How Silence Benefits Social Media

social media silence
photo credit: paul bica via photopin cc

I went on vacation at the end of July and into the first six days of August. The latter six days I spent in Canada and had very little access to the Internet. With the exception of an Instagram and Foursquare post I kept silent on Facebook and made no effort to log in and see what people were up to. Part of this you could blame on the beautiful scenery of Banff National Park. The other was a personal need – the need for strategic silence.

Social media professionals are swallowed in by the noise that comes with engagement, metrics, strategizing and content management. As managers of our own brands and the brands of others we are constantly barraged with the need to respond and the need to create. Becoming lost in our own profession is so easy, and the list of to-dos piles up fairly quickly.

This is why silence is so beneficial.

As I drove through the mountains with my parents by my side, I was able to accomplish something that rarely gets done when I am planted in front of Facebook: Think. Don’t get me wrong – I do plenty of thinking, but there is a difference between a burst of short term thoughts and the process of long form reflection which requires a thorough interrogation of reality, an understanding of the engagement being created, as well as the closeness you truly feel, digitally.

Here are some lessons I gleaned while I was out in the mountains:

1. Consider The Wake of Social Media Conversations: Susan Collins writes in Fierce Conversations about the wake we leave in our conversations with others, which is how we make others feel when we say something. This can be directly applied into social media as well, where our days are filled with lessons of conversational wake, from posts about politics to repeated status updates about one’s love for their network marketing company. The fragility of relationships both near and far elicits a different social media wake from each person and thus requires careful consideration from audience to audience. Consistency of the message is one thing, but the impact that it leaves behind is completely different. Ask for feedback, privately, if necessary. Be introspective.

2. What are the levels of social media intimacy? Brand managers come across strangers everyday, and sometimes strangers become friends. It’s important however to consider the level of relationship that is shared however. Sometimes individuals become an indelible part of the community and a connection is forged that requires a greater level of seriousness than is truly required. Note that this is not a call to take social media relationships less seriously, but more to approach relationships with a level of understanding that every individual’s story is their own, and that trust is still trust, whether it exists online or offline.

3. The need to be open – and remembering when to walk away: Everyone that exists on social media has their own story. Each story comes with a journey and the existence of a “Why”. Because humans can be judging creatures it’s easy to write people off or simply ignore stories altogether. Understanding when to be open to these stories and when to simply hit the “hide” button is critical to social media understanding. No one has to know, but sometimes walking away is the best option, especially when attitude is at risk.

4. What part of the social media reality needs to be interrogated? Susan Collins in Fierce Conversations also writes about the need to interrogate reality in the process of conversation, which highlights honesty, openness, and getting to the bottom of the truth in the kindest way. For the social media manager, silence helps in interrogating reality because it pinpoints the heart of the matter: The why, the what, and the how. In an industry where lists multiply by the dozens, it’s important to remember why the work is being done in the first place. Everything else just comes.

And finally, the most important:

5. Knowing when to unplug: Personally, I have discovered that unplugging is one of the best things for me. Every person is different but silence benefits social media the most when social media is not even being touched. Picking up a book, walking in the park, and getting some air – benefits oft-ignored by those in my generation are underrated pleasures that help put the sync back in work and the focus back in building a brand and creating something innovative. Personally I am looking into yoga.

Where does silence benefit you in your journey as a social media manager? In my personal journey, I’ve discovered that considering these five points is a path to uncovering personal peace within my industry while continuing to make strides. I invite you to share yours!

Here’s to silence.

Albert Qian
Albert Qian is a social media professional working, living and playing in Silicon Valley. He got his start in social media by working for Santa Clara University and jumping into Facebook pages in May 2009. Ever since, he has been engrossed in social media, marketing, program management and consulting for small businesses, Fortune 500 companies and individuals looking to learn more social media. On his free time, he enjoys hiking, bowling, eating out at new places and traveling. You can learn more about him on his blog.


  1. says

    Hey Albert, really enjoyable, introspective post. I think brand managers have a habit of getting too wound up in the pages we manage. And, by too wound up I mean that we, like you point out, care too much about the pages – I guess we all really enjoy what we do hehe..but, it does make it hard to fully switch off or unplug from the all encompassing social media matrix, or I know I find it hard at least.. I guess I could do with a trip to the Banff mountains? ;)
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  2. says

    Thank you Albert Qian,

    You very gracefully shared your peace and reflection….
    so well that even on this early morning trip into my world of checking links on my site
    using Aweber stats that I received a gift.

    I paused and thought about my "Social Media World" and some of the people I've met. Some have become friends in the truest meaning of the word, some just remain contacts that are tolerated for their usefulness which mimics what we do in the real world.

    My Grandmother frequently remarked that there are Social Manners that must be observed as Susan Collins defined as "Leaving a Wake" in our conversations and interactions with others.

    So definitely stop and smell the roses or toss a pebble into a pond. We are all in this together. It is easy to forget that for every action there is a reaction.

    When next you are doing your Social obligations remember the response of that small quiet pond to the introduction of just one small pebble.

    Thank you again for the calming quiet.

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  3. H. K. says

    hello albert! i sure would love to share my brief opinion with you. first let say good job on your story. i do agree that silence is sometimes better than words. we as people dont realize that words are powerful! not to mention they are that one thing in the world that cant be taken back! depending on the situation, that is. sometimes “silence” can be the key to unlocking your dreams, also, making a simple gesture is even more powerful than silence. but just like you shared your story, you must still stive, as every comment wil not be a good one r one that you agree with. but since i took the time to read your story i had to leave a comment and give you some praise and recongintion. i hope keep going and im happy to be the first to share a comment. H.K.

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