Continuing with the theme of insights from the Public Words Speaker Forum 2010, one of the standout talks was from Pam Slim. Pam’s generosity and openness made a deep impression on me and everyone else at the conference. Thanks, Pam, for the inspiration!
Once again, I welcome guest blogger Sarah Morgan.
The title of Pam Slim’s talk was “How to Use Social Media to Find an Audience That Wants to Hear You Speak” – but that’s not really what she was talking about. She left aside a lot of the “how” questions most of us tend to get hung up on when thinking about social media – should I use Twitter or Facebook? How often should I tweet? How do I get more followers or fans? – and focused on the underlying “why” questions: why am I trying to reach these people in the first place? Why do they need to hear what I have to say?
For Slim, the answer to all those questions is Jon the ballplayer: a young guy trapped in a job he didn’t care about who’d had an offer to play pro baseball in Germany. His parents didn’t approve and he wasn’t sure if he should take the offer, but when Slim sent his story out to her audience through social media, the resounding “yes” that came back helped convinced Jon and his parents to take that leap.
“The tools of social media were just a way to begin to get the story out and also to begin to connect Jon with the community,” Slim said. In order to use social media to build a community around your work, you first have to understand the essence of what that work is – the change you’re trying to make, or the meaning that you’re making in the world, Slim said. Then think about the specific kinds of people you need to reach with that meaning, and what those people need – the inspiration, connection, knowledge, or skills you can offer them.
“That’s about you as a human being engaging with people who are interested in your work, and using the tool of social media to do it,” Slim said. Don’t use social media just to endlessly promote yourself. Write about things you’re truly passionate about, and use whatever platform you have to advocate for others, Slim said. Build an “ecosystem of smart, generous peers” with whom you can connect and cross-pollinate and help each other reach different audiences.
If you’re truly connected to your community, you’ll not only become a source for other authors or speakers, but also for the media. Journalists are always looking for sources, and if you have an authentic connection with an audience, you’ve got an endless supply of people grappling with the issues at the core of your work.
“I’m not a publicist, I don’t get a dime for that, but I know I’m doing my job,” Slim said.
The bottom line: don’t think about the bottom line. Forget about numbers – how many followers, how many fans – and focus on authentic connections. Use social media to do three things:
1. Connect with people.
2. Amplify their voices.
3. Advocate on their behalf.
“When you’re acting in this way, not saying, ‘here’s a picture of me in front of my jet,’ but saying, ‘here’s the cool things my people are working on,’” Slim said, “people will fall over themselves to help you.”