“So where do you think all of this is going?” he asked.
I paused. This conversation proved that, while seemingly ubiquitous, social media is still a mystery to many people. The gentleman speaking admitted that he was/is not conversant in social media. He said he was learning a lot by writing an article for a national magazine on how companies use social media.
Social media can be considered one of mankind’s most powerful innovations -- allowing hundreds of thousands of people to connect, even if only for a moment in time. As tools that enable people to be what they were designed to be -- social -- the worlds of Facebook, Twitter, Ning, LinkedIn, Foursquare, and many others stand head and shoulders above the telephone, the television, and the automobile, all devices that served to bring people together in their day. The cell phone is a close second, but cell phones generally exist today to connect us to Facebook, Twitter, etc. They have become part of the social media movement.
After thinking for a moment, I answered the question above. “It’s all going to end up…offline.”
That’s right. All of this innovative focus on how to bring people together via satellite or Internet connection or any other “human network” method is nothing without face-to-face contact. And not the face-to-face contact of video-phones or Skype. I’m talking about the face-to-face contact of handshakes in a coffee shop or brushing shoulders at a conference or standing in line at the grocery store, striking up a conversation about -- melons or micromanaging.
Let’s be honest and authentic, which is a serious part of social media. I’m an introvert. I like the distance of Facebook and Twitter. But, I’m also a business woman. I KNOW the power of that physical handshake. I revel in the excitement of meeting my BBFFs (best blogging friends forever) in person. And, at the moment of that face-to-face meeting, I forget about being a hermit. I laugh and joke and trade ideas with all the zeal of a kid in a candy store.
Much of that zeal is the product of having met these people via one or another social network. The introductions are made, the relationship is built; the meeting-in-person becomes a goal to achieve, no matter the obstacles. This is true because people are born to be social. This movement to be part of a social network, to engage social media, to increase your Twitter/Facebook followers isn’t about sales, or creating content, or sharing insight -- although many people think it is. It’s about bringing people together. First, online, click to click. Then, offline, face-to-face.
Where else can social media go? To the stars? Good luck with that. It’s people meeting people, for business or pleasure that remains the best way to be social.
My conversation with the writer above began because he was told I could connect him with CEOs who would be good candidates for interviews. When he called, I immediately turned to my networks: Facebook, LinkedIn and my blog. I reached out to those executives I thought would be the best fit for his article. All of them were people I first met online, and then sat down with for lunch or coffee, at a conference or some other gathering. These were people I knew would step up to the plate for the writer and for me. The offline me asked them to support the online me. That’s how social media movement should work. It isn’t fingers on keyboard. It’s the movement of ideas between real people, for real purpose.
David Berkowitz of Emerging Media and Innovation at digital marketing agency 360i, said it well in his recent article at Social Media Insider. Discussing Facebook’s new messaging service, David wrote, “Social media isn’t about us. It never was, and it never will be. It will always be about people, or users, or members, or consumers, or whatever you want to call them. Social media is for them; we just get to participate, sometimes, and reap the benefits when we do our jobs right.”
Doing your job right, IMHO, means getting face-to-face with as many colleagues, competitors, consumers, friends, relatives, and even strangers, as you can. This year. It means taking the conversation to the ultimate level -- talking melons or micromanaging, me to you, over coffee. Moving beyond the digital connections that brought you together.
David has five reminders to tape to your cubicle wall, starting with, “You don’t acquire customers. You earn their trust.” (and what better way than by looking them in the eye, as you pay for their lunch?) Hop over to his article (linked above) and read the other four. He even created a PDF to share.
The social media movement isn’t about bits and bytes. It isn’t about technology. It isn’t even about innovation. It’s about us. Being social. The way we’ve been social for generations -- in person.
Yvonne DiVita, President of Windsor Media Enterprises, LLC: Books, Blogs and Beyond, is focused on consulting with businesses on how to effectively use new media tools. She blogs at LipSticking, with a focus on the women’s market.