The term ‘social engagement’ has become synonymous with likes, shares and comments on social media. Or typically ‘social engagement’ might be thought of as reading, watching video and images. Pressing call to action buttons on a mobile device as we connect with people through a screen. The term ‘social engagement’ is placed so much hand in hand with digital and online.
We searched for an image for this post. There were images that depicted human digital profiles being pulled by a magnet. There were face profiles in circles linked by lines representing wireless and wired networks. We thought the image used for the featured image below for this post did a good job of showing zero humans involved in social engagement. Actually being able to find an image that demonstrated genuine human social engagement was less than 2% of search results on any search engine or stock photography website at the point of writing.
Call Us Old Fashioned
It might in the first instance sound old fashioned to be talking about face to face connection in this ‘digital world’. Yet without a doubt the most successful people we meet in business develop the strongest business relationships when meeting face to face. How can chemistry form between people to strike up deals, develop ideas and a deep sense of trust? There has to be a human element for this to happen. ‘Social engagement’ as we have come to know it can start that process, but can only take us so far. It would perhaps more appropriately be termed ‘digital connection’.
With human desire to ‘engage socially’ it seems that humans have become conditioned to believe that ‘social engagement’ means connecting through a screen and for many the belief that through this superficial level of engagement they can create the life and business of their dreams. Yet if they spent that same amount of time doing the things that as humans they really enjoyed doing, around people who could help them move their business forward, then by default they would be creating more of the life they wanted and build their success from it.
Creating Stronger Social Engagement
Let’s take a scenario of four humans in a room.
Two people are having a conversation face to face and having a shared experience over a blend of coffee and listening to an entertaining story that happened on the way to the meeting.
The other two are standing at opposite ends of the room and messaging each other on a social networking platform with a story that one of them shared that they saw online.
Who would form the most chemistry?
Who would have more to talk about in their shared experience?
Who has the greatest opportunity to develop the most trust?
Who is more likely to pass business referrals?
Who might be considered to be more interested in genuine connection and mutual opportunity?
Who is showing unconsciously as being seen as wanting to create public exposure rather than having a genuine human interest?
Online social engagement or as we prefer to call it ‘digital connection’ does of course have a role to play. In marketing terms it plays a role in being visible, but if the hope is to grow a business, this is very limited without the human face to face element. The Achilles Heel is that many business owners have developed a belief that online contact and exposure is the be all and end all of creating customer engagement. We have seen a trend where the future digital platforms will move towards serving human interaction and engagement, rather than the platform itself being the focus for human interaction.
Bowing to Wisdom
Many have spent over a decade telling those highly skilled at developing traditional face to face business relationships they are dinosaurs and need to be ahead of the curve.
Over a number of years we have analysed the conversations that take place during face to face business networking events to understand more about the types of conversation that help people to connect and form genuine relationships.
It’s Easier To Connect Through Shared Experiences
We have found that even though at business networking events, people feel more comfortable talking about holidays, recent experiences, future experiences and even more so when they are collective. Where the magic really happens is where they find a common point of interest or experience. Either in the past or in the future. The openness naturally lends itself to discuss business.
It is much easier to learn about and connect on adventures, experiences and memories than it is to do a good job communicating about our product. How can we stand out? Often solicitors are in a room full of solicitors. Accountants are surrounded by accountants. Marketers surrounded by marketers. It is easy to connect with a point in common around aspect of business expertise, but this often leads to engagement with companies offering the same services and doesn’t really create an opportunity to connect and engage with a wider network. Having experiences together is simply different and much easier to engage with people in a genuine way with a human element that online digital connection could ever provide.
What Does The Future Hold For Social Engagement?
We predict a trend where business networking face to face will grow in popularity as people in business place increasing importance on face to face contact.
Taking this a step further, we see a revival to the social element of business around hospitality style events. Bringing people in business together with opportunities to talk and develop relationships like they used to in the ‘good old days’. Taking social engagement to an even deeper level and using digital platforms to facilitate the process.