Social Media: Rules of Engagement

Social Media: Rules of EngagementSocial media provides opportunities to self-promote with brazen abandon. 

When I first dived into the social media pool, I had two goals in mind. I wanted to (1) get more speaking engagement invitations and (2) sell books. 

I created profile pages across social media platforms. I announced to the world that I was an expert speaker (even though I did not yet have clear message or audience). I promoted myself, advertised my book, and I shared links to services as I responded to others via social media.

I quickly found social media friends. And I quickly lost them.

Overpromotion and overmarketing will kill your business. “You will make mistakes,” warns Zia Yusuf, Managing Director at The Boston Consulting Group. “If you are sincere about helping the community, the authenticity will show and your mistakes will be forgiven.”

I am glad social media is forgiving. The lessons learned from my mistakes transformed how I engage with others.

I left my job as an instructional coach in an urban school district after I completed my doctoral degree in education and launched my career as a public speaker and author. I was very good at showing others how to create meaningful vision and mission statements and create goals as collaborative teams. I called myself a speaker and goal-setting strategist.

I eagerly gave away copies of my materials with cold-call letters and email to everyone I thought might want to hire a speaker. One day, a superintendent’s secretary sent an e-mail to me and cancelled a series of district planning in-services. She attached a list of teachers who needed copies of my materials.  Why should anyone invest anything into what I had to deliver when I was so willing to give it away? For free?

I packaged my goal-setting resources into a book called Dreams to Action Trailblazer’s GuideThe tools within the book provide easy, practical ways to transform a dream or great idea into reality. I hired a filmmaker to create a promotional video for my book. Because my heart was in the right place, I believe I was generously guided by others more socially savvy than me  in the right direction (even though I was not aware I needed guidance).

The lessons to successfully navigate social media waters came as a result of missteps, miscalculations, and blind mistakes:

Mistake #1:  A bad promotional video is better than no video.  Trust me. It isn’t.

Mistake #2:  Ask your friends to provide feedback.  No one would tell me what I already knew: The video was awful; the woman in the video did not look or sound like me. I was a granite statue who told people to buy my book. My friends said, “It’s fine.” Friends were afraid to tell me the truth.

Mistake #3:  Use social media to sell, sell, sell.  Without an established track record of trust, I discovered the most effective way to burn relationship bridges across all social media platforms.  I allowed the “voice” and “face” of a person I did not like to represent me to the global community.

Discouraged, I joined social media groups to connect with other thought leaders who shared my passions. I asked questions. I responded to their questions. I focused on building relationships and stopped marketing myself to new friends. 

Lesson #1:  Consider your purpose.  I contacted many popular speakers and asked if they would consider me as a guest blogger. They asked, “Who is your target audience?” Their questions spurred me to dig deeper and consider the needs of my audience.  I reexamined my website and promotional materials; nothing in it stimulated dialogue with the person speaking (even though the speaker was me).

Lesson #2:  Be sincere.  I was afraid to share my personal story. I didn’t want anyone to find out about my mistakes and failures. I did not want my lack of experience with social media and the tools of technology to destroy my credibility as a public speaker. I learned that my story – and the lessons I learned as a result of my experiences – were golden nuggets others wanted me to share.

Lesson #3:  Ask for help.  I asked other social media group members for advice and suggestions. They happily shared their stories.

Shayla S. Burroughs, e-Education expert and editor of The Houndstooth Techie Weekly, encouraged me to use social media in the following ways:

Lesson #4:  Use your skills and areas of expertise to build a promotional foundation.  I shared my goal-setting resources with at-risk youth and families at no charge. I offered free workshops at local libraries and colleges. I shared copies of my work with people in my profession, asked for their feedback, and invited them to write reviews. This was particularly helpful before the release of my book. Many professionals within my network were eager to help me because I happily shared their work across social media (not because I expected a reward, but because I loved the quality of their content).

Lesson #5:  Figure it out.  Learn.  Make choices.  Shayla did not say, “Send it to me and I’ll do your marketing for you.”  She suggested a number of online resources and offered assistance if I needed it. I made lots of mistakes. The mistakes taught me how to do things differently the next time. Every mistake was a growth opportunity.

Lesson #6:  Request feedback from reliable sources.  Shayla understands social media and technology.  I asked her to give me honest feedback about my website, videos, and resources.  I wanted to know if it had “heart.”

Lesson #7:  Find a place for words, symbols, and sources of inspiration.  After many video catastrophes, I sent a copy of one of my first Toastmasters videos to Sheila. It wasn’t perfect, but it wasn’t a plastic version of myself, either. “This is amazing and brimming with heart!” she joyfully shared in an e-mail. “I’m so proud! Your friend,  Shayla.”  I printed a copy of her email and keep it in my special inspiration box with other items that remind me I am doing important work that I love and guided by angels.

