Sunday, June 7, 2009

Reclaiming our Humanity in the Social Media World

I just returned from a public relations conference (Vocus 2009) which grappled with the impact of social media networks on our lives and in our businesses. And while there was plenty of technical head knowledge to absorb, I was pleasantly surprised to hear a still small voice beneath it all calling us to be more human as we interact through an ever-increasing number of technological wonders.

Here are three Rules of Engagement to reclaim our humanity in the midst of the hype, the endless stream of messaging and the ever-changing landscape of social media

1. Listen First. For individuals or businesses that might mean being selective in where we tune in and to whom we give our attention. Anyone can bump up their number of friends or fans on Facebook or their followers on Twitter, but why? What is it we want to achieve with that number? If I'm listening to a smaller but select number of individuals on my Twitter feed, then the information will be a potent mix of conversations and connections that will truly become a meaningful community to me or my company. According to new media expert and founder of FutureWorks, Brian Solis (, "It's the listening that separates social media experts from theorists."

2. Be Transparent. It's easy to hide behind an on-line name. It's easy to take on an identity that you'd never be comfortable with in the face-to-face encounters of real life. Because of this potential, it's imperative to remain authentic and to interact within our communities with common courtesy marked by your own unique voice and personality. This is the essence of what it means to have your own personal brand. The more authentic it is, the more powerful it will be.

3. Give More Than You Get. I'm talking about more than just commenting on someone's blog or re-tweeting a message for a friend, although that can be common courtesy. Real life is out there and people are sometimes asking for a more human touch. A media contact recently posted a tweet that said she had been in a hit a run accident (she was the one hit). A quick note to check on her emotional and physical condition was all it took to find out she was more hurt by the fact that someone didn't stop to check on her than by her physical injury which was minor. Empathy goes a long way within our social networks in maintaining real life relationships. This is also at the heart of good service for a business.

Just like our real world, our e-world operates best by rules of conduct and etiquette. Generally, the same ones apply to both. What Rules of Engagement would you add to this list?

Twitter: @mkcrockett
Facebook: Marsha.Crockett


Diane Markins said...

Thanks so much for sharing these great tips. I've been practicing all of these for a while and have received criticism for not "striving harder to drive number up"...but the quality of those who are among my "number" on FB and Twitter matter much more to me.
When someone takes the time to comment on my blog I try to always thank them and encourage them in some way personally.
I hope more people will take your great advice and re-infuse a large dose of humanity into their social media relations.

Prem said...

Good tips! Thanks for sharing Marsha and welcome to the world of blogging!

Irene said...

I enjoyed your sentiments at the Bill Moyers journal blog recently. Besides working in public relations and writing internet observations, what were you going to do when you got up off the couch? Hard question isn't it? I look at the log-jammed Internet portals of Iran, China and Burma and wonder what we relatively free people can do. ISPs and electronics firms provide the thought-policing software and devices (ex; Democracy Now, yesterday's show). How can you be so happy in your job? All of us are part of thge problem as workers and consumers because everything is on anti-humanitarian terms for maximal profit. Write if you wish: Jack and Irene Martin