The Very Best Book Ever Written on Social Networking Was Written in 1936

I've had several discussions lately with business people who are self-admitted social media skeptics.

They've heard all the "buzz" about how great tools like Twitter, Facebook, blogs, YouTube or Flikr are for attracting new clients, but for them, it just hasn't clicked yet.

Let me start by admitting that social media can become a giant "time suck" if you let it. Like anything else involving the internet, it is very possible to spend more time online than you can actually afford.

Moreover there is the issue of allowing employees the freedom to check out YouTube videos or their Facebook account during business hours. There is always that balance between getting the work done and actually making business contacts that are valuable for the business itself.

That said, I think the biggest barrier is simply not understanding the difference between the "social media" and "social networking."

  • "Social media" refers to the technology of the actual sites like Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, etc. These are merely the tools.

  • "Social networking" refers to the human behavior using these tools that is the real reason some business people are finding such incredible success with these sites.

"Social networking," in a business setting, refers to making friends, generating word of mouth, building trust and credibility, positioning one's self or business as an authority within your field, educating potential clients, solving problems, sharing information, giving and receiving referrals, being generous (even when your generosity is directed toward someone who can never put money back into your own pocket directly), and a whole host of other behaviors that enlightened business people engage in every day.

Moreover, "social networking" is actually not new at all. In fact I often tell people that the very best book ever written on the topic of social networking was written in 1936.

You may have heard of it, it is called How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie.

Long before Tara Hunt popularized the word, "Whuffie" in her book, The Whuffie Factor: Using the Power of Social Networks to Build Your Business, Dale Carnegie was also preaching the gospel of building social capital by, well, winning friends and influencing people.

I was very fortunate to speak to a local chamber of commerce yesterday about this very topic, and I was impressed by the fact that many of the business people there who had very little understanding of how the technology of social media fit into their business model, were absolute experts in the area of social networking - even if they had never visited Twitter, Facebook or YouTube.

It was going on all around us. Business people helping others by simply sharing ideas and contacts, or by simply building relationships.

That's really all social networking is. Except that when you throw in the technology of social media, this networking works faster and enables relationship building to reach beyond the limits of local geography.

It's kind of like working a giant room.

The principles Dale Carnegie wrote about in 1936 are still true today on Twitter and its companion social media platforms:
  • Be a good listener and encourage others to talk about themselves,
  • Give honest praise and appreciation,
  • Become genuinely interested in other people,
  • Talk about what interests the other person,
  • Make other people feel important and do it sincerely.

Certainly that is still good advice for us today.

In closing, I read a tweet just today that said, "Twitter is a conversation, not a microphone." I think Dale Carnegie would agree.

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COPYRIGHT © 2009, Charles Brown
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