Laura Ben-David
Sharing Israel with the world through my lens

How to be a social media guru

What, you think it’s presumptuous of me to offer this sage advice? Think again; I’ve offered no such thing. A social media ‘guru’ – one who is an ultimate, all-knowing master — is more fantasy than anything else. Anyway, it’s a far-off destination, and I’ve invited you along for the journey. Even if we never arrive, and few people truly do, the journey is a great adventure.

It all started out when I enrolled in college, years ago, and chose social media as my major. Alright, there was no “media” attached to the “social” I was majoring in. And, to be honest, nobody offered me a degree in it. Or grades. But if I could be measured by how many nights I went out, or how many people I met, I would have graduated summa cum laude. Then again, so would most college kids.

But that was a long time ago. There actually was no social media major in my college. There was no social media major in any college. And, to the best of my knowledge, there is no social media major to this day in any college. (Okay, not true. I just googled it. But I digress…) Point is, social media is one of those new things best learned by jumping in, and staying in. In fact, the rapid changes and developments in social media are so intense that any social media professional worth his paycheck spends about as much time daily learning his craft as he does performing it. That or he risks falling dangerously behind.

Truth is, I didn’t become a social media professional on purpose. I’d been working at Nefesh BNefesh (the organization that helps people from North America and the UK make aliya, for anyone whose head has been buried in the sand these past ten years) for a few years as an aliya advisor. This was a great job for me since I love Israel, love aliya, and love advising people to do it too.

One day Nefesh B’Nefesh realized that we need to focus more on social media. As it was a very new field, most companies were just promoting from within. Management would look around at their staff, zero in on one person, and say something to the effect of, “Oh, look, Laura Ben-David is really into Facebook. She must have at least 300 friends on it. Let’s make her our social media expert.” I’m sure that’s not what really happened, but suddenly I had a new career.

I was absolutely thrilled, but what a huge responsibility! Out loud I responded to their vote of confidence in me with, “Absolutely! Great choice. I will be an excellent social media person.” But inside? My head was spinning. Was I up to the task? I had a Twitter account I never used, and I was an early Facebook-adopter, a function of my be-where-your-kids-are parenting style. And then, I took action.

First I went and bought a book. Clearly I was a social media novice, because anyone who knows anything will tell you that social media books become obsolete almost as soon as the ink hits the paper; before, actually. But I needed something I could hold, something I could take to bed with me, something I could study and memorize. I bought Dan Zarrella’s “The Social Media Marketing Book,” which I chose because it was published just four months prior to my purchase. Ancient history in social media terms, but recent enough to give me a crash course and an excellent overview — even if all the technical facts weren’t 100% accurate. Anyway, I had no choice. I was under the serious time crunch of a two-week vacation, after which I was expected to hit the ground running, an instant social media professional.

Once I’d begun, I quickly went to Facebook to create the official Nefesh B’Nefesh fan page, and named it, incredibly enough, Official Nefesh BNefesh Fan Page. This protracted moniker was chosen to differentiate it from all of the Nefesh B’Nefesh fan page pretenders. Of course, only weeks after the page was created, and shortly after it had too many fans to change the name, fan pages on Facebook were rebranded as just “pages.” But we were stuck with the extended name, a constant reminder of the hasty ­­­beginnings of my beloved career.

Fast forward two years. Nefesh B’Nefesh has made its mark in the social media world. We have very active Facebook pages, groups, several Twitter accounts, a YouTube channel, a Pinterest account; we’ve had social media campaigns, and post everywhere regularly. This social media gal is a busy beaver indeed. Now we’re taking our social media-ness on the road. We’ve organized two tweetups in NY and NJ about using social media as a bridge between Israel and the Diaspora. We made a cool flyer announcing it, listing the ‘special guest speakers’ in a splashy way, including yours truly. If I saw that flyer somewhere else and I was not connected to it I’d say, ‘hey, check out the social media gurus on that flyer.’

I know I’m not a guru. Am I just some chick who fell into a social media job? I was. But I love it and I’m dedicated to learn everything possible, everyday, to stay on top of it all. Sometimes I succeed. Sometimes the industry zips ahead of me and I’m left trying to play catch-up. But play catch-up I do. Recently I gave a brief overview of the rules of the social media game to my colleagues at a formal work meeting. I tried keeping it fresh and interesting, not wanting to bore them with what they already knew.

Afterward, people kept coming to me thanking me for my presentation. They were excited to try some of the things I taught them and I was thrilled with the response. I may not be a social media guru,  but, then again, it’s hard to be a guru in something so utterly new, and rapidly evolving. There are near-gurus as well. I may not be one of those either, but I read what they write religiously, and I’m happy to share. What does that make me? Perhaps it makes me someone on a journey to ultimate social media knowledge. Will I ever get there? Who cares? I don’t need to be a guru. I need to connect with people and connect people with Israel and Aliyah. And that’s what I do.

(P.S. As long as I have your attention, if you happen to be in the NY/NJ area, don’t miss our Israel/Diaspora social media event, Hope to see you there!)

About the Author
Laura Ben-David is a photographer, public speaker and Israel advocate. Inspired by her Aliyah experience, Laura began writing and never stopped. She is the author of the book, MOVING UP: An Aliyah Journal, a memoir of her move to Israel. She has spoken all over the world about Israel, Aliyah and other topics, often with beautiful photographic presentations. Formerly the head of social media at Nefesh B'Nefesh, Laura is the director of marketing at Shavei Israel as well as a marketing consultant.