How To Not Suck at Social Media

Tim Denning

It may be a wasteland of selfishness, but you can change that.

Photo via unsplash

Social media has changed our lives and anyone can access it for free. The aim of this article is to teach you everything I have learned from studying and being on social media for five years.

My simple goal is this: I am going to rewrite the guidelines of social media for human beings. This advice is the opposite of what you hear and it really does work.

All day, people are instant messaging me, looking to jump the general admission queue and go straight to the VIP section when the strategy that works is the exact opposite of what we think. It’s far easier to drop the hacks and adopt a persona that is real.

There are two ways you’re currently appearing on social media:

  1. As an advertisement.
  2. As a person.

Neither are your fault and, whether you like it or not, you fall into one of these categories. Do me a favor and scroll through the newsfeed of any social media app. Can you tell me which posts are designed to advertise or sell you something and which posts are helpful?

Of course you can.

If you were to have one agenda when it came to using social media, the one to choose is to be helpful. The trap we fall into is going on social media to endlessly sell people things. Paid ads are there to sell you stuff, whereas social media has an entirely different purpose. The two have become confused.

We’re being sold personal brands (above all), subliminal product placement, unlimited education, and many other things we never asked for. It’s permissionless marketing and that’s a strategy you can opt-out of for your own posts on social media.

Show up as a ‘person’ on social media and you’ll stop sucking at it. Here are a few things to avoid like the black death plague:

  • No lists of endless hashtags (that includes your name as a hashtag).
  • No quoting yourself like you’re bloody Einstein.
  • No tagging people with millions of followers (they will never see the notification of you tagging them).
  • No mention of the phrase personal brand (you’re not Coca Cola).
  • No never-ending self-promotion.
  • No humblebrags disguised as value.

If you’re tired of sucking at social media, there are many ways to change your strategy, although, what I recommend breaks every influencer’s online ebook and course (probably a good thing — I’ll let you decide).

How to Not Suck at Social Media

1. Pick the least perfect photo

It’s okay to post a picture of yourself just don’t do what 98% of Instagram models do and have all your posts feature a pic of your perfectly filtered face.

Many bloggers will tell you that they take hundreds of photos to find that one magic one. Change the game. Buck the BS trend.

Take two photos and pick the least perfect one because that’s the one that captures the real you.

We’re aiming to see a person, not a mirage of a human being that we can never learn from because of all their awesomeness.

2. Go without blurred backgrounds and amazing lighting

Using your camera phone without filters, amazing lighting, and blurred backgrounds ensures your posts appear in the normal person category and not the advertisement category.

Also, do away with beautifully crafted logos and near-perfect captions written by Seth Godin’s personal copywriter.

3. Answer those comments

The selfish state of social media is partly to blame for one small habit that is rarely practiced: reply to the damn comments.

Not every comment, because you have to live life too. But, respond to a few comments and be helpful. Answer a couple of emails and, well, be social.

Not responding to people on social media is what leads you down the path of selfishness. Humility on social media is achieved through responding and being OK with the fact that you don’t know everything.

I’ve been punched in the face plenty of times in the comment section and it’s those ideas and thoughts that helped me to see areas I needed to work on.

4. Ruthlessly seek to be anything but an influencer

The influencer category equals advertisement, whereas being helpful equals being yourself.

Toss out everything associated with influencers and rejoin the tribe of humanity.

5. Talk, listen, talk

You don’t have all the answers and being helpful involves a heck of a lot of listening. Say something, listen, say something, and repeat the process.

If all you do is talk, you’ll be trapped in your own little snow globe of fakery that has no correlation to reality. You want your perspective to change and grow with you, not be fixed in one spot for eternity, thus being unhelpful.

6. Notice the ratio between high points and low points

What is reality? Mostly low points.

The mistake people make on social media is portraying their lives as nothing but wins.

The trick here is to use your low points as lessons. Just talking about low points is depressing, but telling us what you learned and how it can help us is useful.

7. Tell stories

The social media posts that are remembered are the ones that tell stories. Tell us a story and put your heart into it.

The story is the journey and the lessons at the end are the destination.

8. Be as honest as you can

Honesty is sexy on social media and people love it.

If you lost your job, it’s cool. If your partner broke up with you, be cool. If you are not making $100K per minute, it’s cool.

Cool is honest, fake is humiliating once found out.

9. Be selfless

Make the point of social media not about you. One of the biggest mistakes I see people make with social media is aiming to use it as a tool that only serves them and their biased agenda of sucking the life, money, and attention out of whatever audience they attract.

Do the opposite. Be helpful and make your primary focus the service of others.

10. Practice for a few years at least

Nothing worth achieving or discovering will be reached in the short-term. If social media interests you, then spend the time understanding it and experimenting with different posts to find ways to be helpful.

11. Build others up

Tear-downs, trolls, hate, rude comments — these are the diseases of social media that spread like cancer through a little four-year-old’s brain who has nothing but innocent intentions to live life.

Use social media to meet people and be happy when they win. Treat social media as a team sport rather than a one-person race.

12. Live like you know nothing

Share your opinion and also have the intent that perhaps you know nothing.

13. Give helpful advice in step-by-step feedback

If you know something valuable, show us. Chunk it down in a few steps and be sympathetic and empathetic in your approach instead of talking down to people as though you are Dan Blizerian in a Lambo shouting “MACHINE GUN!!”

14. Resist the urge to say yes to opportunities

The temptation when you have been doing social media for long enough is to cheapen the heck out of yourself.

There will be lots of offers to do things in return for money (not meaning) and it’s the decisions you say no to in these moments that matter.

My friend Joel was asked to sell his website for millions of dollars to a company that was going to litter it with ads. He said no to the opportunity because it went against why he started his site in the first place.

If you do make money from social media one day, you’ll realize, hopefully, as I did, that it’s an empty feeling once your basic living costs are met with the fruits of your online labor.

Focus on Who You Are Becoming

The way to not suck at social media is to change your goal.

You can focus on vanity metrics or you can focus on who you are becoming. Social media will show you who you are when you begin and who you become in the process.

If you focus on becoming a better person, then you’ll be more helpful and people will be attracted to joining forces with you to do something you may not have first started out with the intent to do.

My intent, like so many people, was to start out on social media to build followers and line my bank account with green paper notes.

What I didn’t know is that I’d become an advocate for mental health, commit a few charitable acts, and dial the noise of my ego right down so that the lessons I wanted to teach could be heard without a megaphone.

Social media teaches you a lot about yourself when you review your timeline since the beginning. Aim to become a better person, ditch the traditional social media strategies that no longer work, and help people.

That’s how you stop sucking at social media and do something awesome.

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Aussie Blogger with 100M+ views — Writer for CNBC & Business Insider. Inspiring the world through Personal Development and Entrepreneurship


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