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I don’t believe real conversation can happen online. Sure we can exchange tweets and comments, but you have to leave the digital world and meet that friend in the real one to really connect.

Skype or Google+ hangouts maybe an improvement over text, but as George Michael sings: let’s go outside!

Something happens when you meet in person someone you’ve only interacted with online.

 

The experience of seeing their body language, of participating in a totally off the cuff conversation, leaves you more invested. (unless they suck, of course).

Social media is a great way to meet people. But like any networking event, it’s only the beginning of a relationship. You have a few seconds to make an impression. If the impression is positive, you go on to find things in common.  Then it’s a follow up with a coffee or a meeting. This may result in a business deal or simply a new buddy.

And what about businesses?

Companies use to talk to their clients. This was the way the world worked up until the industrial revolution and mass media.  Now, companies are so used to blasting ads that it’s taking them a long time to understand that social media brings them back to a time when customers were actually a part of their community.

It’s impossible to have a conversation with thousands of people at a time. You can talk to them, ask for questions, or a show of hands,  but you can’t talk with them. To do do that, you have to listen.

I have trouble listening to more than two people at the same time, it’s impossible to actively listen to more than that. OK, unless you’re a teenager.

While social media conversations are a good approximation of the real thing, effort still has to be made to reach out beyond the twitter sphere to make real connections.  This may not be feasible if you’re in Mexico City and I’m in Montréal.  In this case, connecting on Google+ hangout might be a decent compromise.

Brian Solis concludes in his recent post  The End of Social Media 1.0 that:

1) Businesses must first realize that there’s more to social media than just managing an active presence, driven by an active editorial calendar…

2) Consumers want to be heard. Social media will have to break free from the grips of marketing in order to truly socialize the enterprise to listen, engage, learn, and adapt. You can’t create a social business if the business is not designed to be customer-centric from the outside-in and the inside-out.

3) Social media becomes an extension of active listening and engagement…

To engage with a real person in a real way it’s best to look beyond your monitor.  It’s like a blow-up doll, it might be ok in a pinch, but it ain’t nothin’ like the real thing – baby.

 

Your turn.  Is there a firewall between your online and offline friends?

 

About Ray Hiltz

Ray Hiltz is a Google Plus Specialist and Social Media Strategist helping small businesses establish their brands and build their communities on the social web. A strong proponent for the power of collaborative communication and "humanized" digital networking, Ray writes about social media, social business and Google Plus. His clients include hotels, restaurants, consulting firms, entrepreneurs, writers and individuals just trying to make sense of "social". Ray is a popular speaker on Social Media, Social Business and Google+.