"But Where Do I Start with Digital?"

Over the past four weeks in South Africa, I've felt it on multiple levels, from individuals to group leaders, to brands to companies: hesitation to dive in to the social media space.

For some, the hesitation comes with a generational disclaimer.

"I'm of the older generation and this stuff is for the youngsters. They're always on it, you know? I'm afraid this will be the death of face-to-face interpersonal connection." 

From the "youngsters" I hear, "this is my personal space. I don't want brands to bombard me in my space." 

From both the "youngsters" and the older generation, I hear uncertainty about how to use the media itself, where to jump in and an overall fear of posting something online that will then have an immortal life tracing back to them. There is a certain vulnerability in the online space.

All interesting to me. I remember experiencing these types of thoughts, but it was years ago now. I did not want brands to interrupt me, and I didn't see a place for them as anything but intruder. I also thought that older generations should probably stay out of the realm of social media.

Now my parents and all of their 55+ friends are on Facebook (at my urging), and in fact that is the fasting growing population of Facebook subscribers.

I now welcome brands into my space; the ones I want to play with, that is. My social media is a one-stop shop for the information I want to receive. A very select, specific amount of information. And if brands tip the balance in "my space," (i.e. overposting on Facebook, failing to provide valuable content on either Facebook or Twitter, etc.), I remove them from these spaces and become entirely disconnected from the brand. I no longer engage with them, though I may be unable to avoid receiving their one-way messages (television, radio ads, banners or print, for example).

I spent years interacting and engaging with new media until I was comfortable. I followed and liked a variety of pages (from news sources, to industry thought leaders, to peers and friends) to gain a variety of examples of how it was being used, in order to spark my own mind to find and apply appropriate uses for me.

Just remember that you cannot wait for the media, no matter the channel-- whether Facebook or Twitter-- to explain how to use itself. That's the point. Social media, both its potential and its use is driven by its users. One must observe, play and test the possibilities bravely. First dip a toe in the water, so to speak, until you're ready to wade in. Or just dive. Know that the space is public, but allow yourself to start to create a digital voice.

Your digital voice should, in theory, reflect your true voice and the true you. Your brand, on an individual, group, company or brand level, should reflect the true you. Embrace and step boldly into the unknown. There's a lot of potential waiting for you out there.

What is your experience? Are you, or were you, nervous to jump into these channels on the new media landscape? What held you back? What helped you move forward and over these hesitations? Please weigh in your thoughts with a comment below.

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