I used to think the smoking crowd at work had a huge advantage. I’d see them leave the building together and come back 10 minutes later with all kinds of plans and energy. Why? They took the time to chat with other people, compare ideas, crystallize thoughts. Meanwhile, the non-smokers remained glued to their desk, staring at a mind-numbing computer screen.
Smoking breaks have always held a special appeal for corporate ladder climbers. The savvy folks in the office know if the visiting executive is a smoker, you want to follow him or her outside as smoke breaks have a way of flattening the hierarchy. I don’t know if it’s the shared struggle to get a light despite the wind sprites flitting around at the base of office buildings or if it’s the shared stigma created by engaging in an activity that relegates one to “6 metres from any building entrance”. Whatever the cause, it’s just enough to create a space where junior wannabes can get some serious face time with managers up the chain.
Yesterday I decided to join the smokers to get a little extra networking and ideation. What happened instead is I became part of a group of businesswomen standing outside, heads down, staring at Blackberries and iPhones, thumbs flying. No conversation.
I’m beginning to think the smokers are losing their networking advantage.
Infographic on how Social Media are being used, and how everything is changed by them. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Connections. How many we have and how far afield our network extends has become both a topic of conversation and a badge of honour. The concept of networking isn’t new – what’s changed is how we do it, the volume of connections one can entertain, and the speed with which it all happens.
When I first entered the business world, I read an article on networking that got me started on the right track. I was pretty shy way back when. The thought of attending a business event by myself and approaching people I’d never met was daunting to say the least. I would have preferred a walk through a bat-filled cave at night with my hands tied behind my back. But the writer made one key point that resonated and has stayed with me to this day. When we’re feeling self-conscious and shy, we’re completely centered on ourselves in a way that will actually impede building new relationships. Reaching out to meet others starts with caring about them first. That got me over my shyness very quickly. I overcame social reluctance by asking about people’s interests and remembering those things when next we met. I still worry every now and then that I’ll trip while making what could have been a professional entrance or that I have a large piece of spinach stuck to a tooth from that last canapé, but the difference is those thoughts no longer get in the way. It’s helped me meet some pretty incredible people.
Today’s opportunities for connecting are almost endless. In-person conversations are still at the top of my list but the ways to meet and explore new relationships has greatly expanded. The infographic inserted in this article points out that 80% of Twitter usage happens via a mobile device – showing that we’ve evolved to the point where we’re networking no matter where we are. I can be on a bus or a train and ask a leadership question that will reach millions on LinkedIn. Responses will start showing up right away with a good chance that I’ll hear from people on all seven continents within a few hours. The viewpoints shared will be vastly different one from the other, and often a conversation will sprout wings and become something other than intended. It’s these informal learning moments that keep me reaching out and connecting with more and more people.
That’s what 21st century connectedness is all about for me — accepting networking invitations from people I don’t know and finding ways to share our knowledge. Reasoning out problems. Making fewer mistakes by learning from others. The medical community has even begun to recognize the ancillary value of social media to combat loneliness and isolation in the elderly.
What does connectedness mean to you? Is it important?
From infancy, humans understand the direct connection between communication and survival. Before we learn our first word, we perfect the art of getting our physical needs met through whatever vocal abilities we can muster. Later, curiosity about our environment and a strong desire to be understood drive us to master language skills.
We want to be heard and we want to be relevant within our community.
Social media has become the vehicle that powers two-way conversations across time zones and over borders. Even language differences are no longer a barrier with the availability of free tools such as Google Translate and BabelFish.
We inform. We learn. We debate. We might even argue. The point is, everyone has a chance to be heard.
It’s not enough to create a great product or deliver top notch service. Brands today need to cultivate a strong sense of community. This means listening and interacting in real-time. Web 1.0 is dead. Those were the days when you could put text and graphics out on the internet and leave them there, secure in the knowledge that you had a website working for you. Web 2.0 is a two-way conversation. Clients and prospects are talking out loud through social media. It’s the new normal.
The Fastest Way to Build Community is to Engage the Entire Workforce
This is not an activity that belongs to the marketing department. It needs to be part of the fabric of the organization. If you’re not engaging your staff and helping them create intentional impact, you’re losing a leveraging opportunity. Or worse.
Fast Company published a fascinating article on this topic. You can access it here. Happy reading and happy socializing.
It was driving me crazy. Norton, my internet security provider, was blasting me with pop-up ads for other products. It’s not like you can ignore a Norton pop-up. You have to read the message to know if you’re being warned of a potential breach that requires action. No amount of research helped me stop those evil little yellow boxes from appearing on the screen. Then I remembered the great results I’ve gotten from Twitter in the past.
So, as a last resort, I decided to tweet about it. Here’s what I wrote:
Norton web protection works well but am being blasted by pop ups asking me to buy other Norton products. Anyone know how to shut this off?— Susan Wright-Boucher (@swrightboucher) November 25, 2011
Norton responded! So I launched my challenge:
10 points to @NortonSupport for listening to users on Twitter. Love that. 100 points & unending loyalty if they solve my problem!— Susan Wright-Boucher (@swrightboucher) November 25, 2011
After several more questions from Norton Support, they came up with a solution that worked instantly. I have just had 2 full days with no pop up ads. And I’m feeling a lot more loyalty toward my internet security provider. When it comes time for the annual renewal I’ll remember that Norton is out there listening and offering solutions.
@swrightboucher You're welcome. We value our customer experience the most. I'm glad you reached out to us here :). -Venkat— Norton Support (@NortonSupport) November 25, 2011
This is not the first time I’ve had a great customer experience via Twitter. Last week during a presentation to the B.C. Career Development Association, I used a humourous story about Mitchell Airport in Milwaukee to illustrate how online connectedness is becoming the new basic business standard. You can read the story here. This got tweeted by one of the attendees and resulted in some interesting banter the next day with the Vancouver Airport and WestJet — both of whom were monitoring and engaging in customer conversations on Twitter.
Now, if I could just figure out a way to eliminate those irritating Netflix pop ups. Wish me luck!
Dear @Netflixhelps – Please tell me how to suppress Netflix ads on my laptop. My pop up blocker handles all but these. Thank you.— Susan Wright-Boucher (@swrightboucher) November 26, 2011