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10 Lessons Learned About Social Media From My Parents

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When I give presentations on social media, I often refer to Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People. After all, so much about social media is about building strong relationships with others. And that’s what Dale preached as well as anybody, especially in this classic book.

Yet I really only have to look as far as my parents for reference in this case. They may not be on social media, but so much of what I’ve learned about interpersonal communications I’ve learned from them.

And that’s what it all boils down to on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and the like. The most successful business people and brands on these channels are those that have a knack for engaging effectively with others as human beings.

Sure, it doesn’t hurt that they have either a wealth of knowledge and expertise or a line of ridiculously cool products and services. When all is said and done, however, they are simply themselves – which just might be their most endearing quality.

They are like my parents, in a way, who are nothing if not the real deal. Ages 84 and 90, respectively, my mother and father have always been as authentic and unassuming as they come, people I look up to as the embodiment of character in every way, shape and form.

David and Clarice Cargill

Specifically, here are the lessons I’ve learned from my parents that can be applied to activities on social media by individuals like you and me as well as small and big brands alike.

1. Be trustworthy.

This should go without saying, of course, but when it comes to sales and promotion, even the best marketers have a tendency to push the edges. Don’t even think about it on social media. Everything should be kept on the up and up. We’re not making deals here. We’re making friends, followers and fans.

2. Don’t brag.

If honesty is the best policy, so is modesty. No one likes braggadocio. A small shameless plug every once in a while is okay. Your audience should be made aware of your strengths and accomplishments. But the more you talk about others, not yourself, the more inclined they’ll be to pay attention to what you have to say and to eventually do business with you.

3. Stay positive.

Remember that nobody likes a complainer. It doesn’t matter if we’re talking about the Internet and not real life. There’s no difference anymore. Lift people’s spirits with your hope and optimism. Look on the bright side of life. See the glass as always half full. A positive attitude makes everything a lot easier not just for you, but for those around you.

4. Ask questions.

My parents are great conversationalists, always showing concern for what another person has to say. That’s why they’ve had so many long-lasting, mutually beneficial relationships with others over the years. They know that people are happy to share how they feel with you – and that they’re even happier if you actually take an interest.

5. Share.

I was taught as a child not to be selfish, to share with others, especially if they were less fortunate than me. While this notion that “sharing is caring” was ingrained in me at an early age, it applies to everybody on social media today. News and opinion, knowledge and information, activities and whereabouts. All of this is great fodder. All of this is what people and brands alike are expected to dole out to their friends, followers and fans.

6. Don’t knock others.

If you don’t have something good to say, don’t say anything at all. I can’t be the only one who heard this as a child. Such timeless advice applies to practically every opportunity we have to say something publicly. What you express on social media ties back to your brand. People want to feel good about their interactions with you, not deflated because you’re a downer.

7. Be empathetic.

If you’re there for your audience, they’ll be there for you. Listen to what they have to say. Respond in a supportive, timely fashion. Put yourself in their shoes. What can you say that will make them smile? What can you do to add dazzle to their day? What do you have to offer that will help them get more out of life? An empathetic ear and a kinder, gentler voice will go a long way toward winning over your audience.

8. Play fair.

If you look at social media as an extension of who you are in real life, this lesson is one of the most important. Be a good sport and don’t cut corners. Don’t step on any toes to get to the top. Be someone others can look up to for your values, principles and moral code. Play well with others. Corporate citizenship counts.

9. Take pictures.

When I was a kid, my dad loved his slide projector. That and stacks of photo albums were how our road trips, family reunions, summer vacations and campouts were documented. Pictures brought us together. And while they’re obviously still kind of a big deal, pictures aren’t just for families to share in the privacy of their own homes anymore. They’re to share with everybody on social media.

10. Look up.

As much as my parents appreciate what I do for a living, they’re the first ones to remind me to look up from my electronic devices as often as possible and to enjoy real conversations with real people. I can’t argue with them. Not only is it healthy and refreshing to go unplugged, it’s actually where most deals are made. Take your online relationships offline. Have lunch together. Play golf. Take a good long walk. Talk to each other face to face. Social media should be a complement to everything else you do as an individual or a brand, not the be-all and end-all.

Note: This post, “10 Lessons Learned About Social Media From My Parents,” was originally published on ClickZ on August 12, 2015. To read the post there, click here.

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