Social Media Marketing for B2B

What does “Being Present” Mean in the Age of Social Media? And the Myth of Multi-Tasking.

November 24th, 2010 8 Comments

My name is Natascha Thomson, and I am a social media addict.

I use Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Jive on a regular basis (my husband would say “excessively”). I have many apps on my BB. I have TweetDeck installed on my work PC and on my MAC. I just got an iPad and ordered an iPhone…

Recently, I announced on FB that I was taking the weekend off from social media to “withdraw” from my addiction. I got a few “ha, who are you kidding” comments, but I was able to do it, yes! (ok, I did read a few FB & Twitter notifications on my BB but did not respond). It WAS HARD! And (as my husband pointed out), not drinking for two days does NOT prove that you are not an alcoholic. But I love it!

Let’s step back in time for a moment. In November 2008, I wrote the blog: Is Web 2.0 Driving Us Crazy? lamenting the value of many a social media tool. I did not get the value of using social media at all.

The blog now makes me smile. I so did not get it then. Social media rocks. It’s where I get my news and build and maintain a huge part of my network.

Unfortunately, I now can also finally relate to this NYT article: In Web World of 24/7 Stress, Writers Blog Till They Drop that was in my 2008 blog. I laughed about it then. Now I am worried about the effect social media might have on my health (as is my husband). My concern was confirmed by the NYT article: YOUR BRAIN ON COMPUTERS; Hooked on Gadgets, and Paying a Mental Price. I feel that social media helps me to get so much more done in a day. But am I delusional?

A related question that I have been pondering a lot lately is: Can we Multi-Task and Be Present?

Ironically, I recently had this discussion with a friend via Twitter while sitting at Starbucks. As I was at Starbucks and she on her friend’s couch in another city, were we both together in the present?

I conducted a little survey on what people consider “being in the present” and found the following: The one thing that seems to make us human feels that somebody is 100% present is eye contact. Simply because if somebody looks at you and speaks, it’s the closest you can get to knowing that they are paying attention and engaging.

We have learned to communicate fairly well on the phone, even though anybody who attends a lot of conference calls knows that sharing a phone line does not equal being “present”. It seems that everybody is checking their email these days on these calls, and when called upon says: “Can you repeat that question?” So the phone is only a sure communication tool when it’s one-on-one.

Now, looking at Twitter, FB or LinkedIn, we have absolutely no idea what else a person is doing while they are communicating with us, especially as it is not a continuous stream of conversation. We don’t have any context, and I sometimes find that disconcerting. People could be anywhere, doing anything, while typing on their mobile devices. The conversation with me could be a side note.

As we can’t see or hear the person, we have no read on their true level of engagement and emotions. Are they present? So in communication, can we only be sure of our counterpart being “present” when we can see them?

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8 Responses

  1. Hi Natascha,
    count me in. I’ve been thinking along these lines a lot recently. Been a late bloomer myself and so in a way I consider myself a class mate of yours in regards to our social media experience.

    I also believe that eye contact is a key factor for having a more immersive conversation. Even more importantly so is that you have met the person in RL (real life) at least once, when you’re not having eye contact.

    I’ve been promoting webcam phone conferences for a while as it is that simple to improve communication in a distributed world-wide environment. Not to mention sustainability ;)

    Same holds true to webinars in my view. The bigger the group, the more important is the non-verbal communication is to see what the audience/participants think and if you got them (convinced) or not.

    As such, I am happy to see that within the SAP community we start to broadcast a lot more. Way to go…

    Keep blogging… ;)

    Cheers, Matthias

    • Matthias:

      that is a great additional point, that meeting in person at least once makes a huge difference in future online communications. I think it’s very comforting that in this day of high tech and social media, the human touch, meeting person to person is still what makes a huge difference in how we interact. A friend and old boss of mine Tom Small used to say: “People to things for people, not for companies”.

