So-called social media, the much abused misnomer for the relatively new technological, almost virtual, communication gathering points fed largely by constantly evolving gadgets, is literally fantastic.
What had latterly been the stuff of fantasy has led to social and business revolutions, has liberated many-a-Dilbert from their cubicle and has clearly added a whole new dimension to communication. I’m a big fan. However I’ve always maintained that Facebook would never replace Facetime and it would appear that I’m not alone.
An article in the HBR this week backs up my sense of perspective and belief in the importance of the interpersonal moment, pointing out that despite the rise in the influence of “the machines”, “the face-to-face conference business is robust, we’re flying more miles than ever to interact with others, the brightest minds still converge on innovation hubs like Silicon Valley, and collaborative spaces in firms are increasingly popular”.
I was surprised to discover, for example, while working with UK super technology brand Arm Holdings that engagement is “all talk there” and their boffins hardly ever use internal social media – most of their communal communication being face to face. Their directors clock up masses of air miles ensuring that they visit their global offices regularly and pride themselves on their huddle meetings and open door policy.
As with many things in life, the answer doesn’t lie at the extremes but in the blend. Success clearly lies in appreciating the technology for what it is and integrating it with all-important, multi-sensory, face to face and cheek by jowl, congregating, gathering in person, pressing flesh, eyeballing and communing with colleagues. And there’s no more important time to promote this approach than during times of attrition when communities need leaders and the reassurance of warm words and a confidence boosting arm around the shoulder.