How to Use Social Media: Five Ways Teenagers (and Adults) Can Start Thinking Big Picture

Last week I was invited to speak to three classes at South East High School in South Los Angeles, California.

A month earlier I’d filmed my Udemy presentation How to Win Friends and Influence People on Social Media in a classroom at the school, and a few teachers who had caught some of the content thought their students would value hearing my somewhat maverick perspective about it in person. I was very excited, not only because I had never spoken about the subject to teenagers, but because it sounded truly fascinating to see whether youth ever thought about using social media for more than just, say, posting pictures of food. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

In my first class of the day I asked the students to tell me what they wanted to be when they grew up. Most of them stared forward in a bored daze, too nervous to show feeling or just not sure what they wanted to be. But finally a confident kid with nice hair—I mean, this was one thick, impressive head of hair—threw up his hand and proudly stated, “I wanna own my own hair salon.”

“Perfect!” I responded, and I asked him how he uses social media. “I dunno, talk to friends, stuff like that.” I told him that was great, and that’s part of what I use it for too. But I asked him if he ever thought about using it to build awareness for his future salon. I told him I realized he had other concerns: school, girls, sports, friends, family, and that I didn’t expect him to be thinking about business yet. But I wanted to at least open up his mind to the possibility of using social networks to start connecting to people who might one day be interested in getting their hair done, or at the very least know someone who would. All I wanted was for him to see the big picture. I think he caught a glimpse of it, because his face lit up, and his pages started turning.

I told the class that’s exactly what I did. Instead of reading books about branding, or hearing what other people said about what shortcuts or “tricks of the trade” I needed to embrace to gain a bigger following, I chose to spend hours and hours, months and months, years and years, genuinely connecting to people about mostly anything but business.

Here are five tips on how to use social media, in very particular order, to gain more (intangible) influence:

1. Before You Promote… Fill Your Boat

Before giving your talent away it’s intelligent to plant the seed and spend a lot of time making connections, this way when you start sharing your work you already have an audience. If you begin sharing before you have an audience, then who will be there to listen? First reach out to people around the world about what they actually care about in life: love, art, family, animals, food, travel, etc—things that are both important to you and that you value in others. Don’t bring up your product unless asked. This stage is not about promotion, it’s about being a human being. Would you go to a party and before even introducing yourself start talking about what you do?

2. Once It’s Full… Show Your Pull

Now that your boat is full of people it’s time to show your talent. Share your blog, your new salon, your friend’s crowdfunding campaign, etc. Important: Spend more time promoting other people’s work. And do it all with charm, genuineness, and humility.

3. Focus On Twitter… You’ll Be Much Fitter

Everyone seems to have a different opinion, but I say that when it comes to business, Twitter is the most powerful and efficient social media forum to get the word out, especially if you’re a small business owner, an author, or, really an artist of any kind. Twitter is far more sophisticated than Facebook and other social networking sites when it comes to easily discovering specific kinds of likeminded people. Just use that keyword search bar. And don’t buy fake followers like Rihanna and others have, especially if you’re not a celebrity. Please. It skews the playing field, and more importantly ruins artistic integrity. Connect the old fashioned way, and do it because you genuinely like learning about and meeting new people.

4. To Seal Your Fate… Consummate

It’s important you consummate your online contacts. Once you meet them in person a whole new relationship ensues, one that neither of you ever considered possible. For example: I met a gal, Heather Karr, on Twitter a few weeks ago, we went back and forth a few times, I learned she was a “golf ball” masseuse, I made a massage appointment (it was amazing, by the way), and afterwards I learned she was a part-time hospice nurse. I told her about my book and a new film in pre-production I was doing, that both deal with “end of life” subject matter in different ways, and she offered to be a consultant on the film. You see the possibilities when you go that extra mile with people?

5. Do It For The Right Reasons… And You’ll Be A Man For All Seasons

Clearly this goes for women, too, but unfortunately there was never a film called A Woman For All Seasons, although maybe there will be now. As I told the South East High students, it doesn’t matter what you want to be when you grow up, and it doesn’t matter who you are now—a poet, a doctor, an architect—social media isn’t just for entrepreneurs. All prosperity of any kind begins with a genuine human connection. Whether you admit it or not or whether you like it or not, in this digital age social media is the primary way we connect to others, at least initially. And it’s not going anywhere anytime soon. So embrace it for all the right reasons. Don’t just click and hide. And remember, social media is just like life: The more you give genuinely the more you get genuinely.

What’s your take on how to use social media more productively?

GregorCollinsAbout the Author:

Gregor is an actor, author, screenwriter, and film/television producer living in Los Angeles. He co-wrote a script in pre-production called It’s a Good Day to Die starring Cloris Leachman, is the lead actor in the critically acclaimed indie film Goodbye Promise now free on YouTube, and his debut book, The Accidental Caregiver, is an Amazon bestseller in both the US and UK. He is now in the throes of his second book. Connect with Gregor on Google +.