How to Frame Social Media for those Who Don’t Understand It

So, I have quite a conundrum. I am early on in the process of a comprehensive training program that I organized for myself on behalf of the non-profit I work for, designed to provide me with an extensive education in social media with the aim that I would take over social media for the organization. This includes this course, as well as a couple other online courses, a few books, a couple conferences to attend, and I just began my first week of a four-month professional and personalized training program.

But that’s not the problem, that’s actually all very interesting and informative and really making me excited and hopeful about coming up with creative ways to manage social media and create a strategy for the organization.

The problem, however, is that few others at the organization seem to have an understanding of what effective use of social media is, and what kind of effort that will take. For example, this week, I was given two tasks:

  1. To position a manager as an “expert” on LinkedIn, including educating myself about best practices on the platform, what it would take to be an expert user of the platform, as well as to be considered an expert within your field through the platform. And then I was to set up that profile.
  2. Come up with a draft of a comprehensive social media strategy for the organization… by Monday. And then a final draft for the end of the month, to be implemented at the start of July, and then start training other staff by mid-July. All this well before my own training has concluded (I’m probably, at best, 30% through my own training process, which I would consider a generous estimate).

Needless to say, when I started my week with these two tasks, I looked on like…


But now I need to actually deal with this.

So, there are some ideas and practical steps I can address and take right away; various things I have been considering and could easily suggest in terms of creating a strategy. But there is still much to learn, and not only in terms of using social media and understanding it, but just in terms of getting relevant information and metrics from my employers, regarding demographics of target audience, etc.

I know what their priorities are, but I need to address those, while also tempering expectations and perhaps seeking to adjust timelines into something I would consider more realistic.

So this begs my question to you:

How do you communicate the conceptual and practical management of social media to those who don’t have much (or any) experience with it?

I am working on this at the moment, and in terms of trying to find effective frameworks both for myself and for others to provide a larger context.

Two frameworks that make sense to me are in terms of thinking of social media management as a form of “social engineering” or “community building.” Doing these things in the ‘real world’ requires a lot of time and effort, a lot of listening, communicating, building networks, sharing, working with a number of people, trial and error, experimentation, and an understanding that attempting to direct the development of something is different from being able to dictate its development. In many ways, I feel like managing social media and implementing a social media strategy is akin to social engineering and community building and organizing, but in the digital realm.

This framework could help to temper the expectation or misunderstanding that ‘expertise’ and ‘success’ in social media are as easy as a few clicks.

What are some other possible frameworks/conceptualizations that you can think of that could be useful in communicating the requirements and demands of social media management and strategy?

Another issue I am facing is the idea that it is desirable to have less time and effort spent on social media, while simultaneously making its use more effective. To me, this seems like an inherent contradiction. When I was asked to make a higher-up an ‘expert’ on LinkedIn, I wrote a brief report outlining what (according to my tertiary understanding) would be required, and I included the question: How much time are you willing to spend on a weekly or daily basis on curating this?

Ultimately, expertise and success in social media requires what is required of expertise and success in all endeavours: time and effort.

Certainly there is an argument to be made that a more effective social media strategy will result in more efficient and productive use of platforms, doing away with wasted time and effort, but not necessarily reduced time and effort. If you want a particular result, you have to put in the requirements.

How would you explain to others the necessity – or justification – for spending time and effort on social media?

These are challenges I am currently up against, and I am doing my best to navigate through them. But I am sure some of you will face these challenges in the future, or already have. So I’m curious what your answers are to the above questions, and, I am also curious:

What are similar challenges/demands you have faced?

Thank you!


The importance of #framing social media for those who don’t understand it #SocialMedia

What are some real-world experiences that could help you explain social media to those who don’t get it?

An Experiment in Punishment

When a company does you wrong, do they deserve some form of punishment, or you, some form of retribution? Well, an apology at least?; we’re not expecting jail time. But a company recently ‘done me wrong.’ Now, I realize that this is probably one of the most privileged problems I have ever had to deal with, but, I essentially lost more than $500 (CAD) in one day because of an Icelandic bus company.

