“Being open and being human is a big aspect of what we do and it’s important to bringing people together.” That was one of the many verbal nuggets social media guru and co-author Julien Smith tossed out at a crowded Berkeley Street Theatre on Dec. 1st.
Smith was the guest speaker at Third Tuesday Toronto, a monthly rendezvous for area communications and marketing folks interested in learning more about the practical applications of social media in business. His talk “Social Capital, Trust Agents and the New Tribe” was as entertaining as it was informative; having said that, there were no jaw-dropping moments either.
Smith co-authored with Chris Brogan “Trust Agents: Using the Web to Build Influence, Improve Reputation, and Earn Trust“, a New York Times bestseller that has been singled out on Amazon.com as one of the top 10 business and investing books of 2009 and it is a noteworthy read.
Given his piercings, tattoos, and attire, you might expect Smith would be sipping pints along Queen Street West instead of discussing social media with a couple of hundred business folk. But this young man has been blogging, podcasting, and tweeting before most and he has interesting points on how and why we should embrace social media and embrace it now.
Smith touched on the birth of voice being transmitted by radio in 1900 by Reginald Fessenden (a Canadian). Ultimately he called laptops and people today’s radios and told the crowd one needs to create a personal presence with social media and to get involved.
“You don’t need a radio tower or a printing press. You don’t need anything expensive; you just need to develop a channel . . . controlling your future means controlling that channel.”
He also recalled advice his father, a career counsellor, gave him years ago: “you need to build the network before you need it.” In other words, get involved with people and contribute. “The network isn’t just about your career; it’s also about happiness . . . where you are in your network and how many other people you’re connected to.”
Citing the silliness of the highly successful @shitmydadsays Twitter account, it’s the level of intimacy in the social media world that’s critical, he added. “Even though it may seem stupid to you, the reality is there’s someone out there that’s built something around it and sometimes it’s making their living.”
But from a business perspective, have a strategy before getting involved and don’t just follow the leader. Having no strategy equals death, he said. “Pattern breaking is as important as hell because that’s how creativity happens . . . the Internet is the easiest place to transfer social capital into financial capital. The reason that’s the case is because you can measure everything on the Web . . . and anything you can measure, you can turn into money.”
Don’t fear social media and don’t fear change. It’s true it poses a potential risk for businesses and/or individuals. But Smith will tell you advantage and reward comes from risk, and risk means fear ergo it’s important to get over that fear.
“The strongest emotion in any encounter is usually the one that becomes the dominant emotion . . . with networks it’s the same thing. It transfers even through time as you transmit a certain emotion to someone else and so on,” he said. “Because we work in networks and not just individually, you need to lead and to take risks . . . that will make your friends more likely to take risks . . . all of these people will be influenced by you and their lives will be made better by you.”
He likened forging a presence on social media to building a retirement savings plan; it doesn’t offer immediate reward. Forget the old saying, ‘a successful businessman and a pillar of his community’ and, as Smith said, “become a pillar in your community first . . . get people to gather together.”
He ended with: “We will never need more advertising. We will always need more connection and community, so this is where you have to go. It’ll make you happier and more successful.”
It’s not new information. But Smith does indeed have a refreshing way of delivering it. Sort of like social media itself.
Worthy of reflection.