In the age of working social media, Twitter is the water cooler, FaceTime means smile at the phone, Instagram, Pinterest is for eye candy and the closest encounter your team may have is via a networked chat or a Google Hangout. No worries! If we follow the same set of rules for good relationships that have always existed, but translate them into our digital world, we’ll be fine. It’s something that is top of mind for many brands now. People hire people. People work with people. People learn from people. People care about people. This will always be the long game in my view.
Take the handshake. Let’s take a look back at it’s history for moment:
Handshake 1.0. Back in the day, this involved a face to face meeting of human beings, and the following advice: keep your grip firm but not overpowering, relaxed but not limp, and make eye contact. Eye contact was critical, be it for a boom of a first impression or to seal a deal. It transmitted integrity, authority, enthusiasm, energy and emotion. Caveat here: the more global our business, the more we came to understand that not all cultures put the same stock in the handshake. Take a bow much?
Handshake 2.0. As the top of our desks became desktops, this involved a meeting of machines: Mr. Fax learned to talk to Ms. Copier, etc. Most of us didn’t know what was being transmitted besides data, but there were times when everything got along and times when they didn’t. Caveat here: During this era of holding our breath until a successful mechanical handshake, we also learned terms like “Wait for the tone,” “Incompatible,” and “IT guy.”
Handshake 3.0. Circa the age of social, we’ve taken back the handshake to involve people again. But now there aren’t any hands. Face to face may involve a visual presence (Twitter Chats, FaceTime, Google Hangouts), but it just as well may not (Twitter, Social, Forums). In this new context, our contact point isn’t skin. It’s bytes and bites (sound, words that is). But we’re still trying to transmit the same qualities as we did originally, though with a far more evolved sense of emotional intelligence.
Integrity goes (and excuse the phrase coming next) hand in hand with digital culture or at least it should be like this. In order to transmit all those positive qualities via this new definition of the digital handshake, we simply transfer them to digital. It’s a boon for everyone, from leadership to teams, Marketing, HR to finding talent so long as we understand the new rules:
1) Do Your Diligence. When you’re making contact with someone via social, pay attention. Visit their bio and get a bead on who they are. It demonstrates an authentic interest in them, which we all know is critical in good relationship building. Hint to candidates: you can make it easier. A recent study found that 84% of job hunters found a personal website helped pave the way.
2) Name Names. Even if they have a different handle, make an effort to find out their name. That makes a critical connection.
3) Be Responsive. Huge issue in recruiting talent. I’ll never forget a heartbreaking comment I received in which a job applicant received only 1 out of 10 responses from the companies she applied to for a new role.
4) Be Quick. The social age and its broad spectrum of connected generations means dramatically shortened acceptable response times. Even if you’re busy, overwhelmed, can’t breathe, send a quick reply. Timing is everything: if you don’t have time to provide answers, it just shows you’re listening.
5) Be Empathetic. In place of the traditional signals of physical proximity, we’ve got to develop a keener emotional intelligence. We need to understand both sides: known our own emotions and reactions, be able to read people’s feelings and reactions, and be able to adjust our tone to foster, not alienate, connection.
6) Speak Small. Nothing negates an impact more than broadcasting. Make sure you’re inviting dialog. The back and forth in social is fertile ground: it drives engagement and nurtures associations into friendships, and friendships into collaborations. Social has inverted the proportions of how we relate: the bigger the statement, the less we invite connection.
Whatever side of the relationship you’re on, the influence embodied in social is powerful, and it works both ways. We see it in HR, we certainly see it in branding, marketing and consumer relationships. But whether in real time or a Facebook feed, authenticity is the real deal. One thing it depends on: translating your brand, be it personal or company, across multiple platforms with transparency and consistency. We all like to know whose hand we’re really shaking, after all. That’s never going to change. And that’s a good thing.
A version of this was first posted on Forbes.
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