      Cheers,

      Natascha

  2. Otto says:

    Hello Natascha,
    it is useful to read the texts like your because that is the only thing (well, not really, but works best for most of the people who follow social media… I got the link from the LinkedIn homepage:))) that makes us stop and think a little.
    Example: if one has so many twitter messages waiting for an answer, has to blog about the day etc. then nobody really stops, looks around and think. Has time to stop and think.
    Years ago (before internet and social media) it was simple: you get up, go to work, come home, sleep, get up… but there still was time for a family, TV, pets, hobbies etc.:))
    Now it´s more like: get up, check social media channels, go to work, check, go home, check and do all the networking you were not able to handle during the day, sleep, get up, check…
    By the way: there was an article about people who use all these social things that they´re nervous, living a fast life, and ESPECIALLY cannot concentrate on a single goal/ work/ “thing”. The social media are so distracting….
    Well, after reading the lines again, it feels a little off topic. but this is what came to my mind after reading your blog:))
    Hope you´re doing just great and will read your pieces in future as well,
    have a nice day, Otto

    • Otto,
      thanks for taking the time to comment. I agree, it seems harder and harder to find time off to chill and rest our mind. I try yoga and meditation to counteract the effects of a fast paced life, but really, mindfulness should be an ongoing part throughout the day. I am working on it. Maybe I can find a way for social media to help, reminding me to pause etc. :-).
      Best,
      Natascha

  3. Steve says:

    So how does the advent of easy video conferencing (now on mobile phones even) affect our being present? Suddenly that 70% (?) of communication that is not verbal is back. I’ve used technology for a long time, and when video conferencing came out I noted it, but it wasn’t until I used that I understood the emotional impact of the change. One of the few technologies I’ve ever experienced that has the power to touch on such an emotional level.

    Second thought is about networks, whether electronically enabled or not. I’m a strong believer in the sum being greater than the whole, and networks can often produce results that even a lone genius may never have developed. And yet, the largest social networks (facebook, linkedin, myspace) all grew because of their ability to share something that was happening in the offline world (photos/activities, business, music). So at some point those networks of people have to stop networking and create something (a shared experience, a new product, etc) to see the benefits.

    • Steve:

      thanks for your thoughtful comment. I agree that Skype and tools like that take you back to “eye contact”. Just like a video conference call at work stops many from checking their email, as there is now a visible connection. It’s definitely more personal. I guess the next questions is, what other impact does being in a room with somebody have that a virtual connection cannot provide?

      I am intrigued by your thoughts about networks and their need to create something to be beneficial. Will have to ponder that for a while. For me, FB is just like talking to a friend – the benefits that can be derived from a conversation depend on many factors, e.g. my expectations, expertise of the other person, mood etc. etc. Many times people have helped me on FB to solve “challenges” and it’s been great to also get conflicting opinions on a topic. It sometimes seems that people are less afraid to be frank on social media than in person.

      Best,
      Natascha

  4. I’ve been thinking about this and wondering. I think that being present is all about the level of listening – for those that are not familiar, here is the link.

    http://www.personal-coaching-information.com/levels-of-listening.html

    At Level 1 we are not present. We’re in that meeting or conference call thinking mmm what shall I have for tea today. Need coffee. She looks hot today. It’s our internal conversations and that’s just fine in context. Especially on a call you are on to make up the numbers or of you have nothing to say.

    At Level 2 I think we become present. We are there to understand and are in the moment. And we can be at Level 2 in person (far easiest and like you said eye contact helps loads) but also I’m sure you were present in the moment with your friend because that’s where your attention was focussed. We can just as well be present in the context of a conference call or webinar. But it’s much easier to be distracted. You know when people are present.

    At Level 3 we are both present, and implicity multitasking. And that’s much more interesting. We are more than just in the moment, we are absorbed by the moment and acutely aware of body language, nuances, temperature.

    Just an alternative theory anyhow in this world of globalization.

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