The importance of interaction

Alice

When you’re dealing with social media, one of the most important things to consider is interaction.

Interaction is when your readers, audience, fans, friends or whatever are compelled to respond to your social networking activities. This will happen when you post up something that is worth commenting on, full of value, beneficial and helpful, entertaining or educational, or even controversial, just begging for a response to counteract it or confirm their approval or agreement with it.

Blogs thrive from comments. Spiders register a comment as new material, so it can enhance a post by making it more attractive to the search engines. It also adds to the conversation because the reader is presented with new ideas and concepts that contribute to the subject matter or interest factor. Ideally posts should be written to encourage a comment, or contain a call to action to remind readers to leave feedback or their point of view.

Facebook works on interaction, as every time you post on your profile, or ideally on someone else’s profile as a comment to their status update, Facebook sees this interaction and clocks it as a match. The more interaction you have with your Facebook friends, the more likely you are going to see your posts or blog feeds on their profiles. If you don’t partake in lots of interaction on social networking sites, it’s not only the search engines that deem you to be inactive, its the social networking robots as well, which can be detrimental if you want to create interaction to help promote yourself or your business.

Twitter is the master of interaction, of course! It is all about interacting with your fellow Twitterers, chatting, commenting, retweeting, sharing in real time – generally forming relationships with your followers as you interact and find out what they are doing. Really this is not a place to be doing business in the old sense of the word, it’s about communicating and making friends, networking by being sociable, asking after their health, family or latest event, having a giggle over a piece of news or notification from elsewhere, exchanging information about each other as if you were face to face and not separated by the web in between two computers. It is a place to find out information, learn from a blog feed, gain trust and credibility by giving and sharing, having a conversation with real people who respond readily – in other words, interacting.

Using social networking sites, and also social bookmarking sites, needs commitment to fine-tune your interaction with your followers and friends. It’s no good having a fantastic blast one day, and then forgetting to continue for the next few days. Even if your followers forgive you, the search engines and social networking sites won’t. Robots don’t understand like humans do, and they see inactivity as exactly as what it is, and immediately your ratings go down, you loose those slots on your friends’ profiles, your stats take a plunge and your Twitter streams are dark and empty.

I know it’s hard to keep it up indefinitely, so it’s worth working out a social media diary to help you keep the momentum going. Plan in advance what you are going to say that month, or week if you think short-term, so that there is always information available to use when your inspiration dries up. It’s much easier to provide content, leading onto to some beneficial interaction, if you have a focus, goal or objective towards your social networking activities – get more leads, raise your profile, extend your expertise, collect more fans or ‘likes’, increase your subscription rates, develop your visibility on the net – need I go on?

And above all – it’s so important to have fun!

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CSR: A lesson learned by listening

Alice

Very interesting phenomenon happened the last time I went to the Compton Day Care Centre for my CSR Assignment in Listening.

I arrived to greet my service users, and met with the usual happy response, but there was someone else in their midst! Another volunteer was there, in his early 60s, seeking reminiscences from the service users, and he was there to get them to talk about what they had done in the past.

With my nose slightly put out of joint, I settled down to watch what would happen. I had been in that same situation some weeks before, and it would be interesting to see the service users’ reaction.

The difference this time was that all the service users were forced to pay attention to this man, whereas I spoke to only those who were interested. He started by telling them all about himself and then announcing what he wanted them to do.  Then he started firing questions at them to see if any would respond.

Of course the service users are polite and well mannered, so they answered his questions with as much enthusiasm that they could muster.  It appeared to him that they were waiting their turn to have their say, but actually some were silently and invisibly protesting (over the weeks I’ve learned to notice the signs). He tried to gear the subject about what happened during the War, directed towards the service users that were least interested in that subject, and ignoring the ones that would have given him some information if he had given them 1 to 1 attention.

He made another faux pas by offering to bring in pictures of the surrounding area to try and jog their memories, and by bringing in a set of old coinage so they could talk about that. He also made the mistake of telling them local information they didn’t know, whereas those of more mature years prefer to give advice and tell you their knowledge, to suitable appreciative responses.

Gradually the conversation dwindled, and he left. Immediately afterwards the service users announced how boring he had been, and wasn’t it terrible that he was coming back for a further five weeks! Blimey, what had they been saying about me after my first visit? It had taken me about 3 weeks to get accepted, but then I hadn’t forced any questions on them, had let them talk about any subject they wanted, and had given personal attention to those who had been quiet.

