Keep Young and Work the Virtual Room

Keep Young and Work the Virtual Room

Remember this question when we were kids: If a tree falls in the forest and there is no one around to hear it, does it make a sound? 

Here’s a modern version: If you don’t have a strong web presence, including blogging, Linked in and Twitter, do you still exist?

I’ve been thinking a lot about social media lately and even more so after reading Trust Agents, a new book by Chris Brogan and Julien Smith, and attending the Trust Summit in New York last week.   I’m still dipping my foot into using social media, yet like many, I’ve been reluctant to jump in all the way.  That is changing, albeit slowly. Here’s why I think it’s important to take the plunge:

AGE LOSES A DEGREE OF RELEVANCY  

I remember the days when simply reaching a certain age, one was seen as old. I think Web 2.0 changed that.  My theory is that in the world of social media, people aren’t judged by simply by chronological age, but rather by adaptability to and use of, technology. It may be true that the older one gets the less likely a person is to use new tools. But age does not prohibit one from jumping in. Chris and Julien capture this concept in Trust Agents, by describing a person who is seen as connected as “One of Us."  Age doesn’t seem to a factor by itself anymore. If my theory is right, then by using Web 2.0 channels of communication we can connect and be connected, without regard to age. And that opens new doors in business for everyone.

THE VIRTUAL ROOM IS REAL

It’s more than just about adapting to technology.  It’s also about being part of a community – one that creates trust.  I’ve watched my son play a virtual game on line and build relationships with a community of avatars representing people.  Trust is created based on how long people are there, and how people talk with, trade with and treat each other, even when they never can meet in the real world.   

 That’s not to say real world connecting isn’t important. I teach a workshop called How to Work a Room and Still Feel Good About Yourself™  This workshop is about the typical ways to network in person – conferences, luncheons and charity dinners, even in line waiting to board a plane, and addresses how to build relationships – NOT sell – in that environment.  It is still relevant to network this way in business. 

However, there are a lot of people that never get to the same physical rooms we are in.  But they are in virtual rooms.  And those virtual rooms are growing in size and number.  Those rooms include blog conversations, Twitter, Facebook connections and groups, and of course, LinkedIn.  If we’re not in those rooms, we’ll never meet the people who are, and will miss the opportunity to build relationships with new connections that “meet” there. 

And just like a connection at an event can lead to follow up, so can a virtual room connection. For example, recently, I connected with a contact I met when she commented on one of my blogs on TrustedAdvisor.com. We talked by email and then by phone.  And we’re building a relationship just as we would have had we met at a conference.   

RESISTANCE IS FUTILE

Many will now have to operate in both the real and Web 2.0 worlds. Of course we still exist if we’re not blogging and tweeting. While the Web 2.0 world doesn’t discriminate based on age or any factor other than whether we enter the room and appropriately create relationships, only we can decide if we need to be there. But if we’re not in the room – whether virtual or physical, we’ll never even know what we’re missing. This is a benefit of social media, and why we can’t ignore it, whether we’re 20 or 65.

9 replies
  1. Philip J. McGee
    Philip J. McGee says:

    Charlie,

    I just received a beautiful, handwritten note froma friend in which he laments the dying of "eye to eye" communication and to which I say, Amen.

    Clearly I participate in the electronic world but it scares me as I watch it replace small, intimate communities with huge numbers of "virtual people" flying away from real intimacy with great speed.

    Phil

    Reply
  2. peter vajda
    peter vajda says:

    Hello Stewart,

    When I do my morning runs, I usually zone and move into a meditative state, but not always. Your post today, Stewart, resulted in my run this morning  as being one of those "not always" experiences.

    So, some thoughts:

    I’m referencing those who cross my path as friends, colleagues, and clients  and what I observe on-line, and as a tutor of high-school/college students as the foundation for my thoughts.

    I view the phenomena of most "social media" and "social networking" as behaviors that pop up, gain an allure,  and become common – behaviors which some social observers and sociologists then have to explain, rationalize or even justify. Not unlike beginning drinking at 7 a.m. on the day of an 8 p.m. game and calling it, what, "socializing," "team/school support," in the name of rationalizing or justifying a behavior that has as many unintended, self-limiting, self-sabotaging, and local personal and/or group consequences as it does, dare I use the term, positive benefits. Would that more developmental/spiritual psychologists enter the conversation and out the true and real root causes for some self-limiting or addictive behaviors about which  so many wring their hands over attempting to seek a "rationale." 

    The basic ego-drives for just about any behavior are: control, (emotional, psychological, mental or physical) security and recognition. So, it’;s with this in mind that I look at social networking.

    Stewart asks a great question, "If you don’t have a strong web presence, including blogging, Linked in and Twitter, do you still exist?"

    Another way to ask it is, "Do I gain my sense of identity from my online experiences?" Perhaps, even, "Would I feel like a "nobody" if I didn’t have some online presence?" And, even more, "Is my life online more active, engaging and fulfilling than my real-time relationships?" And, all importantly, "Why?"

