Being Human

Posted by

One of the best parts of these digital channels is the many amazing opportunities that are suddenly present for you to connect to people in the real world.

Whether it’s at an unconference like PodCamp or meeting your consumers at the retail level, there is nothing more real and powerful as "pressing the flesh," as they say. With that comes many challenges. With dashboards like TweetDeck and the ability to respond back to people with just a 140 characters, managing your time and connections to thousands of people can be pretty easy, but still time consuming. Meeting face-to-face is a much bigger effort and takes all of these digital relationships to another level.

"Would you like to sit next to you at dinner?"

That was the tag-line for one of the many famous ads that The Economist runs to promote their publication. The message is simple and pithy: by reading The Economist, you will become smarter and more well-informed. In turn, this will make you more interesting in social scenarios. No, this does not mean that you should run out and buy a subscription to The Economist (but it is a great magazine), the message of that ad resonates at a much different level in these very interesting online social circles that we all find ourselves in.

How great are you when people meet you in your protein form?

Blogging is not holding down a real world, face-to-face conversation, and being great at 140 characters on Twitter might not translate to sitting down and having a coffee with somebody. Many Marketers ask about how they can make these online social channels most effective for them from a marketing and communications perspective, the general strategic conversation always starts with, "how great is your product or service?" If the product, service and related brands don’t "live" in the real world, no amount of Facebook Fan Pages is going to help. It got me thinking, many people I know who are building their personal brand in these online channels might not be as good as they are online in real world scenarios. Think about the last event you attended, how many new people did you meet? How easy was it for you to strike up a conversation with someone you did not know?

Being human helps.

People always feedback that they love these Social Media channels because they feel like they are connecting to real people. I often wonder just how real they are. Yes, they are more expressive than any other type of communication we have seen to date. Yes, these tools make personal ideas and insights very public, and yes, it helps to be a real human being. The point is to really take a look at all of the content you are creating and publishing online and reflect on whether or not your public persona matches it (or, hopefully, surpasses it).

Here’s why…

When you connect in person, there will be some kind of expectation. You don’t want to set the bar too high and you definitely don’t want to set the bar too low. The bar has to be at the level with which you and your company are confident at. Ultimately, online and offline need to match up… and that’s a very tall order.

Do you think most people online live up to their online personas in the real world, or are do you think most people just talk the talk versus walk the walk?


  1. Excellent piece. I think that most people talk the talk but not because I am a skeptic at heart. Quite the contrary. I am an optimist. I think that people fail to realize their potential and live “behind a mask” in the real world too. It’s not just an online phenomenon.
    People can hide other things in the space based online universe that are hard to hide when they function in the place based physical society. Your comment “Would you like to sit next to you at dinner” is spot on.
    I think that the online and physical societies can and should leverage value from each other.
    If everyone asked themselves each day: “If everyone that I know did what I did today to make myself a bit better would they all be better off or worse off”.
    Thanks for the great Blog posts. PC

  2. This is a complex and important topic. We supposedly are more personable in business online, and that may be true; but we’re also not much like our hangin’ out with close buddies selves either. And we’re very rarely dancing as if no one’s looking. To the contrary, we’re advised to be careful: our posts are there for all to see forever.
    So circumstances require that we develop new ways to relay branding. Ways that can be trustworthy despite the once-removed nature of long distance info.

  3. At least in the beginning, I think that the medium is the message as far as your online presence — the early adopters lead by example, they are the ones who knew what what was ‘happening’, what would become “big.” But, ultimately, as Mary Ruth says, for those that are “out there on the net”, one must forge a voice and on-line personality. That online presence is carved in part by our technical knowhow (typing skills, ease with computers, mobile, etc) as well as by our ease with writing, for example. Both these aspects can be revealing in themselves. On the other side, as opposed to the limitations [and codification] of a CV, the more someone is present online, the harder it comes to create a profile that is not yourself. You are as intelligent as the words you are able to put to paper. You cannot fool people on that level (plagiarism will be found out only too easily).

  4. I believe the hype lives up to ones expectations at least in terms of knowledge. Personality could be a little bit tricky to detect but sometimes you see signs of it. Its true as Minter puts it, you always have to think before you write something and you build under what you have knowledge of. Also, in online discussions you can easily spot the right people you’d like to continue the conversation with according to your interests, and then probably, an invitation to be part of your network. It is like a filter.
    I happen to attend regularly local events within the social networking site called InterNations. I have seen people who travel from different parts of the world to meet at one place after they exchange discussions in online forums as well as people whom they met physically and then take their relationship online back and forth. In both cases there is always a bit of risk of finding ppl who don’t live up to expectations but at least, in both times, you exchange some lines before taking it to the next level (and google searches). Also, the trustworthy and reliability of the channel speaks tons.