Then it struck me! The majority of these service users weren’t interested in the past, they preferred to explore the present and even the future. During the latter part of the morning there was a private conversation going on in the corner about a new nail bar that had opened locally, with questions for explanations about the services on offer – gels, extensions, even nail piercings – what on earth were those? Giggles were exchanged about crazy nail polish colour names, and jokes were passed about dolling themselves up for their fancy men!

What had I learned? You won’t get much voluntary information from your subject unless you adapt to their terms. Firing questions won’t necessarily bring the answers you want or expect, whereas investigatory questions that let the other respond to what they have in their heads, or relate to their immediate circumstances, will bring forth much better dividends. You have to bring yourself down to their level, empathise with their needs, be aware of their surroundings, and work with their responses accordingly. Barriers will be put up if they sense you’re probing too hard, or if there is nothing in it for them.

This is the difference between marketing and selling. Also, frequency in attendance, as in networking for business, will allow others to get to know, like and trust you, before they feel they can open up to their innermost thoughts and reveal the information you crave. It is most unlikely that someone will immediately react favourably to a stranger, so forcing inappropriate questions without a sort of ‘warm up’ over time will never produce satisfactory results.

CSR: Frequent visits loosens tongues and makes listening easier

Alice

It’s beginning to get quite noticeable how the service users are getting used to me turning up on Wednesday mornings at the Compton Day Care Centre. I get big smiles when I enter, and my sweet old lady starts telling me all sorts of things even before I get a chair to sit down.

There was one particular day when I was late (dealing with a client’s needs took priority that morning) and they all repeated, “We thought you weren’t coming today”. The service users were all seated at the table making window ornaments (with notable patience as they waited for the right colour pen to be passed around). My sweet old lady was having her nails painted, and her concentration was so much she fell asleep with her hands splayed as she waited for her nails to dry.

I had a lovely talk with the male service user, who told me several times he had been in the merchant navy, the Egyptians they rip you off, his twin brother had been extremely bright, his nickname had been the Village Poacher, his best friend had been a German prisoner of war called Hans, and all he really liked doing best was to listen to others talking. In spite of the repetitions, which often appeared at random within the same sentence, it was nice to get him to open up, as usually he wasn’t able to get a word in edgeways.

It is great to listen to the flow and ebb of subjects as they are passed around the circle. On one occasion the general discussion was about debt; one particular service user told me in great detail all about her monthly outgoings from her pension, and what her landlord allowed her to make improvements to her house.  Health is another much-touched-on subject; another told me about after she had had a bad fall, her son took her home with him for a year so she could recover fully. All spoke lovingly about their various pets, and how much comfort they gave them.

The service users bon humour comes to the fore when they regularly rib each other, especially when it comes to mobility. With their various Zimmer frames, sticks and wheelchairs, they joke about jogging around the village green, rushing up to the dining table, and running to the loo!

In spite of longevity, the oldest service users prove they are not to be outdone. Last week my sweet old lady was in particularly fine form, bright and alert, and kept interjecting poignant and pertinent comments with a wink in her eye! The exertion soon tired her out, and by dinnertime she was snoozing peacefully in her chair. The oldest service user, the 97 year old other male, had returned from a couple of weeks’ absence, and was very pleased to hear I had missed him. The district nurse came round to give him an assessment, and he was so determined to prove he was fit and healthy, he virtually skipped around the coffee table to show her his mobility skills.  A lovely sight!

LinkedIn Groups for interaction, publicity and knowledge

Alice

A great feature of LinkedIn is the groups. There are literally thousands to choose from, in a similar myriad of subjects, levels and sociability.

Locate them through the ‘Groups’ link at the top of your profile page, and you will automatically go to the list of groups you have joined. These vary from open to closed groups, depending on the whims of the administrators, and subgroups can be created out of a parent group, especially if it has grown too big or commands splitting up to cover further aspects of the group’s subject.

To join a group, either click on ‘Groups You May Like’ where a selection of groups that marry up to the keywords you have provided on your profile page (another reason to complete your profile as fully as you can) will be offered to you, or you could search out relevant groups via their categories (alumni, corporate, conference, networking, non-profit, professional or other) and in whatever language you prefer (LinkedIn is, of course, international).

