If asked “How are your social skills?”, could you respond: “Great, I spend a couple hours a day making sure I respond in a timely manner to Facebook, email, tweets, LinkedIn and logging onto FourSquare and responding to blog comments.” Very conscientious.
But the term “social skills” has a much more dated definition. It is the stuff of manners and politeness and civility, but mostly making people comfortable in your presence. Makes you think it probably doesn’t have much relevance these days, when we are more likely to engage virtually than literally. But I respectfully beg to differ.
In 1922, Emily Post, identified what I think is still the most critical rule for social engagement.
“Above all, stop and think what you are saying! This is really the first, last and only rule. If you “stop”, you can’t chatter or expound or flounder ceaselessly, and if you think, you will find a topic and a manner of presenting your topic so that your neighbor will be interested rather than long-suffering”. Emily Post (1873–1960). Etiquette. 1922.
That seems to be the complete antithesis of Twitter though it shouldn’t be. But the point here is not to pound away at all the things you should already know about social media. (Send me an email if you want a quick list of fundamentals, but they do include: Stop and think before you hit send.) Social media and social skills can co-exist, especially if you recognize that social media is simply a component of your marketing arsenal.
Now back to social skills – “Nice” as described by Emily Post, may seem to be the kiss of death to success, where terms like brash, tenacious, and even controversial are the buzzwords of the “winner”. But think back, have you ever had your opinion changed by someone whose sole tactic was screaming at you? There are other, quieter ways to get noticed. And many of them were available in the time of Emily Post.
Make a small percentage of your contact more personal. Send a real letter with proper indentation, salutation and customized content with an eye to grammar and spelling – use your mailbox as more than a planter. Pick up the phone and chat for a few minutes (without multi-tasking, trust me the keyboard is audible over your conversation) about anything but the work at hand, and make an appointment to visit. As with social media, determining the appropriate frequency for these endeavors is critical to their success. Don’t become a pest. And remember what Ms. Post said “…find a topic and a manner of presenting your topic so that your neighbor will be interested rather than long-suffering”. But if you want to stand out, as the rest of the world goes virtual, the personal touch will pay off because it will mean you have one more weapon in your arsenal than the other guy.
(c) 2010 by Alison Colby-Campbell