6 tips for navigating the “Digital Town Square”

I tend to visualise social media as Elon Musk describes his desire for Twitter/X, as the “digital town square”.

But what would that digital town square look like if it was a real place?

There is a scene in the Life of Brain where Brian Cohen (of Nazareth) finds himself standing on a small wall in front of a crowd of people. In the scene you can see several other people also standing on the wall, they are all preaching about different ‘things’.

As people walk by, some stop while other people continue to walk past.

A more modern representation is a term called “standing on a soapbox”.

This is similar to people standing on the wall preaching in the Life of Brain, instead, people would bring their own wooden box to a busy place, stand on it and start talking/shouting about something they wanted to tell the world.

Again, people would either stop and listen for a while or continue to walk past.

In my view of social media, those people standing on the wall or their soapbox preaching are the original ‘social media’ influences – perhaps more ‘social’ influencers.

And the “digital town square”…

So now imagine a busy place full of people walking in different directions. Some people are muttering to themselves, a few are shouting about things and a few have brought little boxes to stand upon so they can be seen and heard over everyone else.

But most people are just passing through, they are neither mumbling to themselves nor shouting anything and definitely didn’t bring a soapbox to stand on.

They are simply passing through, but they are there for at least one purpose – to see what is going on.

And the beauty of it all, everyone is invited. And anyone can bring their own soap box.

So that “digital town square” looks a little bit like this…

What is the relevance of all this?

1. Understand how the content will land

So now you know what the “digital town square” looks like, you can now better think about how your content will land.


If you stand in the “digital town square” shouting “I went sailing this weekend, come here and look at my photos”, then you might get a few thumbs up as people pass by.

If you stand in the “digital town square” shouting something dramatic like “don’t ask” with an angry face, then you will attract people wanting to help, but you will also attract a mixture of people who are the type that slow down to look at an accident (I think the term is rubbernecking).

If you stand in the “digital town square” shouting – “I have 5 proven steps to solve {X}” AND people who are aware of {X} are passing, then you might attract those people to listen.

The point is… think about the content you want to share and understand how it will be received.

Posts for yourself will receive different types of engagement than posting content to help others.

2. It’s a busy place with lots of noise

People have been visiting the “digital town square” for a while, they already know what they like and they know who they listen to.

Imagine you turned up one day and started talking out loud. No one is listening and people can barely hear over everyone else.

Perhaps by chance one person hears you and likes what you are saying. They stay for a while but then leave. Over the next few days, they see you again, still talking out loud to yourself, so they come over again. But this time one extra person joins the crowd, and another, and another.

Then over time more people come over and see what all the fuss is about.

In a crowded space, you will be standing on your own talking to yourself, but over time the right people will come past and want to hear more. It takes time.

3. The “digital town square” is filled with PEOPLE

You can’t stand on your soap box all day shouting your message to people. Occasionally you will need to get down and have a rest.

When we look around the “digital town square” you will see this is how other people behave. They may get on the soapbox and shout once per day, maybe even once every hour. Whatever the cadence is, they have times in between shouting when they are not shouting.

So what do you do?

Do you leave the “digital town square” and come back later when you want to shout your message again?

Or do you stand next to your soap box and just ignore everyone?

Or do you hang about for 30 minutes chatting to people? Networking and building connections?

You see, while no one cares about you, you must do one thing – care about others. So reach out to them.

4. People in the “digital town square” are passing by, not hanging about

Think of the “digital town square” people visit for only short times. They are either bored and want to pass some time, so they stop by “digital town square” or they are on their way to somewhere else.

This means that some people might pass through the “digital town square” at 8 a.m. every day, while others might pass through at 1 p.m.

The “digital town square” is open 24 hours per day, 365 days per year. Yes even on all major religious holidays, people will still pass by.

So if you turn up to the “digital town square” with your soapbox at 8 a.m. and start shouting your message – only the people who pass by will hear it.

And say you did that same time every day, the people who stop by at 1 p.m. won’t ever have heard of you.

One exception is – that the message you shouted at 8 a.m. was so good that long after you left, people were still talking about it and telling their friends about it.

So remember, “digital town square” is open 24 hours per day, 365 days per year.

5. Turn up with a message

No one likes to hear someone waffling. You know what I mean – just talking for the sake of talking.

You made the effort to get up early and carry your soapbox to the “digital town square”. Try to make sure you have something good to say.

But if you haven’t figured out what you want to say, don’t let that stop you. Still, get on your soapbox, talk about things you know – learn to reflect on what went and adapt as you move forward.

Every person on their soapbox in the “digital town square” started like that. They just refined over time.

6. Be full of good intent

Remember, you stood on your soapbox in the “digital town square” surrounded by real people.

Real people are motivated by positive intent, so think of your message as one of the following

  • Teach or educate people on something they would like to know
  • Entertain them
  • Make them think and challenge their own way of thinking
  • Empathise and relate to them