The other night I went to a party. There were probably about 40 people in and out of the place the whole night. Oddly, I knew only about 6 or 7 of them (unusual for this particular circle). We had lots of fun, the wine was flowing, the food was delicious, and our hostess with the mostest was gracious as always.
At one point, I stood back in the corner to observe the scene, as I often like to do at such minglings. Something very odd struck me. Not one person was reading their Blackberry. Not one person was checking their iPhone. Nobody had a Bluetooth headset sticking out of their ear. And there certainly wasn’t a MacBook to be found in the place.
Lately, I’ve been going to a lot of social gatherings with other techno-geeky types. At these types of parties, the technology flows as plentiful as the wine. People are texting, Twittering, taking digital photos and posting them to Flickr, and of course, laptops abound. It’s just part of our culture. We’d never do these things in mixed company (well, most of us wouldn’t), but don’t consider it rude or antisocial when we’re around each other.
It’s not that the people at this party were not computer folk – quite the contrary. I met IT specialists, communications and PR people, and programmers. It’s just that they aren’t necessarily as IN to all this social media stuff as I am. As you might be.
As I struck up conversations with people and got around to the inevitable “what do you do?” part of the conversation, people were interested in what I do with Web and video. I mentioned some video podcast projects we are working on. Another friend mentioned a social media consulting gig I’m working on with her. I got a variety of reactions, from the “Hey cool, we need to talk” to the sort of blank stare, polite, “oh, that’s neat”.
It made me realize something really important, talking to all of these people. I’ve talked about the social media bubble here before. I firmly believe that we get so caught up in all this social media stuff that we forget that there is a vast portion of the population that has no idea what we are talking about. It’s not through any fault of their own – in fact, it’s probably partly OUR fault that they don’t know more about it, or care more about it.
Here’s a couple of interesting observations I made through the conversations I had that night:
Social Media Ain’t for Everyone. One group of people got to talking about Twitter that evening (at no prompting from me, I might add!). One of the members of the group said “Twitter? Yah I’ve heard of it. I have no use for something like that.” She made an interesting point. Social media isn’t for everyone. And because it isn’t for everyone, we still need multiple channels to talk to everyone. And that, my friends, is the reason why things like TV and newspaper aren’t really on death’s doorstep as much as people inside the bubble like to imagine them to be.
Social Media is Still a Mystery. Of the people I had conversations with about technology and communications, several of them were interested in finding out more about how all this stuff works. The truth is, a lot of people out there still only use the Web for email and to find company web sites, and MAYBE some online shopping. Heck, I talked to one person who still uses dial-up because she “wasn’t online enough to justify the cost of high speed”. Not online enough? Does that still happen? ;-) My point is, if you are IN to technology, then social networks and blogs and podcasting and Twittering and such is second nature. You can’t imagine life without it. Truth is, life DOES exist without these things. This online community stuff is still a mystery to a lot of people. Does it mean that we need to go out there and evangelize till we’re blue in the face, “converting” everyone we meet? (Grasshoppa, follow me…I will show you the ways of the Interwebz…)
What it DOES mean, is we need to have REAL conversations with people about the things that matter to them. Then, and only then, will we see if any of this social media stuff would be beneficial to helping them to meet their goals. If I go to a party and an insurance salesman comes up to me and starts to immediately sell me insurance that I don’t need, I’m not going to spend much time talking to him. Same holds true for me. If I walk up to everyone I know and start pimping social media as the must-have, be all and end all of existence, I’m not going to make a lot of friends.
Don’t ever assume that everyone is going to care about social media. Some may very well care, and if helping people with social media is part of your business, you’ll definitely want to find another time to connect with those people on that level. But the truth is, some may not really care at all. But that’s okay too. You can still be friends. Because there’s more to life than social media. And those “offline” friends you have just might help to open your eyes to some things you’ve never noticed from your cozy spot inside the bubble.