Social Media Gurus with No Social Skills

Here’s an ironic moment – we’re sitting across from a person at dinner who is chatting non-stop and loudly about trends in social media. She’s talking about the changes in Facebook search, the Recommendation she just made for someone on LinkedIn, Google’s next big move, etc.

And yet, she never looks up once from her smartphone at her own family. Never puts the phone down. She actually has a fork in one hand and her smartphone in the other.

That doesn’t make her cool. Or cutting edge. Or in the know. It’s actually kind of sick and pathetic.

If we’re to truly understand how to interact with people and build communities, we have to know how to…interact with people.

Hey, it’s really awesome that you know how to grow someone’s social media presence. Kudos to you that you know all about the latest and greatest happenings in social media. That’s important stuff and I’m not being a smartass about that.

But if you don’t know how to have real conversations with real people outside of your smartphone/tablet/computer, you are a social media expert with no social skills. The problem with that beyond the fact that it hurts you in building genuine, meaningful relationships is that we’re not just in the “Like” Building business or obsessed with getting more Twitter Followers.

We’re here to understand the emotional reasons of what makes people tick. What makes them laugh, cry, share certain things and feel intensely motivated to comment. And yes, what makes them purchase things repeatedly and keep them loyal to certain brands.

If we don’t understand that, we’re missing an understanding of brand strategy and messaging toward the very people who could be customers and advocates. If we can’t converse well with people in the physical world, how genuine can our conversations be in the digital space? Maybe some of us can fake it and be immersed in social media without developing social skills…but do we really want to go that route with such a lack of perspective? Do we really think that makes for creating better content?

This isn’t preachy, “remember your family, friends and other important people in your life” stuff. This is about understanding how to communicate with those who have flesh and bone, not just a Twitter handle. Glad you caught Mark Zuckerberg’s press conference on the latest Facebook rollout, but did you also have a dialogue with a person who could be your next strategic partner or customer? How often does that dialogue occur in a restaurant, coffee shop or just a setting that isn’t digital?

To me, brand communication isn’t filled with jargon or what the CEO wants to hear. It’s how you make a connection with the audience that makes them feel something. It’s not about being present but listening and asking questions. It’s not about assuming we know everything about the other individual but coming in with an inquisitive thirst for learning more so we can tailor our conversations in a more personal way – the way that makes someone say, “They really get me.”

To get there, you’ve got to look up from the screen more often and look a human being in the eyes.

Sometimes it’s not worth fighting a gorilla.

This photo from someecards.com (yes, proofers, there’s a misspelling in it, but you get the idea) pretty much sums up the “uproar” every time Facebook makes a change to their structure, layout and functionality.

We don’t have to like every change Facebook makes but this is part of the deal we’ve made with ourselves by using a service that literally costs nothing and is larger than most countries in the world. Would you rather pay for the right to use Facebook? Probably not. Even if you did, I doubt this would mean you’d have the opportunity to have your voice heard above the hundreds of millions using it. You may pay someone to help you facilitate a presence on a social networking site like yours truly, but there’s still only so much that can be done – when the sites want to make a change, they’re going to make a change. And they’re probably not going to ask you for your opinion – even though they should more often in advance.

When you do pay for services like project management tools or web hosting, you should, of course, expect more. You should expect better customization to your needs and better customer service.┬áBut wasting your time getting angry over a free social network making minor changes? Just roll with it and look at the other side of the coin – be glad that a service like Facebook is making an attempt to evolve and make things better. If not, you can employ the same practice you would in watching television – change the channel by using something else. Not that I’d recommend that if that’s where your audience is primarily living, but just saying there are options if it upsets you that much.

But in the scope of the world’s true problems, Facebook making some minor tweeks is really not a big deal.

I’d just take a deep breath and be glad it’s Friday.