Three steps social media can take to foster community

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Social networks are now part of the daily life of many people. Whether it’s checking out what your friends or colleagues are up to, hanging out with entertaining clips, or hanging out in comment sections, on average, people spend two hours and 24 minutes per day on social networks. Users often see friends or colleagues in a perfect environment “living their best life” with a filter. But real life isn’t perfect. It’s messy, and it’s definitely not filtered.

The influence of social media on the mental health of users is increasingly studied. Recently, 11 state attorneys general launched a investigation in Meta, Facebook’s parent company, for promoting Instagram despite knowledge of the damage it can cause to the mental health of teenage users. A recent study from JAMA found that users of Snapchat, Facebook or TikTok were more likely to report an increase in symptoms of depression.

There are ways to put the “social” back into social media and make it what it was meant to be – a place where like-minded people can connect and hang out with each other online. Niche social networks have been successful because they make their users feel welcome and provide them with a safe space to interact. Here are some guidelines that have proven effective in fostering a healthy online community:

1. LISTEN AND ADAPT TO YOUR COMMUNITY

Your community is everything. It’s the heartbeat of what you do and every decision you make. As a business leader, you need to find the time to listen to your community every day. As avid users of your platform, they may offer information about your business that might surprise you. There is power in there. Not sure what major change to make next with your business? Tell your community to let you know what they want. And if you’ve done a good enough job of listening to them throughout the process, they’ll support you in any changes you implement.

2. THINK IN 3D

When you look at your screen, you see 2D people: an avatar and some text. It can be easy for major social networks to base their business decisions on what they see in 2D, such as how to increase traffic to run more ads. But in this scenario, the person behind the avatar gets lost. This person is three-dimensional. They are real human beings with thoughts, feelings, emotions and challenges they face on a daily basis. Losing sight of it causes mistrust, and mistrust causes people to leave. Think in 3D.

3. PRIORITIZE MENTAL HEALTH

We’ve already touched on the potential effects that social platforms can have, but let’s go a little deeper. If you take the 3D approach, you realize that you have an important responsibility as a business leader to create a safe space for your community to interact. Any decision you make that affects your community will impact its real daily life. Think about a toxic social media experience you had and how it left a lasting impression. If you allow this to happen repeatedly, you are impacting a real, 3D person. It is important that you cultivate a positive, inviting and welcoming environment to try to avoid triggering depression, anxiety or addiction in your users.

A community is only as good as its leader, and social networks place enormous trust in their leader. A thriving community is like an entire ecosystem where each person contributes to the health of the whole. It is possible to bring fun back to social networks as long as the company listens and adapts to its community, people are watched in 3D and the mental health of users is a priority.

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