After publishing an SEO-optimized post about a great new pin, I tweeted the URL which auto-shared to my fan-page status update. If you don’t mind, could you go and +1 it?
Did you get that? Some of it? If you are social media junkie, it made perfect sense and you are probably about to head over the Google+. If not, you might be drowning in the social media frenzy that has taken over the internet.
Given my background, I frequently get asked questions about social media. “Why should I use it?” or “How can it help my organization?” “Which sites should I be on?” and “Is Facebook really a covert CIA organization plotting to replace humanity with cyborg intelligence?” While I can’t answer that final question, I thought I’d spend some time responding to the others as they relate specifically to the Pagan community.
The first and most obvious question is “What is social media?” According to business marketing experts, Andreas Kaplan and Michael Haenlein:
“..a group of Internet-based applications that allow the creation and exchange of user-generated content” (International Associate of Exhibits and Events)
In simple terms, social media is a virtual arena where you, the user, can see and be seen? Better yet, hear and be heard. No, that doesn’t work either. Let’s try this. It is the modern village festival, the town square, the party line, Usenet, the chat room, and even the text-based MUCKS (multi-user-chat-kingdoms).
As of today, what are the most popular social media sites? First, we have the behemoth known as Facebook with 61% of worldwide social media market share. In distant second, we find Twitter, Pinterest and StumbleUpon. To make the on-line party more titillating, there are social media adds-on such as the ever-popular YouTube, Instagram, Flickr, Four Square and others. For those wondering, MySpace, a victim of Facebook’s world domination, was recently re-launched by its new celebrity owner, Justin Timberlake, and is trying to make a glamorous comeback.
Oh yea, and there is also Google+.
Alongside the A-listers, countless special-interest social media sites have appeared on the scene. Whether you’re a scientist or reader, a cat lover or environmentalist, there’s a second-tier site just for you. Pagans are no exception. Sites such as Wiccan Together, Witchbook, and Paganspace are exclusively dedicated to the “magick” of social networking.
In fact, for some Pagans, these dedicated sites are more than workplace distractions. They provide a much-needed spiritual community when a real one is not available. Not everyone lives in Pagan-rich areas complete with festivals, metaphysical stores, and private groups. Additionally, not everyone is able to be openly Pagan. Sites like Witchbook and Paganspace are the doorways to like-minded individuals.
Admittedly, I have never used any of the Pagan-dedicated sites. I simply don’t have time, which brings me to the next question, “Which ones should I use?” The answer for individuals is very different from the answer for organizations and businesses.
For the individual, the choice is simple. Pick a few sites that cater to your interests and have fun. If you love visuals, crafts, and recipes, use Pinterest. If you need a business network, use LInkedIn. If you prefer to succinctly spew forth your opinions, try microblogging on Twitter. If you like Justin Timberlake, open a MySpace account.
For organizations, businesses or artisans, the choice becomes a bit more complicated, whether your endeavor is Pagan-based or not. Without getting into the nitty gritty of social media marketing, I suggest that you answer these five key questions before making any social media plunge:
- What is my product or service?
- What is my ultimate goal?
- Who is my target audience?
- Which platforms are they using?
- What is my budget?
Once these questions are answered, an effective, stream-lined, integrated social media marketing strategy can be firmly enacted to give your organization or business a solid digital presence.
Now, this all sounds so digitally glorious but there are some major pitfalls. For businesses and organizations, the biggest hurdle stems from the misconception that a big following equates to a desired return, financial or otherwise. Just because someone liked your Facebook fan page, doesn’t guarantee that he or she will ever buy one of your hand-crafted ritual robes.
Unfortunately, that’s the nature of social media. “Likes” and “Follows” are the proverbial carrot in front of the horse. They just dangle there in front of marketers, enticing them to keep playing the social media game.
Regardless, all business and organizations should have a social media presence. For Pagan entities, a strong presence can aid the quest for social legitimacy while providing a doorway allowing the public access to good information. Perhaps more importantly, social media can bridge the gap between the generations by connecting older, traditional organizations like Covenant of the Goddess and Circle Sanctuary, to the younger, tech-savvy generations. Social media could be the broomstick that takes Paganism into the future.
However, there are bigger concerns, legal and sociological, that loom over the entire social media experience. Who has a right to censor your feeds? When does social media become public media? Are you living your real-life just to have something good to post? And, finally and most importantly, as humans, are we facing a possible disintegration of real-world social skills?
The time we spend sharing, following, and liking takes away from sharing time with friends, following dreams and liking new experiences. While social media does help build connections in ways that weren’t previously possible, we must not allow it to overtake real life. That is especially true for Pagans whose spirituality is tied so strongly to the natural world.
You can’t watch a sunset on Twitter. You can’t feel the full moon rise on Youtube. You can’t hear a friend’s rhythmic drumming during a cold Solstice Eve on Pinterest. We still need our live seasonal festivals. We still need brick-and-mortar community centers and energy filled circles. No doubt that social media plays an important and useful role in our lives but it must be intertwined with live experience – capturing it, sharing it but never replacing it.
(Now feel free to click the buttons below to like this, share this, pin this and, while you’re at it, don’t forget the +1)