Saving Face

Let’s talk about the idiom “to save face.” It refers to the idea of protecting yourself from humiliation; perhaps you inadvertently insulted your dinner party host by implying the pot roast was less than spectacular. You might then “save face” by providing profuse compliments and helping yourself to many servings of the mediocre dish.

Believe it or not, this idiom, and my blog name, come from the same concept. Face is a term used in the social sciences to talk about your public self image and how you interact with others.

My interpretation of face, as it will be used in this blog, comes from the work of Steven Levinson and Penelope Brown in their book Politeness: Universals in language use (1987). They argue that your face, your reputation, your public relationships, are something you will work to maintain. We all have the desire to be liked by our peers, but that desire is balanced by a need for freedom. This balance guides our daily actions, and it helps us maintain both close, intimate relationships, as well as formal, distant ones. I’ll write more about this dichotomy at a later date.

However! This blog focuses on social media, more specifically, the social media needs of organizations. When I talk about face, I am talking about the organization’s face. How do you, as a group of individuals, create a coherent image (and face) for one organization? How do you blend the different needs and desires of the people who make up and organization in a way that further a singular message? How, then, do you, as an organization, interact with the community that you serve (or want to attract)?

So, Saving Face, while of course referencing the idiom, is also my way of talking about how face can be played with, maintained, and understood.

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The Social Media Voice

Have you ever binged watched a TV show? (If you’re like me, the answer is yes. Many times)

If you’ve participated in a binge watch (usually 2-6 or more episodes in one sitting), you may notice that you start to take on a character’s speech or mannerisms.

Psychologists call this “experience-taking” when you start to take on the characteristics, thoughts, voice, and mannerisms of your favorite character. We blend our experiences that those of the character, and it’s relatively automatic. It has important implications for “stepping into someone else’s shoes,” but it can also help you understand how your own speech and mannerisms can change and adapt.

Just like each fictional character has their own voice, each social media platform has its own voice.There’s a certain way that people talk on different platforms which makes each site unique, whether that’s the sort of stream of consciousness that you find on Twitter or the seemingly universal YouTube voice. Regular users can hear it, and they can change their voice from one platform to another.

So, if you want to learn a platform’s voice, you should treat it like learning a new language. Or a TV show. Binge it.

Here are my recommendations for learning the voice of your platform:

  1. Put aside the guides. All of those websites and blogs (including this one) that tell you how to run your pages, what your optimum number of posts per week is, how many words each post should be, best language to use? Set all of them off to the side and stop thinking about them.
  2. Follow blogs that you like or want to be like. Enjoy the content. Don’t worry about exact wordings or trying to parse through their strategy. Just sit back and let it wash over you.
  3. Dedicate some time to the platform. Immerse yourself in it. Platforms that I really like are part of my daily routine, and you might want to make yours part of your routine. Eventually, whether it’s a few weeks or a few months, you’ll start to hear the voice too.
  4. Post. Now’s the time to come back to the guides. Hearing your platform’s voice should make it easier to tailor your content and build your own confidence. It doesn’t have to be perfect either. I believe in sincerity over polish anyway.

You should, of course continue to publish material during all of this. In fact, it may be beneficial to you to look at how your own voice changes over time. The key here is that learning the platform’s unique style takes time, but it doesn’t necessarily need to be difficult, so long as you listen.