Remember life before the internet and mobile devices? Remember communicating without emojis? How about sending a letter to the editor and having it edited before it appeared a week later in the local paper? Turning the radio off and driving to work without hearing a phone or navi? Do you recall not mistaking propaganda for news, or having friends who had beliefs different from your own? Then you missed a great breakfast meeting Tuesday with just such people. Hope you can join us next time.
On the table last Tuesday, along with a good selection of croissants and coffees, was the topic of communication. Social media. The state of conversation today.
A conversation is generally understood to be an interactive, communication between two or more people. In our digital age, one of those people might be a robot. In fact, they might both be robots, and one of those people might be a group of thousands.
When we talk about conversations we shouldn’t only think about that just between people. A conversation can also be between an advertisement and a consumer. Either way, a successful conversation requires three things – something of value and interest to each party, proximity to whoever we want to converse or connect with, and very important the necessary technique and etiquette so a connection is made and we can have future conversations.
Everyone is an Expert
These days it seems that everyone has something to say, and thanks to the internet they have a platform on which to say it. Like this post you are reading. Having access to a platform, especially one that spans the globe in seconds and reaches potentially millions of people is quite amazing. Not long ago, if you wanted to reach so many so fast you needed access to radio or television, or perhaps a global newspaper. Not just anyone had access to such media. Now, pretty much everyone does.
“Knowledge is of two kinds. We know a subject ourselves, or we know where we can find information about it.” Samuel Johnson
We have access to incredible amounts of information via our phones or our computers that we once found only at the library. And not every library. We used to have to study for years to know things. Now we don’t need to. We still should of course, hopefully, but many of us just grab information from the internet and use it. However, if something is that easy to obtain, what value does it really have? We can share our thoughts with millions via a mouse click. There is very little work involved. We can then have what we say and think validated by potentially millions of likes and hearts from around the globe.
„There was 5 Exabytes of information created between the dawn of civilization and 2003, but that much information is now created every two days …“ Eric Schmidt, Google
The Global Village is Always Online
We now have proximity and access to pretty much anyone in the world, 24/7, saying pretty much anything they like right in our own homes. Often perhaps while we are still in bed; a place we would normally have proximity and access to very few people. That is some serious closeness. Due to this proximity, we feel very comfortable saying what we like, even going as far as creating unique personas to say it.
If you leave a place of work or other social circles, you often lose touch with people. Social media and the internet, however, is always with us. The effect that proximity has on our relationships means physical and psychological nearness to others tends to increase interpersonal liking (and in effect increasing our comfort zone) (Schneider, Gruman, & Cotts, 2012). Unlike face to face interaction with people, even if we don’t like what we encounter or are unsure about what we are talking about, we are often very brave in interacting with social media and what we find on the internet.
“The Medium is the message.” Marshall McLuhan
The information we access and the knowledge we have is not difficult to collect and share. Does it become more relevant if it is “liked” and shared by many people? This is how “fake news” can work. This is how our circles on social media function. There are few people who surround themselves with information and relationships that go against what they believe. What we “know” is reinforced around the clock by social media and information of our own choosing which reinforces our beliefs and prejudices. Computers allow us to further define and reinforce our reality; and as we believe, so goes our world.
The Beginning of a Beautiful Relationship
There is a constant flow of information via print, radio, TV, internet, and between our family, friends, and colleagues. Our attention is always being joggled by another attempt to “start a conversation” about the best brand of coffee, place for dinner, best route to the airport, or latest political fallout. With the advent of Voice Controlled Devices (VCDs) we are also beginning to have actual conversations with machines. The flow does not seem to be decreasing.
“Markets are conversations.” Levine, Locke, Searls and Weinberger The Cluetrain Manifesto
Successful people and businesses know how to communicate. They connect with us even as we are bombarded with endless messages every day. We want to hear what they say so we take the time to listen. We can, in our personal and working life, become good communicators and have valuable conversations with clients, colleagues, and our social media circles. Without a real conversation, we make no connection.
The development of skills and an understanding of the etiquette necessary for good conversation is a critical part of what we (should) do and learn every day. Learning to effectively communicate is part of our socialization.
That we have something of value and interest to communicate is just as important as how we communicate. What do people want to know? How will it improve their life and yours?
We require the tools with which to continue the relationships and engagement of those we are conversing with. Not just software and hardware but strategy, empathy, focus …
Without a real conversation, we make no connection. Our communication just becomes banter. Jibber jabber. Noise. Like a banner ad we might see on a cluttered page but which we would never, ever, click on.
Interested learning more about Business Etiquette, Social Media, or Small Talk?
Our partner, Modern Life Seminars, offers a variety of seminars. Click here for their website.
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