Emerging from Behind the Screen: Getting IRL for Perspective on Social Media

In case you hadn’t noticed, it’s been a wild fucking year for social media.

We’ve witnessed an arms race between two giants; we’ve watched hate speech and online bullying infect top channels; and through it all, we’ve seen examples of both how disgustingly powerful or weak social targeting could be for brands and organizations.

As a social media strategist (for Sacramento agency Bukwild), I obviously love and respect the medium. I appreciate how it brings people together through time and distance, and how it allows for the confrontation of concepts and ideologies in ways that were never accessible before.

But social is also a place were we are — for better or worse — defined by our political or other social preferences and interests. I mean, the entire premise of social advertising is based on these definitions. For all the ways to segment, profile and target people, it’s also too easy to forget that there are real-life people behind the screen. In social, we tend to target our messages to a ‘persona’, not to the human with their fingers on the keyboard.

So when we were tasked by Bukwild CEO Ryan Vanni to get inspired in 2017, and our strategy team decided to leave data points behind and head to New Mexico for some perspective, I was hoping to somehow get inspired about my work in social.

Each strategy team member took something unique away from the trip, (you can read a summary here), but for me, the perspective on social media, and on people in general, was invaluable.

Getting out of my bubble and into New Mexico’s reminded me that we don’t have to be — and sometimes shouldn’t be — defined by our social media profiles. I’m sure that many of the people I passed by in my three days in New Mexico shared different interests and preferences than my own, but we were all able to appreciate the beautiful Santa Fe architecture, the spectacular desert sunsets and the incredible enchiladas equally. All without segmenting and targeting anyone’s interests.

New Mexico helped me reaffirm our team’s view that social media targeting is really only as good as the work that goes into it. Social is truly effective when you connect with users at the human level. It’s where we can see eye-to-eye with just about anyone else. It’s where people open up to new ideas.

It was a great experience with some really important takeaways for me both as a professional and as a person. Thank you to the strategy team (Isis, Emily and Ethan Martin), Ryan Vanni and Bukwild for the opportunity to regroup and recharge. 🙏