When I was 11 years old, living in rural Alabama, one hot summer I joined a local football team. The school where I was attending at the time didn’t have a football program, but a nearby school did, and a couple of my friends convinced me to join them in playing football.
My good friend and I were on the ‘midget’ football team, and my friend’s two older brothers were on the ‘pee wee’ football team. To be honest, I wasn’t thrilled with the idea of playing football for a school where I knew no one. But my friend wanted to play, and my dad encouraged me too, so I sheepishly agreed.
On the first day, we were lined up and the coaches did a series of drills designed to help them figure out what our skills were. Who could throw, who could catch, who could run, etc. I noticed how all the other players were kidding with each other and the coaches. These were all kids that attended this school together, so they were already friends. Everyone knew everyone else, and being an introvert, that made me realize that I had no business being there. No one knew who I was, and as the coaches lined us up for drills, a sense of dread came over me. What was going to happen when it was my turn to catch a pass from the coach? Of course I was going to drop the ball, because I was nervous as hell, and then everyone was going to stop and say “Who is THAT kid? The one that can’t catch?”
Yeah it’s funny how a kid, especially an introverted kid that didn’t want to be there, can overreact.
So I watched as the line in front of me got shorter and shorter. We were lined up and the person at the front of the line would run down the field, and the coach would throw them a pass. Four kids in front of me, then three, then two. Funny thing is, I wasn’t worried about dropping the pass, I was worried that the coach wouldn’t know who I was (how could he?), and that he’d tell me I didn’t belong there because I didn’t go to that school. So by the time the kid in front of me ran out to catch his pass and it was just seconds away from being ‘my turn’, I was almost scared to death. All the worst-case scenarios ran through my mind; The coach wouldn’t know who I was. I would drop the ball and everyone would laugh at me. The coach would laugh at me. Who knew.
The coach watched the kid in front of me catch his pass, he clapped and shouted encouragement to him. Then he turned and grabbed another football, and turned to look at me. This was it.
Then he did something I will never forget; He looked at me, smiled slightly, and said ‘Ok Mack….go get it!’. And he winked at me! The man winked at me! At that moment, all the irrational fears of an introverted 11 year-old kid in a football practice he didn’t really want to be at, immediately disappeared.
I ran a route that would have made Jerry Rice cheer, and if that coach had thrown that ball 10 feet over my head it wouldn’t have mattered because I still would have caught that ball. When that coach smiled and winked at me, he was saying ‘You can do this!’. And I immediately knew I could.
“So Mack” you ask, “what the hell does this have to do with social media?”
I think the lesson is to remember that you sometimes need to lower the bar to encourage interaction. It could be on your blog, your community site, Twitter, where ever.
Believe it or not, there really ARE people out there that have never left a comment on a blog. AND some of them are a bit intimidated at the idea.
Laugh all you want, but many of us have been there ourselves at one point. And maybe it’s because I am an introvert, but I always keep these people in mind when I create content. Look at my last post about social media rockstars. I’ll be the first to admit that it’s probably not the most mentally taxing post you will ever read. But that post (hopefully) was very easy to leave a comment on. It got several comments here, and many RTs on Twitter.
The idea is to occasionally (at least), create content that’s very easy for people to interact with. Making your content more accessible. Because the more people that interact with your content, the better the experience for you, and everyone else.
Try lowering the participation bar, and see what happens. Try saying “Please leave a comment and let me know what you think!”
That just might be the ‘wink’ of encouragement they were waiting for…