So, here’s the story.

I went to Iceland for a work conference last week; on the future of technology and education, the evolution of A.I., and possible dystopian outcomes. Interesting stuff! But I decided to stay an extra day after the conference because… Iceland. So the extra day was to be on my dime. When I arrived five days earlier, I got into the city, Reykjavik, by signing onto a round trip deal with a bus company at the airport, since the airport was roughly 45 minutes from the city. The bus would take you directly to your hotel, and then pick you up and take you back to the airport at the end of your trip; but, you must contact and schedule the pick-up a day in advance.

Seems fair enough. And, it was fairly expensive on its own: I spent roughly 4,000 Icelandic Krona (ISK), or, more than $50.00 CAD for the round-trip with the company, Reykjavik Excursions, and specifically their FLyBus (airport transport) network. Getting into the city was more or less fine, and Iceland was quite amazing, but, it was a fair bit colder than Toronto, and I was still in denial about Toronto weather, being June and everything. So, I wore a jacket, but didn’t even bring a toque (I likely should have, however).


It was a beautiful country.

And Reykjavik was a wonderful little city.

With very clear street signs.


And the sun, literally, never set.

IMG_20170608_003040_416 (1)

12:30 a.m.


3:30 a.m.


4:15 a.m.

But, as I said, it was also very expensive. This beer cost 1.100 Krona (ISK), or, converted to Canadian dollars: $14.56!


But I still loved being there.


I am very happy. You can tell by the muted expression of emotion through facial cues and social norms.

As I am sure you can tell, I was also utilizing social media for much of the journey. In particular, posting on Instagram and Facebook.

So I learned a lot, slept a little, made some friends, had some fun, explored a bit, and had a great experience with Iceland and its people.

But, as requested, the day before I was to leave, I ensured that the FlyBus return trip to the airport was booked. So at 9 a.m. the day before I left, I asked a hotel employee if he could book the trip for noon the following day, which he promptly did (the two employees at this ‘hotel’ – really, a little apartment complex, Rey Apartments – were great and always helpful).

Noon the next day seemed reasonable. My flight was to take off at 3:20 p.m. the following day. A noon pick up would have me at the airport roughly between 12:45 and 1 p.m., giving me over two hours to safely get to my plane.

But… it was 12:40 p.m., and the bus had yet to show, and I was a little more than tired and hungover. The hotel employee called the bus company for me, and ultimately found out that they simply ‘forgot’, or did not take note when he made the appointment the previous day. So he got me booked on the following bus, which would pick me up between 1 and 1:30 p.m. It showed up around 1:20, and I didn’t get to the airport for roughly an hour. It was packed. And by the time I got to the check-in, the employee told me that I had missed the check-in time, and that he was sorry, but all I could do was to book another flight. WoW Air, which provides cheap flights between Europe, Iceland and Canada (and vice versa), doesn’t have much in the way of compensation.

There wasn’t another flight to Toronto until the next day, at the same time. That put me back $425.00 (CAD), or 31,183.40 ISK. But because the flight was the next day, I had to find a place to sleep. So I looked up what was close to the airport. The cheapest place I could find was a hostel-like complex of 121 rooms, Base Hotel, housed in a former NATO base used by the US Navy and Air Force.

This put me back another $55 (CAN) or 4,035.50 ISK. Unfortunately, because I had to purchase another plane ticket, my credit card went over the limit and I had to struggle  to even pay for my hotel room. But I sorted the situation out, with a little help from my family 5,600 km away in Vancouver, Canada. I spent the night in anticipation of my flight the following day, and relaxed with what the hotel claims is “Iceland’s cheapest beer,” which, as far as my own experience went, was accurate.


And so the next day, I got to the airport five hours early, before the airline even had its check-in open. I was determined to not let any time constraints get in the way of me flying back to Toronto. I was already losing a work day due to the travel, and would have to make up that time throughout the rest of the week. But I got on the plane, and all seemed well. But then I looked at the seat in front of me…


“Fast, frequent & on schedule!”?

Interesting interpretations of time and space.

However, “no rush”, I believe.

