Social media – a poor substitute for real interaction

I don’t know about you, but I was on Twitter this afternoon and I unfollowed about 100 people.

I realise that’s a bit of a twattish thing to do but I just looked through my feed and thought – I don’t have anything in common with these people any more.

I haven’t been on Twitter for about 6 months. And you know, it’s a bit like – what can we convey in 140 characters? How meaningful is our interaction?

Some marketing guru in Indianapolis will have gone to some American Football game. So what? What does that mean? What does that matter to me in my little village in Kent in England?

Then there’s the person who’ll tweet the – “10 top tips to improve your LinkedIn Profile”. Big deal! I’ve seen a million and one of these articles before. And they haven’t made any more clients come in.

Social media has huge potential. Enormous potential. We can be connected to everyone else in the  world and ideas can spread faster than ebola in West Africa.

But we’re filling our feeds up with self-indulgent tweets about what we’re doing, where we’re going. And mediocre click-bait articles. Why? Because that’s what’s expected of us.

We’re sharing because we’re expected to share.

Not because we have something to say, or we’ve found something that’s mind-numbingly awesome… but because professional people are expected to share stuff.

The worst is when people use paper.li to curate articles for them. For those of you who haven’t used it, or aren’t part of the Twitterati – Paper.li is a site that curates articles from the sites that you follow. Every day it tweets something like the “Chad Liu latest is out now… paper.li/chadliu” To me that means, this person has made no effort to communicate, or share new ideas. It’s just “I’m in your feed, look at what I read”.

Likewise, companies are filling up their feeds with articles about themselves and what they’ve recently written… rarely going that extra mile to reach out to people.

So what’s the answer?

I realise this article probably isn’t immune from that. Hell, I’m sharing this on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. But I think the problem is, we’re just not connecting.

We find real connection when we meet people in person and make calls. When we press the flesh and hear the tones in people’s voice. That’s when we know what someone really wants. That’s where we have a high-bandwidth conversation and persuade people. You’re not going to get someone to buy-in in 140-characters.

We’re not bragging to people who don’t want to hear, about a holiday to Hawaii. We’re genuinely asking – “how’s your website doing… here’s how I can improve it for you with these ideas”

What does that look like in practice?

Last week I worked with a business directory company in the Netherlands. It was a bit of an odd job, but I thought, why not?

We spoke on Skype to clarify what they needed.

I recommended that they scraped company data from the Yellow Pages, Gumtree etc and Google Maps. I even found them a data-scraping tool.

Then I created some email and letter copy to send out to these customers. And then I recommended some other things to simplify the sign-up process.

I wrote up this report and they love it. And they’ll be making changes to the UK sites, their Dutch sites and their Belgian sites too – even though they didn’t expect to.

The truth is, real life happens one-on-one.

It’s personal. People buy confidence and good ideas.

And although Twitter and LinkedIn can help us find and connect to new people – they’re only a small weapon in the war to win new business.