5 Levels of Effective Communication in the Social Media Age
In the era of social media, our networks are much larger than they have ever been, and we have more ways to communicate with those in them. Even if you
are not very active on Facebook or Twitter, my guess is that your sphere of communication has expanded significantly
in recent years. Who you communicate with and how you communicate has changed
radically. This new
connected era brings both opportunities and challenges.
In the past we had a set of contacts, all of whom generally knew how to reach us — via phone, e-mail, or regular mail. Today, thanks in large part to
social media, we have many different levels of communication, each with a
specific purpose and etiquette. When we do not understand the role of these
levels, they can become huge time wasters. When we do understand them however,
they can help us more effectively engage and navigate these new waters.
Level 1: The Public Reply
Just about everyone, including Bill Gates (who if you have not heard, recently joined Twitter), has learned the importance of having both a means to communicate with people, and a channel where people can respond. Though you can do this on
Facebook through comments on Fan pages and in groups, this seems most
applicable to Twitter, where people use @replies to send and receive short,
publicly viewable messages.
The public reply provides an open and transparent channel for people to interact with public figures, brands, and each other, without the pressure of
response that comes with e-mail. Public interactions are a great starting point
for engagement that never existed before social media, and if done correctly,
can often lead to more fruitful direct communication.
Once a relationship is established through public communication, the next step is often a direct
message within a social network. A direct message creates a private connection
without opening the floodgates of e-mail. In fact, in may even be preferable to
e-mail in the long term.
Why? Especially with Twitter, a DM has a character limit, and can only come from people you follow.
If you have ten e-mails (of unlimited length and possibly unknown sources) and
ten Twitter DMs, which are you likely to open first? For an increasing number
of people, the answer is DM.
Once you make a connection through DM and get permission to follow-up via e-mail, the e-mail is often
better received. Facebook, where most people allow private messages, can also
be a means to take communication to the next level.
E-mail still has its place in this new era. It allows for more in-depth communication, can be easily
forwarded, and sent to numerous people at once. When e-mail is used skillfully,
it enables deeper communication. When not used effectively, it can become a
huge time drain, as people write lengthy messages without much thought of the
time and attention they are asking of recipients.
This fine line makes e-mail tough to master in the social media age. If you’re looking to advance to the
next communication level with someone, respect this direct and private channel,
and be sure to keep your e-mails succinct and meaningful.
Hearing someone’s voice allows people to get a better sense of one another. While communicating via
text, a person can take time to carefully craft his or her words, potentially
presenting an image that may not be true or is harder to trust. A phone call
allows for more immediate back-and-forth, and can be particularly helpful if a
subject matter is delicate or people are considering a more in-depth
Some time back I was communicating with an editor about an issue that we had bounced back and forth
several times. Finally she said, “Let’s chat about it on the phone.” This
furthered the dialogue significantly and bypassed what may have taken weeks to
sort out via e-mail.
I have met numerous people in person that I first communicated with via social networks. All of these meetings were enhanced by the natural progression
of our first digital communication. While at one time face-to-face interactions
were the entry point, today, in-person meetings often come at later stages.
Particularly if people are considering working on a project together, an in-person meeting allows for the most in-depth connection. For some people Skype or other video chat may be enough to experience this.
Too often people think communication is only through words, but our bodies communicate as well. They communicate how comfortable or uncomfortable we are
discussing a matter, our level of passion for a subject, and our hopes and
fears. Meeting with someone in person allows for communication to occur on
multiple levels, and people often come away with a much better sense of each
In this era of social media when we are reaching out and engaging more and more people, the question is not just “Should I communicate with someone?” but
“How should I communicate with someone? How can I build engagement one step at
a time?” The more we allow for and understand the importance of all the various
levels of communication, the more we can skillfully and effectively use each
Encontrado via twitter por: @joannaprieto
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