Still, I was nervous, seeing that in front of me; it was not a good omen for the chances of the plane reaching its destination with me on it. It made me question whether or not I was actually on the right plane, was it going to the right city, was I actually going to make it, or… do I even exist?

IMG_20170612_150140_611 (1)

But… I made it, and in fact, we landed in Toronto about 40 minutes ahead of schedule. I got home, and now I was angry with how much it cost me for that one extra day, due to the actions of a bus company that failed to live up to the promises of its paid services.

The day it happened, I was too tired and frustrated and angry to deal with human beings. And I thought to myself, now that I am learning and utilizing social media so much, and notably on this trip, why not attempt to use it to make a complaint. If I went up and complained one-on-one, perhaps they would reimburse me for my roundtrip ticket with their company, but that was less than 10% of the financial cost of their mistake.

I’ve been reading about how companies with strong and relevant social media presences deal with crises and customer complaints online. The first rule is to never delete a post or complaint (unless it violates certain posting rules, is bigoted, racist, etc). But successful companies will address the complaint, and quickly. They will do so publicly, and also  privately contact the customer seeking to alleviate and address the problem however they can. The hope would be to try to turn around a customer, and transform a potential PR issue into an advertising opportunity.

So I posted a negative review on their Facebook page:

Screen Shot 2017-06-13 at 11.50.27 PM

I also Tweeted to them (and provided a link to my Facebook post, since Twitter doesn’t allow for a lengthy explanation):

Screen Shot 2017-06-13 at 11.52.34 PM

Two days later, have I heard anything?

Not. A. Peep.

Well, except from other customers who interacted with me and posted similar stories of their own.

And to be honest, it was a far more expensive ordeal for others than it was for me!

But one thing is clear, Reykjavik Excursions has a poor management strategy for social media. So, I can either accept that they will not address my complaint via social media, let alone apologize, try to contact them directly by phone or email, or, I can try to convince you people who read this to help me make them pay attention to their social media presence, or, at least try to!

Think of it as an experiment in social media… punishment? Retribution? Justice? Choose your term, it’s an experiment in social media power, or at least, an early attempt at exercising some prowess with it. A challenge, perhaps!

Consider engaging with my Facebook post on their page, or Tweet to them here. Because of Facebook’s algorithm, posts that are more engaging, with comments, likes, shares and other reactions, will be more likely to be seen by others, and then engaged further.

So, consider helping me with this experiment, and let’s see if it yields any results!

Thank you so much in advance!

And solidarity, fellow social media students.


Twiplomacy in the Era of Trump

Even before Donald Trump, social media had changed the face of politics, the relationship between the rulers and the ruled, and the means and methods of communication, gaining access to information, and organizing action.

President Barack Obama is often referred to as the first “social media” President, having successfully utilized social media to get into office, and then effectively using it to communicate with the public throughout his two terms.


Social media further changed the geopolitics of entire regions of the world, such as the Middle East and North Africa when, in late 2010 and early 2011, access to social media sites like Twitter, Facebook and YouTube helped to spur the ‘Arab Spring’ revolts against the ruthless dictators largely supported by our “friendly” governments in the West. For the first time, the Arab youth of Tunisia, Egypt, Syria, Libya, Bahrain, Yemen, Jordan and beyond were heard in their own voices, able to articulate their own desires, hopes, dreams and demands.


Tahrir Square, Cairo, Egypt. February 2011

But in the age of Donald Trump as President of the United States, and even while campaigning for President, the fundamentals of social media and politics once again changed. This time, it is not simply about communication between political elites and their publics, or publics mobilizing to influence political elites, but rather, about the very nature of diplomacy and power-to-power relations itself.

When Trump wants his opinions known, he takes to Twitter. Here, Trump announces (with a 140 character limit) his opinions of other policies, politicians, foreign leaders, countries and his objectives. Twitter has become a key forum for diplomacy in the world today. Trump has managed to start no lack of political crises and challenges with his Twiplomcy, including flaming a confrontation with Mexico, China, and Australia, among others.

