WRITE CY Stories

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One of the greatest mistakes is creating a brand that does not address real people’s needs from the get-go.

Social media branding. Almost everyone does it, but not all of us get it right. Write CY recently sat down with social media expert Marilena Zackheos to talk about how we can use social media to enrich our lives and promote our businesses.

Write CY: Marilena, social media has seeped into our everyday connected existence at almost every level. Can you get by today without having a blog or a Facebook or Twitter account?

Marilena Zackheos: Sure you can! But you might be missing out on real-time news, publicity for a range of events, personal and professional connections, as well as creative pockets for engaging in online and offline communities which may interest you. And that’s a real shame.

WCY: How else can using social media improve our lives in meaningful ways?

MZ: When I first joined Twitter, I was blown away by the amount of information I could access in a matter of seconds that was specifically tailored to my interests. Learning to use Twitter as an information nucleus for your daily news—which is one of its main strengths as a platform—can be extremely rewarding.

In addition to making it super easy to search for topics that interest you, Twitter also puts up a lot less barriers than other social media platforms to connect with people from all over the world. Facebook is largely limited to “friend-of-a-friend” networking but microblogging through Twitter allows you now to interact with people you would have otherwise had no direct contact with (including celebrities and top people in any field or business).

The direct messaging functions in Twitter and Facebook, as well as the discussion forums and comments sections on blogs, are providing largely trouble-free systems to easily connect with others, reach people remote to us, and achieve fast communication. 

WCY: Ok, we’ve covered the personal angle. What about businesses and entrepreneurs? How can they exploit social media?

MZ: Well, in terms of marketing yourself or your business, a blog post, for instance, that is shared on Facebook or retweeted on Twitter can go a long way. You can easily spread the word without relying on external media channels and you can make sure that you are in control of the exact message that you want to disseminate. 

WCY: What are some of the biggest mistakes entrepreneurs make when trying to create a brand using social media?

MZ: One of the greatest mistakes is creating a brand that does not address real people’s needs from the get-go. In other words, if the writing on a blog, a Facebook account or a Twitter account does not show a clear sense of the people whom you are addressing, the content will flop, no matter how interesting the subject. Ultimately, if no single person consistently needs the information you are creating or curating on your social media platforms, you will have no interaction with that content. Vague posts that are directed to no specific person in mind at all will inevitably elicit a reaction from that very type.

Related to this point is the caveat that effective social media content must first and foremost be useful. The other great mistake people make is not stating clearly how something is beneficial for your targeted audience. Status updates like “buy this book” or “sign up for this class now” are ineffectual when they do not satisfy the social media users’ curiosity about the product or if they do not promise specific reward or value. 

WCY: Best-selling author (and former snow cone peddler) Jonathan Franzen has publicly stated that no writer should be plugged into the Internet when writing. How can we integrate social media into our lives while still focusing on our work?

MZ: I had no idea he was a snow cone peddler! Is that even true? Let me look that up. Does he have a Twitter account? What were we saying?

Social media can be distracting and time-consuming if we let it. The best way to limit this distraction is, I believe, to allocate a clear goal to each of the social media platforms and accounts we are using. Decide first: Will you be using your personal Facebook account for fun and to connect with friends, while using your professional Facebook account to increase your blog’s traffic? Will you be using Twitter for status updates and Facebook for marketing your business or product? Will Twitter be your main tool for staying updated in your fields of interest and Facebook for creating more close-knit social networks?  Differentiating between Twitter, Facebook, and Blogging use can be grounding and over the long haul more valuable to you.

Back to Franzen, I do find it invigorating to switch off completely from the Internet on certain occasions. But for the most part, on a daily basis, I remain active on Facebook in particular. I use it to exchange ideas and documents related to my work, to allow me to serve as a resource for my connections, as well as maintain and build relationships. All of these are integral to enhancing work effectiveness both psychologically and practically, to establishing new opportunities, and to giving and receiving assistance and advice.

WCY: We’ve covered a lot of ground, and this has been extremely helpful. My last question is for readers with little social media experience. What’s the first step for someone to become social media literate?

MZ: There really is no “easy” way for someone to become social media literate. Some people may be more naturally gifted at engaging others on social media, however, it takes a lot of trial and error for all before solidifying a convincing voice and social media strategy that will work for each specific individual or business. Luckily though, we know of certain tactics that have been proven to work more than others and we can certainly teach these. I’ll be sharing some tips myself, using social media writing as a frame of reference, at an upcoming 8-week course that starts March 2, 2016.

WCY: Thanks, Marilena.

MZ: My pleasure.

Marilena Zackheos

Marilena Zackheos studied Philosophy, Poetry Writing, Postcolonial Literature, and Cultural Studies in the United States and the United Kingdom. She is co-editor of VILE WOMEN: FEMALE EVIL IN FACT, FICTION AND MYTHOLOGY (Inter-Disciplinary Press, Oxford UK, 2014) and of THE ROLE OF EDUCATION IN MULTICULTURAL CYPRUS (forthcoming in 2016.) She is currently Director of The Cyprus Center for Intercultural Studies and Assistant Professor of Social Sciences at the University of Nicosia. She teaches social media literacy. Her debut poetry collection, CARMINE LULLABIES (a bookworm publication), will hit the stores on February 20, 2016. For more information on Marilena’s upcoming course Writing for Social Media, click here.