Surviving the social playground

As a huge Social Media fanatic, I spend a lot of my time each day engaged in discovery and education.

It is no secret that Social Media has forced the Web to evolve. Once considered a fad aimed at prepubescent teenagers, Social Media has grown from strength-to strength, and is now the most powerful tool in Online Marketing that a business can wield.

The problem is, many businesses don’t understand Social Media Marketing, and therefore can’t understand the potential that is there for them to benefit from.

I hear common excuses almost every time I meet with prospective clients:

“I don’t have the time.”

“I don’t know what to do.”

“I don’t see how it can help my business.”

As much as this makes me want to cry whilst simultaneously banging my head against the wall, I also sympathise. A lot of the time these pessimistic businesses are “old school”, “stuck in their ways”; captained by a senior CEO who perhaps only needs to be educated and guided in order to gain a grasp of new concepts and practices. Do you think your Grandparents would understand Twitter or Instagram without any help? It’s up to the “new school” to teach the “old” so that we can continue to benefit together!

With that in mind I have come up with an analogy that will hopefully help others understand what Social Media is about, how to harness it and what benefits can be achieved.

The Social Playground

I distinctively remember my first days at school; I was nervous, excited and intimidated; yet determined to make friends, fit in and have fun. I very quickly became an extremely popular pupil, and looking back on this with adult eyes it is clear to me why.

I had three characteristics that made other children want to be around me, 3 characteristics that I have carried on throughout my life, 3 characteristics that I believe form the foundations of successful Social Media Marketing.

They are:

  • Generosity
  • Kindness
  • Confidence

Let’s explore this further through the media of Cartoons!


As a youngster I was always very generous, I was constantly letting other children play with my toys and enjoy my bounty of sweets. When I started school, this generosity helped me form relationships and gain new friends, because humans are naturally attracted to generosity within others.

Generosity - Thank You

When it comes to Social Media engagement generosity is the key to building relationships and connections that will in return benefit you. Read or View other people’s content, Like, Share and Re-Tweet that content, Follow others, Like Pages and engage and I promise you will receive the same in return. One of my favourite Marketing Blogs is the Unbounce Blog, in particular the posts by Oli Gardner. Oli, like me, is into Rock and Metal music and that attitude spills out into everything he writes. His posts are always extremely informative and highly detailed, (see Noobs Guide) and his no bullshit approach makes for an entertaining read. I share a lot of Oli’s posts because they are always of a superior quality. Through this sharing I have made a connection with a recognised figure among the Online Marketing industry. This affords me the opportunity to ask questions, seek advice or simply chat about favourite Steel Panther songs! RAAAAAWK!!!


In the playground I always made an effort to be kind, to help others, be approachable, involve everyone and compliment and support those who deserved it. Through being kind to my fellow classmates my popularity grew. The other children wanted to share with me, play with me, and have me involved in their games and their activities.

Social Playground - Do you want to play

By applying this mentality to my social Media efforts I discovered that 20 years on nothing has really changed, human nature still draws us to kindness, it will still win every time! Read, View and Share other people’s content, but go that step further, comment and compliment if it deserves, share your thoughts or advice. For example, a couple weeks ago I watched a White Board Friday Post on SEOMoz. It outlined ways in which new start-up agencies and consultants can Win New Customers and Influence Rankings. Having recently started Ionic Media, I felt the post was bang on what I was looking for and, as always, was extremely enjoyable to watch because Rand’s enthusiasm and passion is simply addictive. Within a couple of hours of Tweeting to my followers about the post, I had a reply from none other than Rand Fishkin himself! By simply complimenting Rand and the SEOMoz team I made a connection with one of the leading thought figures in our industry! Pretty Cool!


Confidence is a tricky one, and can take time to develop. Not everyone is born with buckets of confidence, and even if you are, that confidence can be knocked at any time in your life. As a child I was blessed with bags of confidence, this allowed me to lead others, help others, stand up for others and get involved with lots of activities that others shied away from.

Social Playgorund - Stop being mean

Confidence is a characteristic that will greatly improve your approach to Social Media engagement. Even writing this post now, I am nervous that others won’t like it, won’t read it, won’t agree, but If I don’t keep writing and getting involved how will I ever learn and get better? It is this attitude that you need to apply to your own Social Media efforts. GET INVOLVED! Share your content, ask other to read, review and comment. Approach those you admire, whose opinions matter and engage with them. Make that connection! Take part in conversations, state your opinions clearly and stand out from the crowd. The more you are involved, the more you engage, the better you will become and the more confident you will be to try new things and be more creative.

Final Thought

The clue as to what makes for successful Social Media engagement is in the name itself, just be “social”. Obviously there are many other skills that make up the full package, but I strongly believe that by simply applying these three characteristics to your strategy you will be more fruitful in your endeavours. If you think of all your favourite people to follow on Twitter, what makes them so successful? So popular? So likable?…….Well, I bet they were like that at school too!

About the author

Adam is head of marketing at Ionic Media. Before forming Ionic in 2012, adam held several different copywriting, marketing, and SEO positions with various agencies in Scotland. When not boosting clients rankings, or blogging about the latest trends in online marketing, Adam enjoys heavy metal, playing guitar, and skateboarding (yes - we know hes too odl for this, but what can you do..)


  1. Gail

    HI Adam, great post. Being sociable is a personality trait, but in the virtual playground these traits can be practiced a lot easier than in real life. While it can be nerve-racking for some business owners to network in a group, it is so much easier, computer to computer, so I hope readers take note of your advice.

    • Adam Holt

      Thanks Gail,

      I agree with your comment.

      I hope my post encourages businesses unsure and uncertain about Social Media to get creative and engage more with it. As the relationships and connections you establish and build with your customers through social media can be highly fruitful and rewarding for your business.

  2. Nigel

    every day I read a great deal of nonsense about Social Media so it is refreshing to read a post that is so well thought out and, in my opinion, true. keep up the good work sir.

    • Adam Holt

      Thank You Nigel,

      This is my first real post on the new Ionic Blog, I hope you will continue to visit to read future posts!

  3. Anna Williams

    I’m Dans sister, Anna. He’s recently done a lot of work on my company website and included links to fb and in pages for me. I just wanted to say hi and let you know I really enjoyed your blog – I’m defintiely starting from the ”I don’t know what to do” camp, but reading this, and having it put into a ‘real-life’ context, it makes a lot of sense… I will persevere!


    PS – this is also the first time I have ‘blogged’, so I feel I’m putting into practice your ‘be confident’ advice already!!

  4. Silvia S

    Hi Adam!! Great article. I got here from the comments you posted on the FastCompany article about “Social Media Bootcamp” – I love how these two articles complement each other so well

    • Adam Holt

      Hey Sylvia,

      Thank you for your kind words.

      I read that article and thought it was great, it introduced Social Media as more than a fad, and showed how a team of sceptic’s opinions were changed.

      See Below Link:


      I agree, my post compliments that post wonderfully, by taking the next step; “Hey, now that you’re on board, here’s how to get the most out of it!”


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