Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Intriguing Observations: Has social media handicapped our social?

The Intriguing Observations series was created to gather some of the greatest supporters and bloggers to provide their own insight on all things creative both in their ventures and their techniques. This week on the guest series is another all-star supporter, fellow AP author and an outstanding wordsmith Bri Clark.

First of all Phil thank you so much for having me on not to mention the reminders, frankly I need them. My life is busier than a piglet on a tit. This would probably be a good place to introduce myself and explain what I do...

In a nutshell I'm a literary strategist. I own and operate Belle Consulting. The definition of just what that is has not been determined by Wikipedia at this point as it keeps changing. I'm many things to different clients. Beta reader, Publicist, Social Media Manager, Speaking Coordinator, etc etc... In conjunction with my consulting business I'm a speaker, event board member, promoter, and author.

It was while fulfilling the role as a publicist/event specialist that I came upon this observation. Linda Bernardi, my client, is an Amazon bestseller and top woman in the technology field. At an event in Seattle surrounding "The Cloud" I couldn't help but be flabbergasted by how unsocial some of the vendors were.

A conference is the place to be our most social, our most charming, to present our best! It's at these events that I make most of my leads or create long lasting contacts. Nevertheless, it seemed that several of the peers that surrounded me couldn't pull their eyes from their cell phones or laptops long enough to look at the people in front of them.

Picture it an area with tables set out in a manner that suggests flow. Black cloth and skirts cover and surround the tables. Random catalogs are set out with a free gift such as a pen. Behind the tables are one usually two people with their heads down in a laptop or a cell phone. Some of the tables didn't even have a sign at a vertical angle to say who they were. But that's another rant. I'm very much a stickler for presentation and invoking the senses. Attendees walked by several feet away the fleeting look of interest on their faces. Only they were never greeted, because they were never seen.

FAIL!!! And what's worse is it was a fail that could have been avoided. The worst was one booth where two men sat side by side for hours ( I kid you not) pounding away on their keyboards. The staccato of the keys like a alarm to the audience stating "Do Not Disturb: What's on here is more important than you are." Side by side they beat those keys as if they were in some kind of virtual email race. After watching 10 potential leads walk by I decided I might vomit or use my stun gun on their computers and ignored them.

Nonetheless, the lingering effects of the occurrence wouldn't go away. I noticed it several places around me. Granted it wasn't all but most. If they were a vendor with an elaborate interactive booth they were like the ringmaster of a circus. "Come here! Step up to my amazing product!" It was as if the tables and black table cloths were kryptonite for my fellow vendors.

Alas, no it wasn't the table cloths (Did I mention I always bring my own table cloth?) it was online social media and email. I know this for a fact because being the bold nosy southern belle that I am I walked around and looked over their shoulders.

Now I more than anyone else know that response and timing are key in our businesses. However, it is not hard to post an update or an automatic email response saying, "Hey! I'm at a conference from this date to this date. If you are in the area please come by. If this is an emergency please reference my phone number."If anything I have found people respond in a huge way to those that have lives beyond Facebook. You come back with ideas and experiences that they couldn't have.

Perhaps I'm being a little dramatic, I do have that tendency. But it really did seem that the only way some people can be social is through social media. They need the anonymity the internet provides. They require the control that editing pictures and retyping or erasing status updates enables. And because of that weakness that one contact that could open the door to their career success just passed by and they didn't even see them.

What do you think? Am I being dramatic?

Website: Belle of Boise
Twitter: @BriClark
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Michele Shaw said...

Great post, Bri! And no, you are not exaggerating. I'm finding more and more that people don't interact not just at conferences, but everywhere in general. People I might speak to at the grocery have their phones stuck to their ears or are running into things with their cart because they are looking down at their phones...constantly! I won't say I don't have a certain affinity for my phone, but I do prefer real live contact. I wouldn't bother to go to a conference if I didn't plan to greet people and try to network. I think SM is making people socially awkward in real life. We can't hide behind our keyboards, but I fear part of this is due to the pressure to be perfect from advertisers and all media. But, alas, that's another conversation altogether. Thanks for sharing!

PW Creighton said...

Thank you for your post today Bri. I've certainly noticed some similar trends at conferences. Even if you're sitting or touring the conference people are very reticent to meet your eyes or strike up a conversation. Most seem content to their social media rather than social interaction.

Thanks for stopping by Michele, it's certainly becoming more of an issue to get people 'unplugged' lately. Can you imagine if the Google glasses actually make it into production?

Bri Clark said...

Thank you so much for having me on Phil. Melissa, oh girl I knew you were a woman after my own heart when you mentioned pressure from media. We must gossip...I mean discuss that another time.

Anonymous said...

I think you're exactly right, Bri. I've worked in an industry where you absolutely MUST be social to everyone that walks into your sphere (hotel/hospitality industry). It's extremely hard to do that when the person you are trying to talk to is immersed in their cell conversation--or texting. I also think the internet has made it far too easy for people to forget the basic manners we were taught as children. Great post!

jeff7salter said...

I worked in public libraries for nearly 29 years. One of the fundamentals we taught all our public service employees was that you ALWAYS look up when people approach ... and visually 'greet' them. Furthermore, you NEVER get so engrossed in your book(s) or screen(s) that you're not aware of people around you.
A corollary is that staff needed to be scheduled for off-desk time so they could work on projects and other matters which required concentration.

PW Creighton said...

Calle, thanks for stopping by. You're certainly right, even when you're the one on the other side of the table sitting, people are reluctant to interact or even make eye contact. Makes for annoying times.

Jeff, a novel idea but that would essentially require them to be 'unplugged' for a given amount of time, even then it doesn't solve the same issue with the audience. Thanks for the comment.

Thinkhappy said...

This is an awesome post, and right on target. I think social networks have hindered our social abilities, removed foreplay from young couples, forget about flirting, they don't even know how anymore, and family time is really laptap time.

Try turning the phones off during dinners, lunches, and those in between get togethers with family and friends. Look people in the eye. LIVE LIFE -- it's out there - we just need to remember it.

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