Choosing a category will concentrate the selection, and the search field above that will focus it further. The more succinct you are with your keywords, the better the results. The groups are listed with the most popular (or with the most members) at the top, and closed groups show a little locked sign before the title, which means you will have to be accepted by the administrators before you can contribute.

Once you’ve entered a group, you will see a status update field for you to add in your own contribution (a comment, discussion, question, link to blog post, article or newsletter issue, or whatever you want to share) with the other entries listed below. There is a moving gallery of the latest discussions entered by members, and a discussion hierarchy can be allocated by the administrators for extra promotion.

You will also get email notifications of new discussions whenever they are entered, and when you have contributed to a particular discussion and others have commented so you can follow the conversation and reply if necessary. Discussions thrive on interaction, and some provide a lot of knowledge on particular subjects that I have found to be very useful.

You can check out the other members of the group to see if they are worth connecting with, or to read their profiles if their contributions was particularly noteworthy.  There are other links to publicise promotions and a job board to find new recruits or better employment! The ‘Search’ link allows you to view all the discussions made on the group to backtrack a particular subject or find a comment that is useful to you. And the ‘More’ tab reveals ‘Updates’, ‘My Activity’, ‘My Settings’, ‘Subgroups’ and ‘Group Profile’.

If you are so inclined, you could start your own group. It is very easy to create one, and much enjoyment, knowledge, interaction and opportunities could be obtained through accomplishing such an activity.

The 55%, 38%, 7% rule is rubbish!

Chantal

Many people quote the fact that only 7% of communication comes from the words you use. They will tell you that 55% of communication comes from body language and that 38% comes from the tone you use. These numbers have been used to death, which is a shame, because they’re wrong!

I’m not saying that non-verbal expression and tonality are unimportant for effective communication. But only giving words 7% of the credit? If this is really the case, you should be able to learn a new language just by watching the body language of someone speaking it and by listening to their tone. Really?! If the numbers are correct, you should be able to tell exactly what your crying baby or barking dog are telling you, without them using any words? Well that would be useful!

If you’ve ever done any training in public speaking, you’ll know that the right words can bring emotion to what you say; they can create pictures and stir people into action. I don’t believe this is possible if they only account for 7% of the communication.

Have you ever wondered where these percentages came from?

Professor Albert Mehrabian, Ph.D. of the University of California, Los Angles (UCLA), is credited as the originator of the 55%, 38%, 7% Rule, following studies carried out 1967. The results were circulated in the press and abbreviated, which lead to misunderstandings of the research and generalisations of the conclusions.

First, subjects were asked to listen to a recording of a female saying the single word “maybe” in three tonalities, to convey liking, neutrality and disliking. Then they were shown photos of female faces conveying the same three emotions. Next subjects were asked to guess the emotions portrayed by the recorded voice, the photos and both in combination. The photos drew more accurate responses than the voice, by a ratio of 3:2.

In a second study, subjects listened to nine recorded words, three meant to convey liking, three for neutrality and three for disliking. The words were spoken with varying tonalities and subjects were asked to guess the emotions behind the spoken words. The finding was that tone carried more meaning than the individual words themselves.

And so a theory was born! Mehrabian combined the statistical results of both studies and came up with the famous 55%, 38%, 7% Rule. He also went on to say that for inconsistent messages, body language and tonality were probably more accurate indicators of emotions and meaning than the words themselves. He also said that his results were not meant to be applied to normal conversation.

So why am I telling you all this? Because I think the ‘rule’ is over rated, over used and over quoted. Too many people fall back on it without knowing its origin or accuracy. The next time you hear or read someone using it, do me a favour and put them right. And the next time you’re tempted to use any part of the rule, just stop and remember that in public speaking, words, tonality and body language are the only means you have of communicating your message and that you can rely on them in equal proportions.

My thanks to Judith E. Pearson, Ph.D. for providing the real truth behind the myth. Dr. Pearson is a counsellor and coach specialising in hypnotherapy and NLP. Her web site is www.engagethepower.com/.

How would a blog work in the 19th century?

Alice

Blogging is definitely a 21st century phenomenon. So why am I thinking of it in Victorian terms?