There are differing views on the subject of Twitter diplomacy, however. Writing in the Guardian, Mary Dejevsky wrote that with the rise of Twitter diplomacy, “We may be witnessing the end of spin… and the degradation of language it entailed,” as politicians and diplomats are forced to engage in more personable, direct and simple language. This would potentially open the way for “plain-speaking in public life,” challenging one of the very things that causes people to distrust politicians so frequently. Such a “new directness” could and should be welcomed to the world of politics and international relations.

On the other hand, there are many inherent dangers in Twitter diplomacy. As Peter Apps wrote for Reuters, in a future scenario in which nations may be engaged in a Cuban Missile Crisis-like situation, “it is entirely possible that world leaders may be tweeting at each other directly – with the rest of the world, including their own diplomatic and military command chains, forced to watch and play catch-up.” That kind of communication could create no lack of problems in such a scenario, especially with the prospect of a Trump presidency. As Apps noted at the time, with Trump, you had “a reality TV and social media star – whose arguably strongest skill set is in generating controversy and attention. Take that habit too far, and you could easily start a war.

That truly is a terrifying prospect. It’s one thing for celebrities to have public spats on social media that the rest of us can watch and laugh about, but it’s quite another to turn such a forum into an arena for international relations among those with the power to start wars.


Regardless of the pitfalls or benefits, both authors and arguments tend to take the peculiarities of a Trump presidency into consideration when saying that the form and format may not be as much of a problem and the personality that utilizes it. But the reality is, this personality has made Twitter diplomacy a very real circumstance in the world today. And that likely won’t be changing anytime soon.

Richard Buangan, the Managing Director for International Media Engagement at the U.S. State Department recently acknowledged that, “In diplomacy and media, a conversation can be the most powerful tool we have,” with “the power to transform, empower and create.” He emphasized social media in particular, while speaking at the Arab Media Forum, noting: “Digital platforms created an equilibrium in which the public can now participate in news gathering, new sharing and more importantly, decision-making.” The State Department, he said, was learning to adapt to this new environment. “To stay competitive, we can’t selectively engage,” he said. “News now travels by Twitter or Facebook and social media has shattered the barriers to communication.” A choice between two models – the old and the new – had to be made. “In the old model,” he explained, “power and authority were the old currency to be heard. In the new one, it’s authentic voices and your ideas.” Public diplomacy, he concluded, “is an opportunity to expose an open avenue of dialogue.”

Indeed, the opening has been made. The question is, how will it be used – and abused – in the future?

It’s Not Easy to Be Genuinely Funny

A Genuine Problem

One of the great challenges of social media is to be genuine – in your posts, in your views, in what you say and write and share, and in your overall engagement – and yet, to do so without being hated. Why is this challenging? Well, think of it: in your everyday life outside of social media, in face-to-face interactions and engagements, how often are people truly genuine with one another? Think of the retail and service-industry experiences you have had, parties you have attended, even some friends or family you interact with. Finding people who are truly genuine can be truly, genuinely challenging.

This of course begs the question: if we can’t always expect to be genuine in face-to-face engagement, why should we expect it when given the added distancing of social media?

Well, for one: I find it is helpful to stop expecting things, in general. That way, if something good happens, it comes as a pleasant surprise, a break from the usual sad, depressing consistency of failed expectations. However, having said that, it is beneficial to be genuine through social media, for the simple reason that it is more easily relatable to others. Perhaps it is because we are accustomed to a certain degree of falsity in human interactions that we have come to more easily recognize and appreciate genuine conduct when we come across it. That, and it’s also just pleasant, no?

There is no lack of articles, experts, observers, and practitioners of social media who have written and advised that whether you are using it for personal or professional purposes, being genuine and authentic through social media is important. These qualities create trust, and trust can lead to closer connections, future business, or more.

