Lee Odden

It’s Not the Moment, It’s the Story – A Bigger Picture View of Personal Social Media Participation

Lee Odden     Social Media
Lee Odden Instagram

My favorite personal socnet: Instagram!

Social media technologies and platforms are now everywhere internet connectivity exists: desktop, tablet, smartphones and even kitchen appliances, cars and wearable devices.

While social technology usage has matured significantly, there are many business professionals who either haven’t started or aren’t comfortable with the behavior of public sharing.

One of the most common criticisms or objections I hear is that an individual Tweet, Facebook post or image on Instagram isn’t going to make a difference amongst the stream of social noise published every second. In fact, it can seem pretty overwhelming to executives my age, because expectations of their position are generally high and so is their own uncertainty about the impact of social media participation.

Therein lies one of the most profound misconceptions about being active on the social web as an individual or even as a brand: It’s not the single social post that matters, it’s the story that evolves out of the cumulative experience.

Sure, people still share what they had for breakfast (I had a classic oatmeal from Caribou) but they’ll also share other useful information that provides a bigger picture of who the person is, what they stand for and insights into their professional expertise. The conclusion we come to from just one social message is nothing compared to the effect over time.

That’s the disconnect. Don’t evaluate the impact of personal social media participation from the moments shared in individual posts. Think of your social media participation (curation, sharing, engagement, promotion) in terms of a story you’re telling over time.

In my case, my social participation is intended to communicate creativity, domain expertise in the marketing and PR field, thought leadership in those areas and appreciation for our team and customers. Those key areas are the filter for many (not all) of the social messages, interactions, curation and promotion that I do on my combined network of over 250,000 social connections.

When you combine cumulative social messages on different platforms in different media with traditional digital (email) and offline experiences, the playing field is decidedly leveled.

So if you’re tentative about social media participation and evaluating whether you should Tweet, use Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr, YouTube or any other social network, think more about the overall story you have to tell about yourself, your brand and especially those around you (co-workers, clients, partners). You’re just doing it 140 characters or one image or Vine video at a time.

As you decide how you’ll engage personally on the social web, think about what it is that you stand for. How do you want to be known?  How can you be the most helpful to others? As you answer those kinds of questions, make choices about the kind of information you share on the social web. Use the answers as a filter for where and with whom you engage.

Think beyond the moments towards the overall story you can use social media to tell. You’ll find it to be a more satisfying and productive experience.


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Lee Odden About Lee Odden

@LeeOdden is the CEO of TopRank Marketing and editor of Online Marketing Blog. Cited for his expertise by The Economist, Forbes and the Wall Street Journal, he's the author of the book Optimize and presents internationally on B2B marketing topics including content, search, social media and influencer marketing. When not at conferences, consulting, or working with his talented team, he's likely running, traveling or cooking up something new.


  1. Well said! Storytelling is such an integral part of everything we do, and we tend to really forget that and focus on the small, moment-to-moment aspects of social media. It’s that whole story about you (that you’re telling intentionally or not) that people pay attention to, though.

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  2. The division between storytelling and marketing has dissolved. Stories play on people’s fears and emotions. With stories, brands connect with readers on a more human level.

    • There’s a time and a place for various communications styles between brand and consumer. The trick is to figure out what matters to your customers so you can tell them the right stories to motivate action.

  3. Very timely, man. Thanks! I was just thinking about the growing number of social media platforms, and whether it’s really necessary to have a presence on all of them. Your article serves as a great reminder to step back, and to think about what tools you want to utilize to assist in presenting your story to others.

  4. Avatar Carolina Miranda says

    Great post! It’s so easy to get wrapped up in every singular post, especially when we have to keep up with so many social media platforms. I’m always drawn to the brands that are cohesive and convey a compelling story – I’ll be sure to keep that in mind with my own social media!

  5. You have made really
    good points here. Stressing out your responsibilities in the social media should
    be a priority. A lot of people misinterpret the information being shared. Also,
    it is good to develop a certain niche even when working in these sites.

  6. social media plays a very important role.which is more helful.a very thanksful for posting a right picture at a right time