On Wednesday evening, we hosted the third event in our Honest Talks series, with discussion this time revolving around social media and the role it has to play in our professional and personal lives. Following the recent chaos caused by the Cambridge Analytica scandal and the decision taken by UK pub chain Wetherspoons to quit social media, we were keen to bring together a range of voices to help pick apart what is an often controversial topic.
Our panel was made up of three social media specialists – Tim Hyde (@timwillhyde), formerly of LADbible and Social Chain and now CEO of his own digital marketing agency; Justin Clark (@justclarksocial), head of social for Transport for Greater Manchester; and Dr Bex Lewis (@drbexl), senior lecturer in digital marketing at Manchester Metropolitan University.
Prior to the event, we wanted to hear the thoughts of our Twitter followers. We posted two separate polls, with questions asking whether Wetherspoons was right to quit social media, and whether our followers’ social media usage has decreased. The results in both cases were rather close-cut, which hinted at the potential for an open discussion on the night. What we did find interesting, however, was that all three of our panellists very much view social media as a force for good, both in business and our personal lives. For businesses, the question to keep in mind is “what’s the purpose of this?” Managing a social media account requires investment of time above all else, but our panellists agreed that, if approached in the right manner, it can be massively beneficial.
Behind the post there’s a person
During the evening, we talked about the capacity that social media has to help us communicate. Justin treated us to an insight into handling cheesed-off public transport users via the Twittersphere and Tim, who has been named on Manchester’s ‘30 under 30 top business people’ list, acknowledged the fact that, had he chosen a different career, he would not have seen the speed of success he has so far enjoyed. Dr Bex expressed her relentless positivity towards social media because of the power it has to create connections and forge friendships via its online communities.
It’s all about authenticity
One of the evening’s buzz words was authenticity. The value in being natural and resisting the pressure to be someone you’re not was something our panellists felt strongly about – but with the caveat that there are boundaries. It’s a difficult line to tread. Having the freedom to “do you” and be your authentic self on social is somewhat of a luxury, as it depends entirely on your line of work, which company or organisation you’re employed by and your position in that organisation.
Our key take away from the discussion: always remember the context. Does what you’re about to post undermine your credibility in front of future employers, employees or the press? This seems simple, but if the answer is yes, then take the advice of psychologist and journalist Rupert Cornford, who chaired our event, and ask yourself ‘Do I really want to see this published?’ before pressing “post”. This is a consideration which explains why so many people, business leaders included, tend to turn their backs on using social media through fear of being “trolled”.
To cover such a broad topic in the space of an hour was impossible, which meant discussion ran on long after the last chairs had been cleared. While there is plenty to discuss, it’s clear that social media, despite its many flaws, is still going strong and remains full of potential – both for businesses and individuals alike.
Danny is an Account Manager in the Manchester office