Social media conversations, as noted by many leading psychologists from 2009 to 2013, are impeding the development of real relationships. The use of mobile phones and tablets to both access the Internet and social networks has officially surpassed that of computers.
Social interactivity via technology is how people are communicating and prefer to do business. Social networking has become not so social indeed.
So what does this mean to business relationships and what can you do about it?
Social media interactions, when we are talking true business-to-business, have two flavors on sites like Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Quora, Google+, and Pinterest. They are either one-to-many (e.g., announcements and delivery of content, such as status updates and links to media) or one-to-one (e.g., LinkedIn messaging, Facebook messaging, and the like). The information you need and the people you need to discuss the parameters of that information with are always there, online, all the time.
The problem lies in that, although people seem available, in social, there are always distractions and easy ways to avoid real conversations. Simply look at tools like direct messaging in Twitter or the Facebook invite. It is all too easy to tune out or respond via social to just keep the conversation going online.
The topic of social media causing isolation has been covered numerous times in our media. So what about its effect on business?
Anyone who is in a sales function knows that sales are delivered based on trust, like, and credibility. The ability to close a deal without ever really having a conversation with a prospect is like shooting at the net with a blindfold. Not likely.
It’s just as important to take the conversation offline as it is online. Sales professionals who cannot lead a call or a meeting can forget about sales success.
With LinkedIn, for example, it’s just as important to take that connect for coffee or arrange a Skype as it is to find and make that connect. Thinking that you are close to a new client by an ongoing direct message in Twitter without any real, or even email conversation is simply ludicrous.
In the office, people are all about BYOD (bring your own device), and many of them at that. Huge headphones, multiple devices, apps, and tools all at a worker’s fingertips make it difficult for coworker or colleague interaction at any real level.
In meetings, tablets and smartphones are too accessible and have a tendency to cause interruptions. The days of water cooler talk have been reduced to bathroom texting.
The result: more people than ever are hiring business coaches to become more confident in the workplace. This is because workers and coworkers are having less real conversations. Live conference room meetings are being replaced by Google Hangouts and group Skype conversations.
Social media certainly has its place in business. If used correctly, it is an excellent global communications tool. It earns high marks as a client or customer service vehicle.
On a company-wide level, social networking with policies in place assists in the development and growth of strong online brands. Finally, as we know, social campaigning done well can drive media attention, qualified leads, and sales.
The key to using social media in the workplace and as a communications vehicle for marketing and sales is to view it as one instrument of creating and fulfilling the relationship. Just as we marketers know that offline to online conversion and vice-versa is so important to true customer engagement; the same can be said for balancing the use of social with the real connection of human interaction in the physical world.
This is a strong reminder to take the conversations offline, and engage with all of your closest fans, friends, followers, and connects in a way to build a strong, sustained business relationship that has true value.