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:
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.
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.
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.