First, let me get this on the table before I go any further: I LOVE SOCIAL MEDIA!
I love the connectivity, the opportunity to learn from others on a regular basis. There’s that real time connection to another soul out there. The opportunity to discuss anything with anyone, no barriers.
With that being said, I realized over time that things were happening, taking shape right in front of my very own eyes. Relationships were being built on social media platforms. Relationships that may not have ever come about if it weren’t for social media and its possibilities. What I also noticed is that some were replacing a physical handshake with a virtual, electronic one.
And that’s when it hit me.
Social media is an extension of who we are, what our company is, and where our ‘audience’ is at. Social media, however, should NOT replace real life interactions with others, but rather be an extension of those moments, either by bolstering them or instigating them.
That is why I created #ConnectIRL.
Last summer, I saw a picture of Ted Rubin at a ball game in Tampa with Tiffany DiPanni. I made mention of wishing I could be lucky enough to meet him in person, and guess what, the man made it happen for me this past October here in Boston. After spending a day attending a conference with Ted as the emcee, I realized that THIS is what social media really should be about. Connecting – and then following through. A few months had passed, and I had begun to make other connections on Twitter. I had that same thought of “Geez, I would love to meet that guy/gal in person someday.” Once again, I reached out, this time to Christopher Barrows. I was traveling to New York City for a meeting, and certainly had time for a cup of coffee. Now, I’ve gotten to meet just two more tweeps this past week, and can I tell you, every one of the people I have met has been exactly that same person that they were online: just awesome, brilliant, well-spoken people. Tweet chats are a great way to get to know someone before you meet them.
#ConnectIRL is something that I feel very strongly about. So much so that I practice what I preach.
I have teenagers. The whole family uses their smartphones and other electronic devices on a regular basis. The one fast rule that we have on a daily basis is ‘No electronic devices at the dinner table.’ Dinner is the one time that we all gather together as a family and can interact with one another, face to face. It’s a moment in time when we can touch base with each other and really connect, in real life. Devices are not welcome at the table because, well, anyone that we would interact with online is not there in person, are they? Setting them down and making it clear that personal, face to face discussion is important is the message that I am sending my own children.
And I don’t just tell them that!
I live it with them.
If I relied on just an emoji from my children to convey their thoughts and ideas, I would lose out on the nuances of their conversations with me. I would lose out on the ability to read their body language, hear the tonality in their voice, synthesize all that they are and are not saying. I would also miss the opportunity to deepen our relationships and make a connection that cannot be done electronically. My children have gained the insight as digital natives that although electronic connectivity is great, there’s nothing that can replace actually spending time with someone in person. They have become better communicators for it, as they have learned how to interact not only through their devices, but they also understand the value of being with a person in real life.
Businesses need to think long and hard about how they are using social media. I feel that there isn’t a brand or company that couldn’t benefit from some type of connection online, but you also can’t replace someone via technology only. The basis of communication, the four basic principles are: create, maintain, repair, transform. You can create a bond, a line of communication through social media platforms, but if you are not following through with an opportunity to connect in real life, you are missing out on the bigger picture. The ‘repair’, well, that’s when you have the opportunity to clear up any misconceptions that might exist. Social media, fast and furious as it can be, is a hotbed of misunderstandings at times. Ever text someone, a good friend, and they reply back with “WHAT?? What do you mean by THAT?” (my point). You can maintain a great relationship by keeping in contact with others, and the transformation of all of this communication is a deeper, richer understanding of what your clients, customers, employees are looking for and saying.
I chuckle and shake my head when I hear some people talk about a new or different way to work and interact.
It really isn’t new: the business models of marketing, sales, and public relations have actually just gone back to what they were almost 30 years ago, with the added benefit of the growth of social media being another source of contact, and the caveat that anything that you put online or post to your website, stays there forever. The opportunities to interact, learn, and grow a business have now truly become global because of social media and the connections that one makes on any given platform. The difference now, is that we can have a deeper connection, potentially longer relationships, and respond in a far timelier fashion than 30 years ago. There’s the opportunity to meet and engage with others who, for geographical reasons, you might not have had the opportunity to do so in the past.
If your company is relying on social media to create, maintain, and transform how you do business, I hope that you haven’t decided that the flight to any business meeting is no longer needed. They were saying that over 20 years ago when e-mails came out. Then, people realized that an e-mail is a great opportunity to provide the ‘fill in’ but could not truly replace the handshake that’s had over a conference room table. A video conferencing system is fantastic, but it still cannot fully provide the opportunities that connecting in real life with another soul can.
We are social beings by nature, and even the most introverted have a need for human connectivity and interaction. Let’s not fool ourselves into thinking that a connection on a social media platform will be able to replace actually getting to be with another human being. It’s why I believe that we all should strive to #ConnectIRL.