Hashtags and handshakes – thoughts from Social Media for Business

I’ve gone through my own version of the five-stage journey using social media. I started with curiosity (everyone’s talking about it); moved quickly to initial dismissal (it’s for attention seekers);  became fascinated (it hasn’t gone away, better find out more); morphed into scepticism (it’s basically PR with no real value) and settled on realism (understand what it can and can’t do for you).

It’s a good idea, every now and then, to throw away your preconceptions and re-set, so I was pleased to be invited along to the Social Media for Business day organised by MEM Events at the Westminster Impact hub last week.

Su Butcher opens SM4B 2015

Su Butcher opens SM4B 2015

Su Butcher (@SuButcher) and Paul Wilkinson (@EEPaul) did a great job of bringing everyone up to date and up to speed on developments in social media for business. I took away three essential points:

  1. Have a conversation, don’t just issue information
  1. Create and publish your own stuff. Write good, tailored content
  1. Make sure search will find it!

My sceptical phase was, in part, fuelled by the low signal to noise ratio of many social media channels  – there was just too much coming at you and very little of it was either relevant or useful. Paul Wilkinson says, “there’s no such thing as information overload, only filter failure.” The answer is to use one or more of the many tools that are out there to filter, publish and analyse.

I shall give it a go but I do wonder if all this filtering, monitoring and measurement might be taking the fun and spontaneity out of social media.  With my realist hat on I had came to the conclusion that it was all about serendipity – the overheard conversation, the chance turning down a lane that might just take you somewhere interesting. Perhaps I need to reassess?

Most accounts of how to achieve impact on social media talk about the power of the image. There are channels (Tumblr, Instagram) where photographs or videos are the primary content but with the ubiquity of cameras we could be moving towards a world where more B2B communication is driven by the image – not as an adjunct to a message but as the starting point.

Impact Hub Westminster

The Westminster Impact Hub – a great venue for SM4B

When two devices on a network need to talk to each other they first make a sort of digital introduction or “handshake”. Wikipedia describes this as “an automated process of negotiation that dynamically sets parameters of a communications channel established between two entities before normal communication begins.”

According to actor and presentation skills expert Paul Ryan (@Improveonyou), the final speaker at SM4B, people take just a few seconds to sum up those they meet, deciding quickly whether they are friend, foe, possible sexual partner or safe to ignore. I’m not sure which of these is the worst result for the party on the receiving end but it’s probably the last.

Paul took us through the variety of real life handshakes that he thinks say a lot about a person. On our table we pondered what the social media equivalents of these might be. The rather creepy “wet fish” handshake is probably the standard: “I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn“ message. The bone-crushing “vice” might be the aggressive sales Tweet and the rather superior “covering stab” (a sort of downwards thrust often used by ex-military types) could be a condescending Facebook post.

You can catch up with the Social Media for Business event with Su Butcher’s Storify page and find contacts and downloads here