Social Media: Is it as social as we think?


I was browsing the PR News website and came across the following headline: “PR Insider: How Social Are We Really?”  The article talked about society’s constant use of social media to communicate.  Though beneficial in ways that allow for quick and effortless communication without regard to time and location, social media has had–in a way–an adverse effect on society’s interpersonal skills.  Well, not necessarily interpersonal skills, but more so society’s willingness to use interpersonal skills in person.

The article’s author, Todd Lynch, Managing Director at Worldcom Public Relations Group, stresses the importance of maintaining direct interaction.  He provides several reasons:

  • You cannot read tone, body language or facial expressions unless you are in person.

  • Effective relationships are the backbone of good sales. Get to know your prospects. You’ll develop deeper relationships and manage them more effectively. You might get an earlier heads up to an issue or opportunity.

  • Collaboration is still a dynamic tool to successful ideas, plans and executions. Getting in front of your team, client, or customer may uncover an extra business insight, potential pitfall or new piece of knowledge that will pay off later.

  • Use positive reinforcement as a critical motivational tool. Ever had someone unexpectedly call you by name and remember some important fact or story and how nice it made you feel? Do that with employees, vendors, customers and you are creating meaningful relationships.

  • Don’t lose touch with your customers. Data is great. Community engagement is critical. 360 online conversations are fantastic. But don’t forget to get out and see things first hand to validate or alter what other information suggests.

  • Use social to be social. Online creates great opportunities for introductions, conversations starters, ongoing dialogue, community building, problem solving and so much more. But always seek a way to bring the direct human equation into the mix. True relationships thrive on this.

I agree with Lynch.  I believe in the importance of direct communication between individuals whenever possible.  I feel that direct communication shows a sense of commitment and makes a conversation more personal.  For example, an individual sparing some time to physically speak to another means so much more than the same individual merely shooting out a simple text.  There is more meaningful effort in the first case, not the second.

Society today texts with such ease that the effort is nonexistent.  To exemplify the meaningfulness of direct communication, imagine a couple where one partner wants to end the relationship with the significant other.  Think about which method of communication would be more sincere–and respectful, at that.  The answer is direct communication.  A text breakup would be and is very impersonal.

Whether dealing with formal or informal relationships, there is no doubt that social media has its perks.  But society cannot lose sight of direct communication.  As Lynch mentions, “Text, email, leverage every social outlet and tool at your disposal. Use them to listen, to communicate, build communities and advance … loyalty. But don’t forget to take the time to walk … and speak directly … You will validate, alter, improve perception and just may enjoy the interaction.”

As a student of public relations and communications, I advise my peers to heed this advice.  As much of a trend as it is, social media cannot be the only form of communication we rely on.

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