When I started McLernon & Co. four years ago, the physical and digital worlds we lived in were different places, and social media reflected that.
In the digital world, that was the year when Zuck decided anyone could go live on Facebook or Instagram, Vine was still a thing (you’re welcome TikTok), and Instagram switched from displaying content chronologically to using an algorithm.
In the physical world, that was the year when I watched dozens of relationships implode because of the 2016 U.S. election and moral dilemmas between people who cared about each other.
These changes, and others, sowed the seeds for the divisiveness and combativeness we see each day in the physical world and during our scroll sessions in the digital world.
For me, 2016 felt like the year we forgot how to listen to each other on and offline. With our feelings hurt, our friendships damaged, and our egos bruised, we looked to social media to create new friendships, feel heard, and validate our trauma. The intent was good—surround yourself with like-minded people who will love you. The results, not as much. Without noticing it, many of us fell into groups that became more and more radical, and more people joined to feel less lonely, to be around those who agreed with them, and to try to talk to someone about their feelings.
As individuals began to create new, echo-chamber-like communities, technological developments began to transform how we used social media, personally, professionally, and politically.
Companies continued to refine ways of feeding our social media addiction, introducing new features and tricks to keep us scrolling.
Special interest groups, politicians, and foreign governments used the platforms to spread lies, rumors, and conspiracy theories.
As a result of the technological and sociological changes, social media, which could be a force for good to help humanity connect, collaborate, and celebrate, began to become a platform of division, argument, mistrust, and hate.
At McLernon & Co., we navigated these changing times with two central missions: Keep Social Media Social and Keep Social Media Kind.
Keeping Social Media Social means entering the digital world with the same civility that we expect of IRL spaces in the physical world.
It means remembering that most comments and posts come from real human beings who have feelings and that we should cultivate our online interactions to create the kind of world we want.
Keep Social Media Kind focuses on helping teens and young adults navigate the digital world from a young age. Through motivational speaking, we teach them how to speak out against online bullying and encourage them to use social media in a way that adds value to their lives.
Together with our & Co. of talented partners, contractors, and mentors, we helped organizations and individuals use social media to create community, spread positivity, and build genuine connections that would transcend the digital world into the physical world.
And, we did a damn good job of it. We learned every day, leveled up our skills, and became social media insiders determined to use our powers for good.
But we saw the toxicity, cruelty, and judgment corrupting our digital worlds. We saw it on our client’s accounts, and we saw it in our newsfeeds.
Then, the COVID-19 pandemic hit and ignited the suffering, pain, and upheaval that had been simmering in our feeds and our souls for years.
When the world paused to buy healthcare workers and scientists time to deal with this deadly virus, I paused to examine my relationship with social media, and my business’ role in shaping other people’s experience with it.
What I realized was devastating as an individual, and as a small business owner:
- People were feeling low. Grief, despair, powerlessness, rage, blame, worry, and doubt was EVERYWHERE.
- At the same time, people were incredibly lonely and literally stuck inside. In response, they drowned themselves in their digital words, rather than engaging in the physical world because…
- Years of tactics by social media companies were paying off—people were already addicted to online interactions.
- Even though it was filled with toxicity and pain, the digital world became some people’s only outlet for interaction and communication. Which brings us back to point #1—and the cycle begins again.
I realized what I REALLY want to do is help people create a healthy relationship with the digital world and get back into the physical world! Which, you know, deeply conflicted with my social media agency business model.
Cool. Cool cool cool cool. Cool. Cool.
So, I had two choices:
- Walk away, dissolve the agency, and do something entirely different. I called this option the “Burn it Down Option.”
- Continue to make McLernon & Co. a force for good in the digital world while re-inventing its business model to help people navigate their physical and digital worlds with love.
Spoiler alert: I picked option two.
I began to re-imagine how a social media agency could operate. I thought about how our business model of serving companies and individuals through retainers limited the impact we could have in pursuing our missions to Keep Social Media Social and Keep Social Media Kind.
Through four years of hands-on research, I realized that the best way we can help our clients and the world is through consulting, coaching, training, and education. It’s how we can reach the biggest audience and empower more individuals and organizations to make our online and offline worlds a better place to be.
