Everyone you know who loves using social media didn’t understand it in the beginning either.

Especially in business, most people still don’t quite grasp how to use it to grow a company and serve people better. And those who do were once as confused and curious as everyone else.

Turning On The Lightbulb

The first time I saw Twitter in 2007 it seemed very silly to me. At the time, people compared it to the status updates on Facebook, which to me were the most annoying feature of the new network. I couldn’t imagine why anyone would want to read a stream of status updates.

Until 2008 when my friend David explained it to me. We were on a trade show floor and he said “look around this room at all of these people having conversations with each other. Now imagine if you could listen in on any of those conversations and interject when you like.” It blew my mind!

Now Twitter blows my mind as the most efficient way of keeping me in touch with the news and media that the people I know share.

Mentorship Is The Only Way To Learn Social

Last night I asked a few friends online if they had a eureka moment when the lightbulb went on and they really understood social media for the first time. Most of them did. But ALL of them said they learned as they went with advice from friends. It’s just not something that comes naturally to most of us.

@davidalston on learning social:
“Twitter was october 2007 at the PRSA show in Philly. Marcel set up my BB and I took in the show while having to work the booth. I also made new connections at the show and watched how Kami Huyse performed PR for the show on the fly.”

And why should it? When we were children our families mentored us on how to socialize: “smile when you say hello”, “It’s not polite to stare”, “look at people when they are speaking to you”, “don’t fidget”, “open the door for the person coming in behind you”. How would we have known these things if someone who cared about us didn’t tell us?

No Metaphors

It makes sense that people wouldn’t understand social media at first and how it applies to business. We have nothing we can compare it to. So learning how to use it is a challenge.

@davergallant on learning social:
“It was a progression for me. I always knew it was a massive shift in the way we communicate. One lightbulb moment was when I recognized how much easier it was to reach our degrees of separation than before. Another was when I started investing as much in my online relationships as my offline.”

Everything else the internet has brought us resembles something we already understood. Email made sense because it was the same as postal mail that we’ve exchanged for hundreds of years, except electronic. In Web 1.0 websites were just a new way of sharing brochures and the type of static content we find in print materials.

Blogs were the first personal, social tool that I remember having a hard time adjusting to. This new form of self-publishing seemed kind of narcissistic to me and I couldn’t see myself doing it. I wondered who really cared about my opinion? Now the opinions of others make up most of my daily reading. We all adjust.

But Web 2.0 and the online social revolution has brought us a connectivity that the world has never known: Mass two-way communication!

That has never happened. Ever. And it takes some getting used to.

I’m curious to know about other’s experiences getting online in a personal way. In the comments below, please tell me if you remember a moment when the lightbulb went on and you “got” social media?