Quite some time ago I posted a question on LinkedIn asking how would a Victorian gentleman view blogging. The responses were as varied as they were interesting, some even replying as if they were Victorian gentlemen themselves! Apart from the florid language and lengthy time taken to describe things, it was a good insight to break down blogging into its most basic format, to view it without all the bells and whistles that adorn this platform that could also confuse the true reason why to blog.

The internet was viewed as the telegraph, and therefore a blog is somewhere to publish your news through the telegraph system to reach a much wider gathering than through letter alone. Of course, sending a letter to The Times would certainly reach many readers, and the Victorians were compulsive letter writers (as well as reading them), but a blog could resemble an inclusive Gentleman’s Club through which you could submit your thoughts and musings, ideas and innovations, gripes and grumbles, retorts and responses, to both a private and public audience.

This opportunity to broadcast yourself as a source of authority, where readers will take your opinions as fact, would be much less expensive than writing and printing a series of pamphlets. These might be in danger of not reaching their intended audience, be wasted in their distribution, and be limited in their extent of circulation, and certainly could not enable their recipients to respond immediately through the same medium.

Your letters would reach their recipients much quicker than the usual method of postage, without the initial cost of paper, envelope and a stamp. And if you wanted to change your mind or add more to your message, this could be possible even after distribution. Replies may even be instantaneous, resulting in an immediate response of your own, thus adding to the conversation which could elaborate further on the subject matter.

And it would be worth while reading other gentlemen’s letters on their similar methods of communication, just to keep in the know, monitor what your competitors are doing, and steal a march on other exciting projects by acting first. Every time you reply to these letters, your signature will allow other readers of these missives to find out who you are and read what you have written, thus extending your expertise in the subject and your presence in the community.

And there is also somewhere where you can leave your visiting card for interested persons to access, find out more about you, and even take the opportunity to visit you, either at your Club or in person. You would only have to distribute one visiting card, as it would be able to be seen by a great many more persons than leaving it on the table in a Club or another social meeting place in the hope that it might get noticed.

What other elements of a Victorian business man’s life might be improved if he had this wonderful innovation they call a ‘blog’?

Who is Better at Networking – Men or Women?

Chantal

How do men do it?

Having been to quite a few networking meetings, I’ve seen that men are really good at going into a room full of people and starting up a conversation with someone they’ve never met before. They don’t seem to worry, as women do, about ‘getting it wrong’. In fact, they probably don’t even know that there might be a wrong way, so there’s nothing to worry about.

Some men are very good at wearing suits and blending into the crowd. A room full of dark grey and blue suits makes it really hard to remember one from another. No one stands out.

I also think that men keep to the script. They often use the ‘what do you do?’ question because it’s safe and it’s an easy question to get a conversation going. However, men do seem to be quite good at swiftly moving on to telling what they do. Did he really listen to what I just said, or is he just desperate to get on to talking about his business?

Men will often go away from a networking meeting, with pockets full of business cards. Do you ever hear from them again? Do they follow up with the contacts they’ve made and keep in touch with them or do they just put all those cards into a box and wait for the phone to ring?

How do women network?

Women are much more nervous about going into a room full of strangers and striking up a conversation. They’re better at catching up with people they already know – to the point where they might only speak to people they know. They may spend a whole meeting not talking to anyone new.

Women are great at building up strong relationships with people they meet, really getting to know them and their business, before they’ll work together. It can take a long time for a woman to trust you enough to give you her business; and even longer before she’ll recommend you to someone she knows, in case you harm her reputation.

Women care much more about the impression they leave with new people. Did I say the right thing? Did I say the wrong thing? Did I say too much or too little? Am I worrying too much about too much?

I think that women have a tougher time when it comes to working out what to wear. Women can’t just rely on a safe, dark suit. They really have to think about what to wear. Suit or dress? Jacket or no jacket? How much make up? Many women seem to get it wrong, usually by not dressing to impress. The beauty therapist who turned up in jeans and a T-shirt, with no make-up on and messy hair; the consultant in a pinstripe suit who scared off the potential small business clients.

Follow up is much easier for women. With so many ways to keep in touch – newsletters, Twitter, LinkedIn, meeting for coffee – it’s easy to do.

So who does it better?

There is no right or wrong way to network. There are just some ways that are better than others. I don’t think men are better at it than women and I don’t think women are better at it than men. I think we all have our own strengths and that there’s a lot we can learn from each other.