Let's put the social networking tools aside for a moment. Let's look at the idea of being social and how it applies to being in business today.
Social requires engagement. It requires more than one person connecting to or talking with another person. Social begins with you and continues with me and extends to every other person we interact with, for whatever reason.
There is an element of communication involved that mucks up the waters, a bit. Too often communication doesn't happen. Too often we're so busy thinking about how to reply to a conversation, we forget to actually listen. I do this often and I'm not proud of it! Luckily, I catch mayself these days and make a concerted effort to pay attention to the speaker, and let my thoughts simmer under the surface. I have yet to quiet my thoughts completely, but I'm working on it.
Miscommunication is rampant on the net. Twitter, Facebook, email and other means of sharing information can cause more trouble than they're worth. I've endured many a misunderstanding via email both with colleagues and family. You just can't convey tone in an email. When dealing with a sensitive issue, it's best to just pick up the phone.
The reason I'm pushing social today is because of a recent bad PR pitch. I won't go into detail about it - just share that it got me thinking about the whole social issue and the women's issue. Women like talking, women enjoy being social - online and off - and women are being recognized as good leaders and managers because of their social skills. Yet, they're often overlooked when it comes to recognizing their expertise and skill...for, oh, a book review? A leadership position on a team? A project management position?
When I'm pitched by a PR firm hoping I'll write about their client, and the client is male... I read the introduction to his book or website or blog carefully. I'm looking for female-friendly elements. If all I see are testimonials from other men; or recognition that he is important in his world because of his executive position, where he's surrounded by other men; or paragraph after paragraph written to make him look good enough for my attention, but which does not mention anything related to women and/or women's issues, I bristle. I bristle and wonder what the PR firm is thinking in sending me this information!
I also have to wonder how the social interaction works at these firms. Not only at the PR firm, but at the firm where the "client" lives. Is this client happy with the way his PR firm is handling his PR? In my brazen opinion, they're doing a lousy job. They grab a list of bloggers and send out a broadcast email, without regard to the individual. Even when they use my name, I end up shaking my head over the content in the email - when it's clearly not female-friendly, when it clearly is all about the client and how he's going to help my blog and my readers, and not at all about how we can help him. (which is the point, isn't it?)
Social is all about engagement. It's about being self-aware enough to recognize that the other person or persons you're engaging with have an agenda equal to your own, and that you're better off understanding where they're coming from than pushing your agenda on them. I wish I received more notes that said, "We were wondering IF you and your readers would like to..." Or, "Our client reads your blog and wonders if the readers would like to have a conversation about..."
At least then they'd be asking a question and respecting our ability to make a choice - giving us the option to say maybe or maybe not.
Just for the record, I'm a very social gal. I love helping other people. I think men and women can work together for the good of all, and I welcome others who think so, also. I don't welcome pitches that include these phrases, "your readers will learn"... "your readers need to know this"... "we'd like you to share this with the Lip-sticking readers."
Just a social head's up folks.