The struggle, at least from my own perspective, is in managing how to be genuine – in being honest with what you think and say – and yet, somehow, avoid being hated. There’s a reason why most of what goes on in your mind should stay there. Just imagine, if you will, going to a café or a restaurant where everyone – notably the employees – were genuine and authentic in all their interactions. Having worked in a restaurant as a bus boy, I can honestly say, this would not go well. I’ve had managers instruct me to take a five minute break because they could see that a rude customer was challenging my sense of self-control to not serve them their food face-first. I’ve had customers say obscene and racist things to me, and had to bite my lip and not respond with a verbal lashing, which feels like the most authentic response to me.

So, clearly, there are limits to authenticity. But one general rule of thumb I adhere to (especially when trying to get away with a lie), is that, being honest doesn’t mean saying everything, it just means being truthful with what you choose to say. The same could apply to most human interactions, and, notably, to social media. You don’t have to say what you genuinely think and feel all the time, but it is a good strategy to be genuine with what you choose to say and how you say it.

That Funny Feeling

I use social media for a number of things. I use it in a professional capacity, through my employer, a non-profit focused on educational advancement. I also use it for myself, both personally and in terms of advancing my own side projects as a writer. Increasingly, I find that an effective means of being genuine on social media and managing to avoid being hated is to be funny (or try to be, rather). After all, people genuinely enjoy funny things. I mean, someone who doesn’t like to laugh is clearly someone with a cold, dead heart, not someone who should be a typical target of any social media campaign, unless of course your target audience are members of the Republican Party (ooooh, just got political!).

But truly, a great way to engage others is to use humour. After all, for social media to be engaging, you have to offer something to your ‘followers’: information, accessibility, authenticity, entertainment, etc. And you don’t need to be “selling” humour in order to justify using it through social media. Of course, for comedians, being funny on social media is a must, however, many brands and businesses have chosen to use humour to engage and ultimately advertise and promote themselves through social media, regardless of how “serious” a company they may be.

Humour is multi-purpose. I personally prefer to use humour to deal with most of the challenges of life. I don’t know how I would have gotten through life without it. And as I am currently trying to cultivate the skill set to do some comedic writing, I have chosen social media as the platform for experimentation, character development, and subject matter. One of the main subjects of the experiment (and the planned writing project) is that of online dating, and notably, for gay men using apps and experiencing that specific ‘social media’ world.

Dating is hard enough, and the advent of apps and modern technology have made it simultaneously – and contradictorily – more accessible and more distant, easier to connect and harder to remain connected. I have learned to navigate through this world of contradictions with humour, and I find, as I curate and share comedic content on this subject matter through Facebook and Instagram, the levels of engagement accelerate, particularly with my own demographic.

A very effective means of using humour through social media is to share – or create – memes and gifs. I recently started creating my own. Giphy is an easy-to-use site to upload and add text to existing gifs, or to create your own from scratch. MakeAMeme is fairly self-explanatory for its purpose, and serves it well. And there are meme styles that are more popular through some platforms, such as the following style on Instagram, where you can have a good deal of text above the image instead of simply appearing over top of the image. A good site to make those memes is through Dankland.

An example of an Instagram-style meme that I created can be seen below:


The power of humour is not simply in making people laugh, it’s in finding something that people can relate to in real life, in bringing out or commenting on something genuine – an experience, an emotion, a state of being, a thought, an action, or behaviour – and twisting it around to look at it in a different way, a way that allows yourself and others to find humour in the circumstance, and in themselves.

So, for example, here are a few gifs that I created which tended to get a little more active engagement from my followers:








And it really wouldn’t be complete without including this:


In Concussion

I generally despise advertisements, especially when they are directed at me. I try my best to ignore them, to not pay attention, to not click or engage at all. I assume that a lot of people are similar. No one likes to be beaten over the head repeatedly, with advertisement or, presumably, with anything, really.

But if something makes me laugh, I don’t care if it is an advertisement and is ultimately just trying to get my money. If I am made to laugh, then I am happy to engage.

It’s not a flawless strategy, and not one without risk (after all, not everyone has the same sense of humour), but, it might just be worth the risk. Surely, it’s better to try to be funny and fail than to just be boring.

fb-art   Click here if you absolutely, definitely, do NOT want to laugh and learn something at the same time! 

btn_tw   Ever tried to be honest AND still be liked? There’s a #funny trick to it!