12-year-old son so many times, it isn’t even funny. I mean that literally: it’s not funny. It’s sad and embarrassing. My time with him is so limited. Instagram shouldn’t come before my son (insert hand on forehead).
Because social media is so automatic and we always have access to our devices, it’s important to set physical boundaries. Consider putting your phone in a different room when you’re at the dinner table or in an important business meeting. Switch your phone into Airplane Mode when you need to get serious work done or spend quality time with your family. For more tips to strategically unplug, check out what one of our StartupCamp Coaches, Ben Sturgill, wrote on the subject.
At the very least, when you’re with your kids, be with them, not a bunch of “followers".
8. Remember who you’re really trying to influence
This is the most important piece of advice I can give. If you remember one thing I wrote here, remember this:
At the end of the day, all those faces on social media—all those strangers, acquaintances, “friends,” and followers—mean next to nothing beside your family.
If you’re serious about having a positive impact on the world, all your inspiring stories and nuggets of wisdom are probably best served being handed directly to your spouse, kids, friends, and neighbors.
We all have a lot of sticky social media habits to break. But the payoff of breaking them is huge.
In 2017, my wife and I started a podcast to inspire and serve others called One Life and quickly found ourselves trapped in the numbers game. Did we hit the Top 200 on the iTunes charts? Did that post get enough Likes? The hamster wheel just kept spinning.
One day, we just couldn’t stand fretting over the numbers anymore. We sat down for a conversation and reminded ourselves that the only reason we started this podcast was to do something we loved and to serve others.
Boom. The pressure was instantly off. We went back to our podcast with new energy and enthusiasm.
We can run the “hacks” and build up an audience that is numerically impressive but totally disengaged. That’s collecting, not connecting. It's better to serve others, be your authentic self, and connect with people who actually want to hear what you have to say.
And always remember that your greatest opportunity to impact others begins with the people who are closest to you in this world: your spouse, children, and friends. If we aren’t connecting with them, then it doesn’t matter if we have 10 million followers?
1 Elphinston, Rachel & Noller, Patricia. (2011). Time to Face It! Facebook Intrusion and the Implications for Romantic Jealousy and Relationship Satisfaction. Cyberpsychology, behavior and social networking. 14. 631-5.