You're off, you're ready and before you get to the airport your twitter followers know where you are going, what the hashtag is and what you're excited to see and do when you get there. You tweet your fellow attendees to plan your first face to face get together. You've already planned the first tweetup that by the way use to be called “Happy Hour”.
When you get to the airport you check into Foursquare, Facebook Places and possibly Scavengr or Gowalla because no one service has won the Geo Location war yet so to be safe you'll check into them all.
Now that you're checked in you must tell the hotel bellman about your excitement to meet your new Twitter friends in real life. As he carries your house size bag of technology up the elevator you tell him how excited you are about the show and he laughs giving you one of those “you are one of those crazy tweeters” looks. You laugh it off and think, “it's okay, he'll never get it. I'm not crazy.”
Meeting Peeps IRL (In Real Life)
By the time you unpack your back you've sent over 100 tweets about tweetups, meetups, speakers, and your excitement for the show. You finally get there and meet some of your favorite peeps in real life. You give HUGE bear hugs and scream their twitter handle! You know their kids names, their dog, and that they just painted the walls in their bedroom. However, you forgot their real name because you met them on Twitter!? Wow, it's like you truly know them better than half your neighbors.
You attend the first Tweetup. You put on your nametag with your Twitter name. You debate if you should add your real name, but you think “nobody knows me by such and it won't fit anyway, so forget it.” You take a load of pics. You upload them to Twitter but wait until the morning or later in the week to load to Facebook so you can tag all of your new found friends the right way. Plus you want to milk the marketing opportunity within your network for as long as possible.
140 Character Conversations
You go on throughout the show and although you aren't talking the entire day with your mouth you are chatting up a storm on your laptop via tweets, Facebook posts and text. You feel a sense of connection. Even though you know only .03% of the people in the room you feel like you know them all. Why? Because you speak the same language!
We speak in 140 byte characters. We laugh in LOL's, we know what UR, FB, SM, SMM, LI and a million other abbreviations and hashtags mean. We forget how much we really know because we were part of the development. We've all helped create the culture, the language and the ecosystem. We live it, we breath it and we love it!
But what about the person who doesn't “get it?” What about the person who hasn't a clue what we're talking about? What about the person who still has a Motorola flip phone and refuses to text let alone tweet? How will they join the conversation and engage before, during and after the event? They don't have a laptop with them in the show because they are there to learn not type all day!? They don't have an iPad and can't understand why you'd want one anyway.
A Case Study at Social Fresh Tampa
I attended the Social Fresh Tampa event a few weeks ago. One of the most memorable experiences I had was in regard to communication. I had one person tell me that the social fresh attendees were some of the most quiet people she had seen at a show. She was new to social media. She didn't tweet, didn't have the gidgets and gadgets that enable us all to communicate over the social waves.
To her, we were all quiet. I was shocked when she asked the question of why we were all so quiet.
Even though her question was asked only after the first session of the show and I was laughing that I had already typed a million characters tweeting the quotes, learnings and stats of the show. I already felt 100% connected to the people in the room. To me they were very loud. To her nobody was talking. The truth is nobody was talking her language or she was unable to talk in our language.
At the same time, a week earlier I had met a new friend on Twitter who lives in Africa. We connected on a weekend quickly based on social media and our faith. We became friends over the coming week and he was following the #Socialfresh hashtags. By half way thru the first day he tweeted a statement that he felt like he was there.
Wow, this hit me big time! How can someone who lives in Africa feel like he is at the event and a person that is at the event is not engaged in the conversation. My new friend felt like he was there because he could speak the language. It didn't matter that he was across the world. He felt like he was more “there” than some people did in the room.
Why did some of the people in the room not feel like they were part of the conversation? Because they didn't speak the language. The room wasn't quiet at all. We were actually a very loud and crazy bunch of folks. The tweet stream was intense and there was never a dull moment. Never a dull moment that is for those who spoke the language.
So what happens to these people who aren't jumping on the tweet and social media wagon. Will they be left behind in a bigger way as the years pass by? Or are we all headed for the crazy tweet train?
My prediction is that they are going to be left behind. Social media is truly a revolution in how we communicate, engage, interact, do business and live. It affects our business lives and our personal lives. From kids sports teams to discounts at @Starbucks, our lives are affected by it regardless if we want it to be or not.
My recommendation to anyone is to get off your “social media is not going to last” wagon and engage. What's the worst that will happen? You'll become part of the conversation. Being on the train is a whole lot more fun than being left behind on the bus bench.
Social media truly breaks down walls. We become human again. We can speak our thoughts. We can connect with people across the globe and know them better than our next door neighbor. The craziest thing is we can do it all from a device that fits in the palm of our hand.
Social Relationships are Fueled by Conversation
Content drives the conversation. However, people are behind the wheel of conversation. If you skip the conversation in this era then you are skipping the people. People buy from people. People are friends with people.
We feel connected because we are having a conversation. The people who can't talk our language are missing out on more than the conversation. They're missing out on the inspiration, the connection and the experiences we have together.
I delivered a keynote this week for a New Media Series in Hernando County Florida. I closed my pitch with the statement that it doesn't matter if Facebook is here next week or five years from now. Who cares if it's tweets or twits. The fact is it's a platform to communicate, share life together and help each other grow.
People came up to me after the keynote with tears in their eyes. They told me it was the first time they understood they needed to focus on the people. They felt inspired and not as afraid of the technology because now they understand the purpose. Wow, it was music to my ears.
Focus on the people. Focus on a meaningful conversation and you'll learn the language. The tools will come. If you spend your time hiding from the tools because they're overwhelming then you miss out on the best part which is the human connection.
Your goal shouldn't be to “do social media” this year. Your goal should be to learn the language and be part of the conversation. Learn to do that and the rest will follow!