    So, stretching Stewart’s statement a bit, are there now folks for whom "social networking" has become the new Botox? Somehow being online is giving them a new sense of what – virility, intellectual capacity, youth, and being "one of us/them?" Is this like insecure parents who need to be BFFs with their kids’ friends? Hmmm.

    Folks who are secure within themselves, in my experience, just go online and engage. Age never was or is an issue. What is an issue is the relevance of what they have to say, not how old they are when they’re saying it.

    "The virtual room is real."

    Is it? I guess this depends  on the definition of the word "real." I can’t figure out for the life of me how one can engage in real-ness, authenticity and intimacy (the stuff of "real" relationship) in 140-character communication bites. What’s more I have clients whose real-time relationships are in trouble and failing because this is exactly how they behave in face-to-face interactions!

    As for, "However, there are a lot of people that never get to the same physical rooms we are in.  But they are in virtual rooms.  And those virtual rooms are growing in size and number.  Those rooms include blog conversations, Twitter, Facebook connections and groups, and of course, LinkedIn.  If we’re not in those rooms, we’ll never meet the people who are, and will miss the opportunity to build relationships with new connections that “meet” there," — — my question is the nature of the relationships we build while there and the underlying purpose of "relationship-building" the "Why am I doing this?" Kinda like, it’s not a question of how many of us can get plastered at 7 a.m., but why?" What’s the "need" and the need for me to be in a group situation to do so?"

    When  my online-addicted clients work on their addictions, they engage in a number of practices. Here are a few: (1) track the amount of time you engage in social networking and then indicate whether the time spent is (a) green time – money-making;) (b) pink-time – social for the sake of social, (c)blue time – important information gathering and sharing, etc. (2) Review your day/week and indicate the degree to which you "spent" time and "invested" time (the activity vs. action difference). (3) For each "relationship" you’ve cultivated, indicate what that relationship brings to you and does it enrich your life, for example, (a) true and real (client-defined) exchange; (b) pure ego gratification that makes me feel like a "somebody" vs. a "nobody." – where the client is mostly "talking," doing self-promotion, teaching, telling, advising, criticizing, fault-finding, etc.

    And here the client goes into a deeper exploration of "why?" Many of these clients discover they are  emotionally insecure and needy and see their addiction as a wake-up call to see how they use "social networking" to meet their neediness. (4) Is the time spent "socially networking" indicative of your working "in" your business or "on" your business and why? Not unlike folks spending lots of time rearranging their office, reshuffling papers, taking care of paper clips, etc., but not getting around to working "in" their business….but they feel as though they are "working" because they’re doing something?

    So, there’s lots here to explore vis-à-vis the "real-ness’ of their online experiences and so-called need for "community" and "relationship."

    Then, I’m also curious about the "real" relationships one creates on line and whether or not one makes an effort to connect in real time with these "real relationships" if/one happens to actually be in their town/city on business, and does have free time to see such folks –  or is the "real relationship" online "enough’ – i.e., I don’t choose to make time to connect with you in person. Real relationships? Hmmm.

    Personally, as one example, I first became involved in blogging about four years ago –  and would sense a lot of discomfort, anxiety and the like if I didn’t read what everyone said I should read (the various incestuous sub-groups and sub-cultures of bloggers who emotioanlly and psychologically feed off one another…) on tens and hundreds of blogs (my ego really had me there…) and then decided one year later this type of experience was not supporting my well-being, nor purpose on the planet, but only my ego needs.

    From that time on, I read seven blogs a day. That’s it. Different content and topics. Am I concerned that I’m not cultivating "relationships," "friends," and "followers?" Not in the least. Am I concerned that I’m losing out because I’m not pouring more and more information into my brain –  much (most?) of which is just old wine in new wine skins? No. Am I concerned that I’m not self-promoting enough? No and, BTW,  I’m always interested in how much business (if that’s one’s goal) really does come from social networking (not promises, hot leads, potential, etc." (for the economy of scale folks)

    Am I concerned that Technorati does not come up with hundreds and thoudands of incidents of my name? No.  Do I need to have a cadre of online folks to make me feel better about who I am? I don’t feel or think so.

    I’ve received a number of requests to join Twitter. My response to all of them is the same: "Don’t take it personally, but I find Twitter to be a huge distraction that takes away from my well being. So, I’ll have to decline your request." The kicker? Some of these folks email back with an "I agree, it is a distraction but… (with some rationale for  "I need to do it"). Hmmm.

    Am I losing out ? I suppose – to those folks who cannot possibly fathom why I’m not up at 7 a.m. drinking to get ready for the 8 p.m. game.

    But, that’s just me.

    Reply
  3. Gil Yehuda
    Gil Yehuda says:

    Stewart, you make an excellent point.  By participating in the on-line conversation, you assert your identity though your participation.  And this allows people to level-up in new ways.  Whereas a physical cue (such as age) may pose a barrier for some (e.g. one may feel uncomfortable in a room if s/he is much older than the others), this barrier can be attenuated in the virtual network space.  This means that older people who "want to get in", can do so.   How wonderful to know that the wisdom, charm, and experience of people who have been around the block a few times can interact and inter-develop with the wisdom, charm, and inexperience of people who have been around the blog a few times :-).