To pursue that level of outreach, our business model needs to be more inclusive, more diverse, and more agile.
Of course, it’s not going to change with a few sentences in a blog. Shifting the direction of McLernon & Co. is a long-term journey that we are committing to today. I want to share this vision with you and be transparent about our destination.
To our current clients, we love working with you. We’re invested and committed to our projects together, and nothing is changing right away.
The Vision/The Futureeeeee
In five years, McLernon & Co. will serve a global, diverse, inclusive community that believes in Keeping Social Media Social and Kind by creating a positive digital world for everyone. To get there, we’re going to streamline our existing services to create the opportunity to develop new ones.
In the future, we’ll help individuals and organizations in three ways:
Coaching and Motivational Speaking
To empower organizations and individuals to take control of their digital lives, we’ll offer individual and group coaching and strategy through IRL and online courses and workshops. Some of the topics will include:
- Unwiring ourselves from digital addictions so that we can live the best life
- How we can build business, marketing and social media strategies that make a positive impact in the physical and digital worlds
- How to choose to be kind online when you’re faced with cruelty
- How to have difficult conversations online (there’s a twist about this one)
- How to be a conscious activist online
- How to be a conscious consumer online
- And so much more…
I will also speak worldwide to groups at conferences and events about these same topics to spread the KSMS message with as many people as possible. (I’ve lately had a recurring vision of me speaking at something called “The Paris Peace Conference”, which I do not know if that is a thing, but if you are with that org, please call me, I’ve been dreaming of speaking with you for years.)
Creating and Connecting
McLernon & Co.’s social media agency services such as strategy, development, creation, and day-to-day management will be delivered by trusted, Keep Social Media Social certified partners. We will vet and train these agencies with a KSMS curriculum created from continually evolving best practices that support the good of what social media can do. The KSMS certification will be available to any agency or independent contractor, so we’ll be able to offer a network of resources for every need and budget.
Community Education & Digital Products
This third leg of McLernon & Co. will offer free and low-cost resources for parents, teachers, students, and young professionals to teach them how to live an authentic life in their digital worlds and keep themselves safe and sane as they do.
Join Us / How Do You Hire Us Now Tho?
That’s where we’re going. It’s a big idea that we are fully committed to making happen. If you love it, if you’ve been nodding your head, “YES!” through this post, if you’re with us, then please join us!
- Hire us! We still offer social media strategy services and would love to work with you. Have something specific in mind? Email Amanda!
- Special Bonus #1 of Hiring Us: You’re supporting a small and local business! We may look big on the outside, but that’s just our great marketing chops. We are a small core team based primarily in Denver, Colorado and Reno, Nevada.
- Special Bonus #2 of Hiring Us: You’re supporting a business that actively promotes diversity and inclusivity in our day-to-day operations and when hiring. We also recognized our blind spots, so we regularly educate our team to expand our understanding of inequality and injustice in the digital and physical worlds. In both spaces, we fight against hate and use our voices to do so through speaking and volunteer opportunities.
- Special Bonus #3 of Hiring Us: We are committed to putting 10% of every sale into creating free resources related to social media and mental health.
- Join us on social! Join our Keep Social Media Social Facebook group and follow us on Facebook and Instagram.
- Look out for our Keep Social Media Social Certification program. As we transition away from our agency services, we will need all types of agencies and other contract social media managers who are crazy passionate about this mission and who want to be trained by us and then receive referrals from us. Join the application waitlist here. Coming 2021!
- Spread the word about our Keep Social Media Social and Keep Social Media Kind missions! Know of a podcast, school, or organization where we should speak? Email introduce us! Here’s a link to something that will make that easy.
- Live the mission to keep social media social in the digital world and join us for a “Keep Social Media Social Digital Detox” challenge (coming soon!). We couldn’t accomplish the mission without every single one of you supporting it, and we are so glad to have you in the community.
To all of our clients and partners, thank you for taking each step of this journey with us. We genuinely believe we can change the world by transitioning to this new business model and offering these services. Join us and help us make the digital world and social media the force for good that we all know it can be.