How Social Media Tools Undermine the Benefits of ‘Social’
Let’s say you’re going out on the town with one of some of your friends. Suppose at the same time in the back of your mind you’ll be thinking about that important appointment you have tomorrow – you haven’t worked out all the details of what you’re going to do or say at that event.
So…… what if you had the capability to schedule in advance some fun things to say to your friends during the evening so you had some free time to prep for tomorrow. What do you think? How would that work out with you and your friends? My guess is that it would be a while before they invite you to join them again.
That’s not to say that the stuff you scheduled wasn’t funny, or cool, or interesting – it could have been the best set of comments of the entire evening! Your scheduled comments could have had your friends rolling in the aisles! Or your comments could have been completely off track – like if one of your friends suddenly felt safe enough to reveal that they were facing a bout with cancer or something like that. Your commentary would completely miss the boat on that one.
This scenario may sound pretty far-fetched, but it happens all the time in social media. Most of us create these situations regularly by overusing our fabulous social media timesaving tools to post ahead of time – we can post a year in advance! And then we’re suddenly out of sync with the present. Not only does our commentary no longer match up with what’s happening in the world, but we disengage from the conversation. Just like with a night out, when we’re present to what others are saying, we’re able to really engage with our friends, or our customers. We can’t hear if we’re not there listening. And we’re irrelevant if we aren’t responding to what we hear.
The real problem here is that we frequently use technology tools because they are there, they’re fun, and they’re cool, not to improve our results or impact in a thoughtful way. We often assume that this technology improves our productivity and results, but most of the time we haven’t really thought deeply about that – I mean really deeply.
In the case of social media, the most incredible part about it all is the ability to have a conversation in real time with almost anyone in the world! And, depending on the platform, real time can mean right now as it would if we were face to face, or it can mean that it’s a bit asynchronous: I post and you get the message later today when you check in at your convenience. And for businesses it’s that interaction PLUS transparency – something much of our market may appreciate. Transparency can build trust, loyalty, connection, and repeat business. The more people know the story of the business, the more likely they are to feel an attachment or affinity. Revealing the personality, values, commitments, and culture of a business in the course of a conversation is just like getting to know a person – it all happens in the moment, in the interaction, not in declarations. We reveal ourselves through our actions, not by just our words. And being present is a powerful action.
We can still use the fabulous technology that helps us stay in the conversation even if we’re away from the business or our desk. We can monitor what’s happening with a dashboard, we can find out what our favorite people are saying, we can see if what we’ve said was well-received – wouldn’t you like to know that about the latest party you were at?! And we can, on a very limited, well-considered basis, use pre-scheduled posting to speak to our friends. Maybe like sending a birthday card ahead of time so you know it’s going to arrive on the right day, in the right moment to be meaningful to that particular person’s life. That would be a great use of technology. But blasting out on a regular basis our commentary in hopes people will like it, without being present to the conversation… that’s creating a lot of noise and no connection.
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