With Facebook’s reputation newly tarnished among parents and children, social media has never been under more scrutiny.

In recent months, anxiety and depression – especially among teenage girls – have skyrocketed, as social media apps like Instagram perpetuate body-image issues. Social media addiction is real and rising, with young Americans spending countless hours per day on their phones. It’s also a problem for adults, many of whom experience a connection between excessive usage and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Perhaps most unfortunately, however, is that nearly 40 percent of young people between the ages of 12 and 17 have been bullied online.

There is a dark side to social media, and it is increasingly difficult to ignore. Silicon Valley – with the help of Washington, D.C. – needs to do more to stamp out the negative voices online in favor of the positive actors. Those of us who use social media on a daily basis – personally and professionally – need to serve as role models, presenting ourselves in the best possible light and pushing others to do the same.

Social media allows all people to have a voice, which can, unfortunately, be used in detestable ways. To quote digital guru Brian Solis, The good thing about social media is it gives everyone a voice. The bad thing is it gives everyone a voice.”

But there is a bright side to social media, and that shouldn’t be overshadowed, either. Billions of people use it, watching short skits, posting funny memes and interacting with family and friends around the world. Most of that digital interaction is innocent and harmless. Especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, social media helped keep us sane when in-person interaction was limited.

Social media apps can also be used for the common good. The Boston Division of the FBI is enlisting Mainers to report hate crimes to state and local law enforcement. How? Through social media advertising, among other avenues.

And the FBI isn’t alone: Countless entrepreneurs leverage social media to run their businesses, guaranteeing financial security for themselves and their employees. Social media provides businesses with a cost-effective way to communicate their brand, including a company’s mission, vision, and overall brand promise. In fact, U.S. businesses spend tens of billions of dollars on social media every year, connecting consumers to a wide range of companies through digital advertising.

What goods does your company produce? What services do you offer? What problems do you solve, and for whom? All of these questions can be answered through social media, in the span of 10 words or less.

Want to encourage engagement and help establish a community of followers? Looking for buyers who become repeat buyers? Communicate your brand and industry-specific information of value to target audiences through a consistent voice on platforms like Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and YouTube, paired with images that resonate. Depending on your business, “information of value” may include anything from articles, tips, how-tos and behind-the-scenes footage to new products.

It is called “content,” and content is king. The phrase “content is king” actually comes from Microsoft founder Bill Gates, who predicted that content is where the “real money will be made” on the Internet back in the 1990s. He was right: Content tells a story. Content distinguishes your specific, unique brand from everything else out there.

And there are many, many positive stories to tell. When used properly, social media can spread joy and optimism to the masses. While remaining wary of its flaws, we cannot forget the power of digital interaction and its potential for good.

Social media empowers us all, especially the business community, but with great power comes great responsibility.

Don’t take your responsibility lightly on social media. Use your voice to make the world a better place.


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