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The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Social Media – Be Proactive

The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Social Media – Habit 1: Be Proactive

What does it mean to Be Proactive?  I view being proactive as taking responsibility for how you interact with the world.

Stephen Covey discusses the idea that there is a space between stimulus and response, and that we as human beings, possess the capability to control what we do in that space.  Thus we are different from all other members of Kingdom Animalia.  We humans can choose to act in a certain way, and are not simply subject to act as dictated by our genetic make-up, our cultural mores, or our biological urges.  We can think and then act.  This does not mean we control the outcome, but rather we control how we view and respond to an outcome. (Covey’s view on this was heavily influenced by psychiatrist Viktor Frankl’s brilliant book Man’s Search for Meaning – which recounts his experiences in a Nazi concentration camp.  If you have never read it, you should give it a look.  It is one of the most powerful books ever written.)

Because we possess the ability to think and then act, human beings can decide to change ineffective behavioral patterns.  If something is wrong, we can decide to make it right.  If something goes wrong, we can decide to learn from it.  If something seems wrong, we can choose another course of action.  Proactivity is about making a conscious effort to shape our own thoughts and subsequent actions.  It is about trying to influence that which we can control, our own actions, and come to terms with that which we can not control, what everybody else does.

When it comes to social media, realize you are not in control of much beyond your own actions and reactions.  You don’t get to control the conversation, but you can actively participate in it.  You can take action to improve the world, and by doing so you can influence others to follow and support your cause.  If you see an injustice in the world, write about it.  Develop a plan to change it.  If you love something with all your heart, tell people about it.  Explain why you feel such passion.  If you have a plan that will improve society, publish it.  Ask others to join in your cause.  If crime is a problem in your neighborhood, set up a blog where you and your neighbors discuss ways to keep each other safe.  If you are a medical resident looking to make friends in the community, start a group on facebook.  You can do something, and with the help of others, you can do something great.  Social media makes it possible for people to create ideas, share information, and collaborate with one another like never before.  A proactive mindset appreciates this dynamic, and leverages it to create change.

It is not important that everyone on the internet agree with you.  In fact, if you set that as your goal you are most certainly going to fail.  Rather you should use the social web as a way to shape your perspective.  Engage in conversations in an effort to learn from both those who agree and disagree with your view of the world, and do so in a way that is respectful.  Sometimes you will come up with new ways to better serve those who already love you, and other times you might just change your view of the world entirely.  Proactive people are secure enough to understand that opposing views are not always bad.  In the end, you will have a clearer understanding of your own values and will make more decisions that are likely to be more in line with them.  As Covey states ” When you make a mistake, admit it, correct it, and learn from it – immediately.”  Great advice for anyone trying to understand how to effectively use social media.

Finally, proactivity is about making real change.  It is not enough to have a clever ad campaign and a mediocre product.  It is not enough to say that people are your most important asset, only to turn around and treat them like they are disposal.  Social media makes it difficult to be duplicitous.  Rather, to be successful at all in an interconnected world, one must be genuine.  Covey quotes the motto of the state of North Carolina in regard to this point – “To be rather than to seem.”  Making real change is not always easy, but it is the essence of proactive human behavior.

At its core, proactivity is about the willingness to take responsibility for every aspect of life, and then make principle centered changes, be they internal or external, when appropriate.  Social media works the same way.   If your actions are aligned with your intentions and rooted in principles such as integrity and honesty, social media becomes a natural extension of a proactive mindset.

The 7 Habits of Highly Successful Social Media is a series of posts exploring how Dr. Steven R. Covey’s book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People can be applied to better understand social media.