Online social media – are you a bee or a wasp?

I caught up with people champion Doug Shaw’s blog What goes around, today.

As ever it made me think.

Doug recently connected with a longstanding, trans-continental contact of ours, Canadian employee engagement flag bearer David Zinger. I’ve collaborated on a number of unique publications with David in the past and he has been racking up the air miles, characteristically extolling his own take on the virtues of networking through the unique perspective of the honey bee.

There’s an awful lot to like about David’s metaphor and his seemingly relentless enthusiasm for the ever-expanding engagement space. But I have noticed a number of cross-cultural differences in how the various nationalities approach what most people begrudgingly call “networking”. Regardless of whether it’s online, or face to face, the variances persist, they cause some dynamic tension and for some reason, the Atlantic ocean marks the fault line for many of the differences.

Perhaps it has something to do with the diverse ways we view sincerity vs irony, authenticity vs schmooze or dishonesty vs spin. But there’s little doubt that many of our American cousins take to the buzz of online business “networking” far more readily than their European counterparts. And they appear to have very different informal rule books.

Consider Facebook, for example. Despite the “must have a presence” paranoia, I’ve never believed that it was viable as a business development tool. It was never developed for that purpose. It came as no surprise therefore, that Google+ was invented to re-compartmentalise users and their networks and save everyone from the ignominy of having their sibling’s peccadilloes exposed against their will while discovering that what went on tour a decade ago, sadly hasn’t remained on tour.

It was never really viable to exchange business pleasantries with clients and prospects while swapping notes about Uni legends with reunited friends.

I guess, if we’re interested, we all need to experiment in the online networking space and to set the fault line between personal and business at our comfort level ourselves, while respecting that of our contacts. Perhaps so-called social media may actually be helping us fine tune our empathy receivers within our respective hives? Perhaps!

It’s certainly challenging us and making us think and that has to be a positive thing.

There’s much about the buzz about bees and colonies that makes sense. It’s important, from a business perspective that we all find ways to connect that we’re comfortable with. Sadly, however, not everything clad in yellow and black is benevolent. Contacts can sometimes turn out to be a waspish, buzzing nuisance. Especially if they see the entire social media playground as an open venue for endless self-promotion, not recognising that some people may simply be trying to enjoy a sociable, relaxed picnic and are not waving but swatting.

Bees vs Wasps (some observations)

Networking bees: add value; build value; practice what they preach; cover some virtual mileage; leave the network a better place; respond to the differing needs of complex audiences; make it clear that there is a sting in the tail & that they have something to sell (like most people) and aren’t ashamed of it becuse they know its a valuable commodity

Intrusive wasps: lead with the sting; cover just as much ground; make an awful lot of noise; persist when it’s fruitless; appearance and actions are contradictory; fail to listen and react and give very little back


7 thoughts on “Online social media – are you a bee or a wasp?

  1. Hello Ian – being a Tranmere Rovers supporter I can’t recall ever having seen my name associated with the word champion before now – thanks for that (waving not swatting!).

    The whole networking thing is very interesting to me. I like to participate because I find people interesting, so I enjoy meeting them and listening to what they have to say. I find this a much more engaging pursuit than attempting to be interesting myself. My experience shows me that those who see this space as you’ve put it like “an open venue for endless self-promotion” are rarely of much good to anyone, save perhaps the business card printers.

    And as you’ve hinted, experimentation can be useful. For the most part I’d rather have a play with something and see if it works, and maybe if it doesn’t, go back again and try later. That said I’ve not been drawn into Google + yet, there are only so many things my small brain can manage at any given time.

    Cheers – Doug

    • Well put, albeit I meant what I said about the champion tag – implying that you must be doing something right on the interesting to inspiring/networking scale.
      As for Tranmere though, I think they’re one of the reasons I mostly follow rugby these days 😉

  2. Ian:

    You are creating buzz. I read the post and of course anything with engagement and bees sure gets my attention. I have just put some new objects in the hive…invitations to bee artistry. I like how online brings us together in meaningful ways in person. As Weeks and Fayard stated in the HBR blog post today about the blurring of face-to-face and virtual encounters, “we need to fine-tune the balance…so that people don’t just interact more they interact more fully.

    I feel safe in the community of actual honeybees and no so comfortable around wasps. Yet bees also work in the dark, are in danger of colony collapse, and will cook the queen bee if she fails to do her job (talk about tough mother/daughter relationships) and the drones just hang around for a chance to mate with a queen and die.

    I just got you book on Brand Champions today and the characters on the cover look a bit like scout bees leaving the hive while also bringing much back to the hive.

    And about Rugby…I understand England will wear all-black in New Zealand for the World’s this fall. That seems to be flirting with a brand but I also understand New Zealand said they were okay with it. Would be interesting to see what kind of Haka the English side could put together before the start of a match.

    Take care and carry on caring,

    • Engalnd in black, David? Bee analogy aside, that’s the proverbial red rag to a Kiwi bull!
      Rather suspect their greatest opponents will be their own fans, however……
      Martin Johnson was never a song and dance man. But when he won the world cup in Sydney even he may have managed a bit of a private jig!

      The HBR blog was very interesting (
      Much common sense in a world where most people have the rare opportunity to shape the engagement space through participation and generosity (as you know yourself).

      Not many bees in Brand Champions but you’ll doubtless enjoy the stories just the same.
      The core premise is that big brands largely survive on the back of the efforts of the workaday empoyee rather than the superstars, so not a huge stretch to appeal to folk with a taste for honey.
      As for cooking queens, well you may have heard about the former CEO of News International…..
      Good to see you here…but I’ve been hearing disturbing reports that you’ve developed a taste for Irish ale on your travels!
      All the best.

  3. Interesting post. I’m curious about the analogy and if taken further how much weight it could bear given the topic. The importance and benefit of bees is not lost on me and certainly something that would be nice to have said about you, but I’m not sure about the wasp angle. Just because we can’t see the benefit of the thing, doesn’t mean there’s not benefit to be had…just thinking out loud.

    Regardless, the point of your post is well put – thanks for helping to quantify the gut reaction we all feel when we run across the “wasps” of the virtual world.

    Experimentation is the key and allowing your true nature to flourish wherever and whenever possible will keep you into projects that give life and fulfillment.

    Thanks again for the words.

    • Thanks for popping by Steve and for “thinking out loud”.
      Looks like you’re up to some interesting things in your own space, so feel free to experiment here (donning black and yellow, though, is entirely optional 🙂 )

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