This has been a busy week, dominated by Wednesday’s mark as our town’s opening day of school. There are so many mixed feelings that come with back-to-school: sorrow that the summer is over, parental joy in watching the kids moving forward into a new grade or school, stress and anxiety at the anticipation of the unknown, frustration sitting in gridlock as Boston tries to move-in tens of thousands of college students all at once, claustrophobia in Staples trying to get the right supplies in a frantic setting equal to the shelf-clearing hysteria caused by an impending New England Nor’ Eastern.
This year, my back-to-school experience was broadened by learning that our high school athletic department is now on Twitter. I’ve watched Facebook become the grand communication tool for my son’s athletic teams, officially and unofficially. Now we have stepped it up to Twitter. It will be interesting to watch it catch on. The combination of Parent and Child audience should be an interesting, challenging target for the director. But it just reminds us all that this generation lives and breathes by social media. As email falls off the radar of these young adults (foreshadowing the demise of the e-newsletter), businesses need to keep in mind the evolving communication tastes of their target audience. Even though I’m referencing current high school students, the adults 5 and 10 years older than this crowd are already spending their new or newish paychecks. Businesses need to engage this crowd with social media in order to stay competitive.
While everyone moves forward with mixed back-to-school experiences, it is interesting how personal social media tools such as Facebook carry, primarily, the up-side of the experience. It has been analyzed that the bragging nature of Facebook can carry with it stress for those who read posts of others and feel left out or inadequate. It is human nature to want to report on good things that happen. But there is ample evidence of the dramatization of reality, as well as the flat-out pretending. Especially on the college scene, someone eager to fit in can get depressed at how much fun others are having – or seem to be having - without him or her (on Facebook, that is). The exaggeration is giving Facebook the reputation of dramatizing life. It is a real turn-off to many while to others who can’t see through the fabrications, it is a real source of anxiety.
In business, it is important to remain true to your followers and true to your mission. Exaggerated claims only lead to trouble and a backlash of un-followers. Followers can be very savvy and quick to rat out braggarts. Businesses do not need to market themselves with false claims or pretend to be something they are not in order to attract a crowd. If you have a good product or service, don’t embellish it to earn followers. That is a short-term strategy. Win with creativity, engaging content, humor, information and truth. Oh, and hard work.