    Phil may be correctly lamenting the lost art of a well penned note and the face to face meeting.  But I think Stewart is demonstrating that with every change there is an opportunity.  We may not be able to convince the world to cherish the fountain pen or the hearty handshake.  But we can see in the new world an opportunity to take the skills that brought us success, and apply them in a new venue.  After all, it was not the pen or the paper, but the writer and the reader that brought the magic to the letter.  Moreover, face to face meetings still happen — and when they do, we are reminded of how effective they are.

    I read in Peter’s message that one can be as effective or ineffective as one chooses in either the real or virtual rooms.  Online participation does not mean effective participation.  Just as one can attend a conference and fail to take advantage of the opportunity to learn and connect with people and information.  That does not mean that conferences are bad, it just means that we hold the responsibility to making something good come from it.  Social Networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn are no different in that regard — except they are free.  Denying them does not make them go away.  And it is an inspiration to see people succeed at enhancing their business (or personal) networks with what I call "virtual familiarity".  

    It is amazing to see how virtual familiarity enhances relationships when people eventually meet face to face.  It’s not an either-or; it’s a both model.  We meet virtually because we now can (think back 25 years – did you have the reach you have today?) , and eventually we meet in real life, if we can.  Both experiences are useful.  Many people need help learning how to "work a room" in the physical world, and also in the virtual world (where many rules are the same, but there are some subtle.  Indeed too many people approach the virtual meeting rooms thinking they have to "sell" in it — and they fail for the same reasons they would in the physical world.  But with the right mindset, they would succeed in most social situations — in digits or in flesh.

    This is a great message, Stewart.  Thanks for sharing it.

     

    Reply
  4. wendy
    wendy says:

    hi stewart

    I’ve found the virtual world a great place to connect with other people from all over the world, who I would not have previously been able to make contact with. One thing I have noticed.

    It’s very easy to setup groups online but very difficult to actually get people talking to one another within these groups. I have seen these results in a number of different formats Facebook, specifically designed online communities and socialgo groups.

    You generally find that the owner of the group will put a substantial amount of information into the group. With little return from its members , so you can have a membership of high numbers but with very few people actually engaging.

    Why this is I am not sure, I personally find it very easy to engage this way.

    We ourselves connected through the virtual world then 10 hours later, were having a Skype call. how fantastic is that….

    warm regards from the UK ;o)

    wendy ;o)

    Reply
  5. wendy
    wendy says:

    hi stewart

    I’ve found the virtual world a great place to connect with other people from all over the world, who I would not have previously been able to make contact with. One thing I have noticed.

    It’s very easy to setup groups online but very difficult to actually get people talking to one another within these groups. I have seen these results in a number of different formats Facebook, specifically designed online communities and socialgo groups.

    You generally find that the owner of the group will put a substantial amount of information into the group. With little return from its members , so you can have a membership of high numbers but with very few people actually engaging.

    Why this is I am not sure, I personally find it very easy to engage this way.

    We ourselves connected through the virtual world then 10 hours later, were having a Skype call. how fantastic is that….

    warm regards from the UK ;o)

    wendy ;o)

    Reply
  6. Stewart Hirsch
    Stewart Hirsch says:

    Phil, Peter, Gil and Wendy,
    Thanks for your thoughtful responses!

    Gil, I agree with your articulation. As you say, I don’t think we should give up face to face, phone or even hand-written notes. I’m writing one today!
    And not everything on line is for everyone. There’s another virtual room that I didn’t mention, and Wendy raised it. I’m lightly active in three groups that are on line virtually. All business related. Wendy and I met on one of them, and interestingly, I wasn’t even thinking of it as a virtual room, but that’s exactly what it is.
    There’s a consequence to ignoring this new media – there will be people we might never meet. If Wendy hadn’t posted, and I hadn’t responded, we wouldn’t have gotten on Skype to see and talk with each other. Better than a call, not as good as a coffee in person, but no travel.

    Reply
  7. Shauna Hearity
    Shauna Hearity says:

    Great article Stewart,

     

    A wise person once told me – the most successful people in the world have the most flexible behaviour. Hence, adapting to a virtual world is essential to successful professional career. Alnother wise person also told me that to stay relevant you must change with the times, and in these times its definately a world of global connection via a number of virtual avenues.

     

    Keep the blogs coming. See you in a month.

     

    KR Shauna

    Reply
  8. Irene
    Irene says:

    Great post Stewart and very valuable comments.  I just had my ah ha this past weekend regarding virutal networking.  I realized I was using the same excuse some of my clients have about personal marketing.  They don’t have enough time.  I’ve decided to stop saying it will take too much of my time and make sure going forward I include time for virtual marketing so that I can take advantage of all the opportunities I would otherwise be missing.

    Reply

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