I’m approaching my sixth anniversary at my current employer, and the social media department here just celebrated its five-year anniversary.

Lately, I’ve been spending some time thinking about the evolution of social media. A couple events recently have allowed me to reflect on how far social media’s come since we started the department in October 2008.

USANA Social MediaThe first, which involved thinking back to my first day on the job as a writer in the Creative Services department, was this blog post chronicling a few of USANA Health Sciences’ milestones — social media included. I’m almost embarrassed to say that my first interaction with Facebook came in March 2008 after I was asked to explore how the site could be used for business.

Needless to say, Facebook is now a vital brand-to-consumer communications tool.

And last week, I had the opportunity to talk about social media on a podcast hosted by one of USANA’s most successful teams — and definitely a team that understands and appreciates the power of social media.

As I prepared for the interview, I thought back to when I was first asked to be part of the soon-to-be-formed social media team. It would be staffed with two full-time social media employees. I remember thinking — and may have even said it out loud — “Is social media big enough to necessitate one full-time employee, let alone two?”

I’m glad no one listened to my concern.

While talking with Ryan on the podcast, I tried to convey the importance of social media and how much we rely on our community to help us do our jobs. Following the interview, I compiled a list of “5 Things I’ve Learned” about social media over the years. Obviously I’ve learned much more in my on-the-job training, but these seem to be five of the more important lessons.

Maybe some of these will be applicable to others as well.

  1. Provide Value: At its most basic, social media is not about you; it’s about your audience. With every post and every interaction, offer something your audience needs, or something that could help in some way.
  2. Listen (and Pay Attention): Determine where you can join in conversations to, yes, provide value and be helpful, not sell your wares. Starting conversations often opens doors to other opportunities.
  3. Never Stop Learning: Read, read and read some more. Social media moves so fast and there are so many people out there providing valuable content that it’s important to keep up on trends. That said, don’t let the latest trend or shiny social object steer you from your overall objective (see: #1).
  4. A Team is Everything: Recognize you can’t do it all (nor should you, probably) and build a solid team of individuals with diverse skill-sets to help interact with your community and promote the value of social.
  5. Disconnect: I believe it’s important for any social media professional — or anyone, for that matter — to put down the smart phone from time to time, pick up an honest-to-goodness paper-based novel, newspaper, etc., and reconnect with a pre-Facebook world. Also, not every experience needs to be memorialized online. Sit back and enjoy the experience for what it is, not for what it will look like to your friends list.

Here’s to another five years (and preferably many more) of social media.