What’s Your (Social Media) Theme for 2018?

Happy New Year!

Did you make any resolutions? Or set any goals?

A theme for the year can help you achieve them. What’s a theme? It’s a single word you pick to characterize the kind of year you want to have.

As you think about how you’ll build your career through social media in the coming year, the focus of this blog, a theme can help you in four ways.

Motivation. A theme is a personal rallying cry you can apply to everything you do, in social media and in real life. It can help motivate you to take small steps towards your goals, day after day.

Focus. A theme tells you what’s important. And what’s not. It helps you decide in an instant if you’re spending your time in the most important ways to you.

Integration. A theme brings everything in your life together, both professional and personal. Your actions support and build on each other in an integrated way.

Meaning. A theme gives meaning and purpose to every action you take. Your reason for choosing your theme gives you the “why” of your goals and actions.

2018 is year eight for me of having an annual theme. My latest theme came to me while participating in Seth Godin‘s online marketing seminar over the summer.

Seth is a bestselling author and entrepreneur, with an incredible blog on marketing, respect, and the way ideas spread. Everything in Seth’s course focused on his view that “marketing is about creating change.”

Toward the end of the class, a book arrived in the mail. It was called Footprints on the Moon, with a cover photo of Neil Armstrong. One of the sections was called “Buzzer Management.”

Parts of it went as follows:

“I started the quiz team at my high school. Alas, I didn’t do so well at the tryouts, so I ended up as the coach, but we still made it to the finals.

It took me 30 years to figure out the secret of getting in ahead of the others who also knew the answer (because the right answer is no good if someone else gets the buzz):

You need to press the buzzer before you know the answer.

As soon as you realize that you might be able to identify the answer by the time you’re asked, buzz.

Between the time you buzz and the time you’re supposed to speak, the answer will come to you. And if it doesn’t, the penalty for being wrong is small compared to the opportunity to get it right.

What separates this approach from mere recklessness is the experience of discovering (in the right situation) that buzzing makes your work better, that buzzing helps you dig deeper, that buzzing inspires you.

The act of buzzing leads to leaping, and leaping leads to great work.”

As soon as I read it, I knew my next theme had to be BUZZING. I have a habit of holding back, of waiting for perfection. And in that waiting, the world rushes by. Faster and faster, with each passing day.

It’s not comfortable, buzzing in before I’ve completely formulated my thought. But it’s exactly the reminder I need to weigh in and share my point of view. Sooner rather than later. And even if it’s not perfect.

Not in a reckless way. But in a faster way. In social media for career building, the topic of this blog, it’s still important to to keep it “light, bright and polite” in the words of Josh Ochs.

My theme gives me the extra nudge to keep learning and experimenting, while continuing to be positive and constructive in my approach to social media.

Other years’ themes have come in different ways.

Last December our family went to Disneyland over the holidays. It was crowded. Wait times were long. Our family of four ended up making it on only four rides. Yes, I calculated the per-ride cost, but I’ll spare you the painful details.

Because there was a big upside. One of the rides inspired my theme. We ended up in the front row of Soarin’ Around the World. We had a bird’s-eye view of some of the most beautiful scenes on the planet.

And there was my theme – SOARING. All of the definitions worked: to fly or glide at a great height, to rise or ascend to a height, and to rise or aspire to a higher or more exalted level.

I’m happy to say that my theme inspired and focused my efforts. It helped me to achieve several personal and professional goals during the year.

What first prompted me to choose a theme word was a particularly intense work project in 2010. I poured significant energy into designing and delivering a first-ever, week-long leadership development program for my employer. I put my heart and soul into it, giving it the energy and attention it needed to be successful.

But in the process, I seriously neglected myself. My life had become to full. It was like an overstuffed closet. As a result, I made several changes to my life in 2011.

It began by thinning my calendar of commitments, letting the clock run out on too many community activities. Next I brought thinning to my stuff, clearing out clutter and saying farewell to things I no longer needed. Then I applied thinning to myself, focusing on better nutrition and exercise, ultimately becoming a lifetime member of Weight Watchers.

My theme word was THINNING. Often we need to let go of the old to create space for the new. That’s what my theme word did for me that year. It opened up the space I needed to achieve new goals. The next year my theme word naturally evolved to BUILDING.

It wasn’t until after I stumbled upon the idea of a theme word on my own that I realized others promote this practice too.

Best-selling author Gretchen Rubin wrote A Fun Way to Shape the New Year: Pick a One-Word Theme. And nutrition professional Melinda Johnson says to Try a New Year’s Theme Instead of a Resolution.

As you build your career through social media in the coming year, a theme can focus and inspire your efforts. Beyond that, it can be a rallying cry for everything you do.

I’m excited to see what the act of buzzing will bring. As a start, it will free me from always thinking I already have to have the answer. In today’s world, we’re all seekers, looking for the answer amidst constant change. That makes experimenting, testing and iterating more important than ever before.

What’s your theme for 2018?

Look Before You Link

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Nearly 60% of links shared in social media haven’t been read first, the Washington Post and others reported this year.

Don’t do that, if you care about your professional reputation. Take the time to read the content of every link you share in social media.

Sharing content implies your endorsement of it and agreement with it. It’s a similar principle to recommending someone for a job – your reputation is on the line.

What if there’s something lurking in that content link that doesn’t represent your views? How will you know if you don’t read it first?

Josh Ochs, a “digital citizenship speaker who teaches students how to shine online,” says it well for people of all ages. He advises to keep your social media content, “light, bright and polite.”

Here are some guidelines to assess whether or not to share a particular link:

DO share links that:

  • Aptly illustrate the topics you and your social media communities are interested in
  • Provide relevant and appropriate data and metrics to support key points
  • Position your company and its leaders in a positive and accurate light.

DON’T share links that:

  • Have disparaging information about your company or its products. For example, because my employer provides video content, I don’t share links that bash TV (this is where I remind readers that opinions are my own).
  • Overly focus on your employer’s competitors. Unless you’re an official company spokesperson, it’s better to be silent on competitors.
  • Cover topics you don’t want your good name associated with – whether it’s negativity, bar-hopping, gambling or other questionable topics.
  • Have any content that could be perceived as offensive or disparaging to any group or groups of people. If you’re not sure, don’t share it.

Always ask yourself if what you’re sharing reflects positively on you, your employer, your family, your community, and so on, before you post. If not, don’t post it.

Here’s a good tip from Bill Duane as covered in The New York Times – ask yourself before you share if the content is true, kind and necessary. It it doesn’t meet all 3 criteria, don’t share it.

When you do have content to share that passes all of these tests, add your perspective. Briefly say what’s important about it. Include a key takeaway or a memorable quote.

And be sure you look before you link!