via Mashable! by Soren Gordhamer
Soren Gordhamer is the organizer of the Wisdom 2.0 Conference, which brings together staff from Google, Facebook, and Twitter with others to explore living wisely in our modern age. Mashable readers can use code 'Mashable' for a discount when registering.
In the era of social media, our networks are much larger than they have ever been, and we have more ways to communicate with those in them. Even if you are not very active on Facebook or Twitter, my guess is that your sphere of communication has expanded significantly in recent years. Who you communicate with and how you communicate has changed radically. This new connected era brings both opportunities and challenges.
In the past we had a set of contacts, all of whom generally knew how to reach us — via phone, e-mail, or regular mail. Today, thanks in large part to social media, we have many different levels of communication, each with a specific purpose and etiquette. When we do not understand the role of these levels, they can become huge time wasters. When we do understand them however, they can help us more effectively engage and navigate these new waters.
Level 1: The Public ReplyJust about everyone, including Bill Gates (who if you have not heard, recently joined Twitter), has learned the importance of having both a means to communicate with people, and a channel where people can respond. Though you can do this on Facebook through comments on Fan pages and in groups, this seems most applicable to Twitter, where people use @replies to send and receive short, publicly viewable messages.
The public reply provides an open and transparent channel for people to interact with public figures, brands, and each other, without the pressure of response that comes with e-mail. Public interactions are a great starting point for engagement that never existed before social media, and if done correctly, can often lead to more fruitful direct communication.
Level 2: The Direct Message
Once a relationship is established through public communication, the next step is often a direct message within a social network. A direct message creates a private connection without opening the floodgates of e-mail. In fact, in may even be preferable to e-mail in the long term.
Why? Especially with Twitter, a DM has a character limit, and can only come from people you follow. If you have ten e-mails (of unlimited length and possibly unknown sources) and ten Twitter DMs, which are you likely to open first? For an increasing number of people, the answer is DM.
Once you make a connection through DM and get permission to follow-up via e-mail, the e-mail is often better received. Facebook, where most people allow private messages, can also be a means to take communication to the next level.
Level 3: E-mail
E-mail still has its place in this new era. It allows for more in-depth communication, can be easily forwarded, and sent to numerous people at once. When e-mail is used skillfully, it enables deeper communication. When not used effectively, it can become a huge time drain, as people write lengthy messages without much thought of the time and attention they are asking of recipients.
This fine line makes e-mail tough to master in the social media age. If you're looking to advance to the next communication level with someone, respect this direct and private channel, and be sure to keep your e-mails succinct and meaningful.
Level 4: Phone
Hearing someone's voice allows people to get a better sense of one another. While communicating via text, a person can take time to carefully craft his or her words, potentially presenting an image that may not be true or is harder to trust. A phone call allows for more immediate back-and-forth, and can be particularly helpful if a subject matter is delicate or people are considering a more in-depth relationship.
Some time back I was communicating with an editor about an issue that we had bounced back and forth several times. Finally she said, "Let's chat about it on the phone." This furthered the dialogue significantly and bypassed what may have taken weeks to sort out via e-mail.
Level 5: In-Person (or Video Chat)
I have met numerous people in person that I first communicated with via social networks. All of these meetings were enhanced by the natural progression of our first digital communication. While at one time face-to-face interactions were the entry point, today, in-person meetings often come at later stages.
Particularly if people are considering working on a project together, an in-person meeting allows for the most in-depth connection. For some people Skype or other video chat may be enough to experience this.
Too often people think communication is only through words, but our bodies communicate as well. They communicate how comfortable or uncomfortable we are discussing a matter, our level of passion for a subject, and our hopes and fears. Meeting with someone in person allows for communication to occur on multiple levels, and people often come away with a much better sense of each other.
ConclusionIn this era of social media when we are reaching out and engaging more and more people, the question is not just "Should I communicate with someone?" but "How should I communicate with someone? How can I build engagement one step at a time?" The more we allow for and understand the importance of all the various levels of communication, the more we can skillfully and effectively use each one.
More social media resources from Mashable:
- Zen and the Art of Twitter: 4 Tips for Productive TweetingImages courtesy of iStockphoto, TommL, PaulPaladin, Kohlerphoto, sandoclr
- The Tao of Tweeting
- How Social Media Has Changed Us
- 5 Tips for Building Lasting Online Friendships
- 4 Steps for Effective Online Networking