  5. I’m not a sociable person – quiet and introspective. The internet was great when I was anonymously consuming. Nowadays, every site was me to register, contribute, vote, share, interact. It’s an absolute pain. 🙂

  6. Hi Mitch,
    Just read Infopresse this morning and wanted to congratulate you. You’re one of the most powerful in Canada in term of social media…that’s quite something. You should be proud of you!
    Talk to you soon.

  7. From my summer of going to the social meetups here in Toronto, I would say that the people I met were… normal? Now I didn’t keep up with everyones blogging, but meeting someone at a bar and talking to them in person gave me the same impression of the person when I went back and communicated with them online.
    I think that works only one way as well, meeting someone face to face gives a lot of context, and lets you ask the bigger questions to discover more about the person beneath the surface that you can’t do on Twitter. It’s also necessary in it lets you discover what the person sounds like, how tall or big of a person they are, etc…

  8. In many ways the various forms of social media are simply an extension of the now-global, knowledge economy.
    If your online identity and contributions are simply an extension (hopefully expansion) of your skill set, talents, subject expertise, employment/volunteer activities, interests and past, current or growing thirsts, it shouldn’t be an issue.
    It’s the “manufactured landscape” that poses the disconnect, because generally the truth will come out.
    As a fascinated (and I’d like to think reflective) observer of the dynamics of this new age of reputation, profile and relationships I can’t tell you how many times I’ve thought, “Hmmm. I wonder if s/he came to realize they’ve digitally backed the wrong horse?”
    FWIW, my money is still on you, Mitch.

  9. Great post!
    It’s so easy to play a role behind the keyboard. The thing is that social media is just the basis for the connection – the real connection happens in the real world. Sadly, I’ve met folks who are gregarious online but fail to meet up to the expectation they’ve created through the digital interaction.
    Social media doesn’t remove the need for personal interaction. It facilitates it. People need to be aware that after the initial connection is made, there’s a lot of personal investment to be made in maintaining and cultivating it.
    So more now then ever the old adage is true: just be yourself.

  10. Looking at this purely from a personal perspective, I would have to say that my online persona is really me, but it’s the me you would not necessarily meet the first time or two we met face-to-face. It’s the me you get to know as we work together on projects. It’s the me you get to know as we have a few drinks at the bar. So, if we’ve met first online and then later meet in real life, a lot of that initial shyness or reserve that I tend to exhibit at first can more quickly be bypassed – FTW!

  11. This is why I get so riled up with the personal branding controversy…we can be who we want, when we want online. Personalities are manufactured and posers are more difficult to spot. True colors do shine through eventually. I agree with Laura…the online “me” is me, but it is not the first impression me…it is the me you work with and chat with each day.

  12. Social media gives people an opportunity to break out of their shells without having too much fear. If you make a fool of yourself at a social gathering, you ruined your night. If you do the same online, just switch to a new channel where people didn’t see your mess up.
    Social media is the gateway to social interaction. Of course, in person interaction is best but some people need a little practice before being comfortable enough to go out there. This goes for companies too. Social media allows companies to ease into their social interactions. Companies need to be human but after so many decades of not being human, they need a little time and a lot of wd-40.
    Social interactions online are getting better every day and the people participating will eventually get better in person as well. Look how far we’ve come so far.
    Overtime, our online presence and in person presence will be the same… it will eventually even out.

  13. lol. My friend Fraser who i connected with in email for the longest time before i ever met in person told me that based on my emails he was sure I was 7 feet tall.
    When he met me in person, I think he was genuinely disappointed that i wasn’t. 🙂

  14. My “digital footprint” is increasing
    by 8,632 MB every day.
    And I am not an ICT freak. Most of this data is produced by writing business e-mail. We have to consider that every e-mail needs server capacity and this means that it needs energy.
    The more energy we need the more
    CO2 emition we produce.
    Our responsibilty is to guard our environment and at least our own future.
    Not all e-mails has to be send and on the other hand it is not important for all receivers.

  15. That was the tag-line for one of the many famous ads that The Economist runs to promote their publication. The message is simple and pithy: by reading The Economist, you will become smarter and more well-informed. In turn, this will make you more interesting in social scenarios.

Comments are closed.