Decoding The Genome Of Social Networking (Online & Offline)

[su_dropcap style=”flat”]B[/su_dropcap]ACK IN 2012 when I was called to give my first talk about social media / social networking, I knew I wanted to talk about the topic from my unique point of view as a Community Manager. With it being my first public speaking engagement about social media, I wanted to make sure I create a meaningful connection with my listeners, engage them and maintain the connection I create. I was supposed to lecture a group of young entrepreneurs as part of an entire course on entrepreneurship. I knew I was going to meet some of the brightest young minds, people of vision, innovation and ideas. They were all expecting to learn about Social Media as a marketing tool for their brand new Start-up. I needed a way to make them realize that:

1. Everything around them is essentially “social media”.
2. Social media in general and social networks in particular are about connection, communication and people, rather than promotion and marketing content.
3. Social Networking (online) isn’t always something that comes naturally to people — but it should!
4. Social networks are a double-edged sword and must therefore be wielded by trained and capable people.
5. Social networking is vast, complex, ever-changing and evolving, which means that what we know today may no longer be valid tomorrow.

Since for me, as a community manager the human aspect is the most important (remember one of my previous posts? I don’t care what you do, I care why you do it) I decided to start with a “twitter style” introduction. I asked each of the attendees to introduce themselves in no more than 140 characters. Now, when you speak it’s hard to count characters so I said…it’s about 1.5 sentences. The intro had to include 2 main pieces of information: their name and why they do what they do.

25 minutes and many laughs later, they all found it was nearly impossible for them to sum up why they do what they do in 1.5 sentences. It was easier to say what they do and describe the cold technical aspects of their ventures or ideas. Keep in mind those were all entrepreneurs who needed to practice pitching their idea in 1–2 minutes and as little words as possible….and they couldn’t…

Social Networking Evolution

Social Networking for friendship or business purposes has always existed. In fact any medium that allows at least 2 people to communicate (for that matter two paper cups connected with a string, or a cocktail party) is a “social medium”. But where social communication, networking and discourse were once limited to a small number of participants (usually 2), it is now open to infinite numbers of people all over the world. This post, for example, is a social medium. It allows me to put my thoughts in writing and it allows you, the reader, to read it and comment, thus starting a discussion with me and/or other readers.

The way we perceive social media and social networking must therefore evolve too.

Gone are the days when Social Media was just “Facebook”, gone are the days when Social Networking was just for fun and not for a “serious business”. Social Media has given us tools that are ever evolving and changing. Those are powerful tools of communication and of creating and maintaining meaningful contact in this alienating sea of technology. It allows people to connect and engage directly with brands, it allows people to connect with others oceans apart. It is a force to be reckoned with.

This leads me back to my set of statements above. Social Media and Social Networking are far far more than marketing tools. I guess you could say it’s a chicken and egg dilemma… did social media and networking turn marketing into a people oriented engagement process? or has marketing always really been that way, thus invoking the creation of tools such as social media to facilitate it? Either way, it’s all about people as I always say.

Network like you were born to do it

You really were, you know. Born to network, that is. Humans crave connection and meaning. You may be shy or introvert, but you have what it takes to network. And networking like a human (i.e creating genuine connections, not just posting your promotional materials) will go a long way to promote you, the person behind your brand.

So the next time you are unsure what to do on Facebook, or LinkedIn, or Google+, or any other social medium, just think back to the sandbox you played in as a kid. What power in you made you open up to the other kids? What made you go talk to them and play with them… nothing’s changed you know… just the sandbox :)

Never Stop Learning

Social Media, when used wrongly (and yes it can happen) will come back to bite your behind. If you are unsure of what you’re doing — take a moment to learn, consult, use a professional service. There are plenty of reading materials and they are worth your time.

Just remember this: Social Media evolves fast. What you learn and know today will not be valid tomorrow. You have to constantly evolve with it to stay on top of things. If this is something you do not have the time for (and it is perfectly understandable. After all, you need to do what you do best, run your business!) then get someone else to do it.

(images source: http://www.morguefile.com/)

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