Lesson #8:  Build relationships with like-minded social media contacts. I allow time every day to read, write and engage with others through social media.  The more I express interest in learning and interacting with my social media friends, the less concerned I am about attracting people to my own brand, products, and website.  I am genuinely excited to promote the work of my social media colleagues, including:

My friend, Wendy McClelland, launched a Facebook group called Social Media with Heart. Members of the group have opportunities to share information about their businesses, ask questions, and receive feedback. Wendy also offers social media coaching, workshops, and encourages connections among Facebook group members.
 Artwork by Lynda Coleman, Art from the Heart

I joined the Women Speakers Association Facebook group because I wanted to connect with other women who were public speakers. I’ve met mentors who inspire me and new speakers who want advice. We share information, network, and support one another.

Lynda Coleman’s Art from the Heart.  Lynda is professional artist, poet, and tireless advocate of at-risk youth with inspiring words of wisdom from Austin, TX.

 Artwork by Mahmood Abaas CamaraMahmood Abaas Camara is a talented artist from Banjul, Gambia, West Africa, who designs exquisite artwork and shares his designs with the world on his Facebook page.

Nancy Oglesby, a certified health & nutrition coach in Kansas, explains how to make healthy food choices. In my pre-Nancy days, my food choices came from vending machines.                     

Christy Johnson is an intuitive healer and founder of Intuitive Heal. She offers outstanding advice about finding peace, experiencing calm, and listening to your inner voice.

Sara Troy, host of Self Discovery Radio, interviews people throughout the world who are making a positive difference and inspiring others. I was honored to discuss youth as future leaders in an episode of Their Story Matters with Sara.

Lesson #9:  Clarify you vision, mission, and message. It took me awhile to figure out the message I wanted to share and the audience who might gain something from it. An experience in downsizing with a professional organizer helped me clarify my vision. Once I figured out how to find my passion, my mission became clear. This clear mission guided my writing and the message I delivered as a speaker to audiences. This clarity outlined on my LinkedIn profile led to an invitation to present my first TED talk.

Lesson #10:  Promote quality content on your blog, website, and social media platforms. I responded to Lorii Abela’s request to submit a personal relationship blog experience to her website, Manifesting My Destiny. Dawn Herring featured my blog about a journaling experience with urban teens, Voices in the City School, as the #JournalChat Pick of the Day. Popular bloggers and speakers like Elizabeth Hamilton Guarino, founder of Best Ever You Teens, invited me to be a contributing author on their websites.

I described Lynda Coleman’s commitment to at-risk youth and her artwork on my blog. I asked speakers like Amy Oestreicher and authors like Julie Boyer to be guest bloggers on my website. I have been fortunate to share my expertise as a guest on podcasts hosted by thought leaders I respect.

Social Media: Rules of EngagementLesson #10:  Don’t be surprised if contacts become friends. Like-minded individuals have interesting ways of finding one another.  In the midst of all of the generous giving, sharing, and discussing across social media platforms, the magic of video provides opportunities for us to hear and see one another.

None of this would have been possible for me had I not been willing to shed my selfish what’s-in-it-for-me skin and be willing to authentically engage with others. And I would not have needed to authentically engage with others had it not been for setbacks, mishaps, and mistakes.

Oscar Wilde once said, “Experience is the name everyone gives to their mistakes.” Experience is learned. Don’t be afraid to learn. Apply what you learn to what you want to do.

That’s called progress.

How can you use social media to build meaningful connections with others?


Use these tips to Create Personal Vision and Mission Statements.

Starting a new business (or thinking about it)? Try these suggestions to Do Big Marketing on a Small Budget.

Learn more about What You Must Do to Experience Success.

Get clear about who you are and the message you want to deliver from my goal-setting book, Dreams to Action Trailblazer’s Guide.

Download my FREE GOAL-SETTING WORKSHEETS and set your course in motion today!

4 Responses to Social Media: Rules of Engagement
  1. Awesome Dr. Julie! It takes courage to be so transparent and share your mistakes, and by doing so; you actually bless so many others. God bless you!


  2. Morning, Dr. Julie. What another great perspective on how to do, what needs to be done with gratefulness passed on to others. Great post and Thank so so much for the mention!! You truly inspire me day in and day out and want you to know you are doing a great job!!

    • Thank you so much for your kind reply, Tamara! I just love #DIYSocial and all of the positive energy that’s generated as a result of our participation within the group. I think we engage with one another from a positive place, so it is little wonder that we explode with excitement within our own areas of expertise … and with each other!

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