Sitting beside Janice on a flight is a fascinating experience. She’s naturally social and refuses to let you not be. Mind you, she isn’t annoying or overbearing, but pleasant, friendly and interesting. She asks questions that make you feel important, a part of her life though you’re really not. She’ll interject a factoid or two about her own story if the opportunity presents itself, but mostly puts you on stage and appreciates your little soliloquies of self-reflection.
Janice looks at her cell phone a couple times a day, checks email at the beginning and end of her day and works in between, only texts her teenage children to remind them to check in and set up a Facebook profile so her younger sister, Deneice, would stop pestering her about doing so. A successful financial planner at a large bank, Janice spends 3-4 hours each day pouring over projections, reports and forecasts, checks on market numbers through the company’s real-time dashboard and only occasionally ventures beyond the Wall Street Journal or Bloomberg websites. If she’s read a blog, she doesn’t know it.
But Janice is a connector. She collects memories of people she’s met, dined with, even sat beside on a plane. She refers people to others she knows, offers to email you their contact information and actually follows through in doing so.
Janice recommends products, too. She lit up telling me all about her new Ford Flex, calling it, “A soccer mom’s dream come true.” She even recommended some sort of Swiffer-esque lint wand to keep in my bag to clean my laptop screen and keyboard. When I told her about my children, she immediately started giving me alternative meals than chicken nuggets or pizza to fix for them when my wife leaves the meals up to me.
Even when I tried to focus on my laptop to do a little work, Janice interjected some other question that distracted me from the task at hand. Without seeming to do so, Janice prevented me from getting lost in my technology and gadgets and forced me to make a human connection with her so she could make one with me. At the end of the flight, I felt as good as I’ve felt in a while. We had a great conversation, learned a little bit about each other and ourselves and got some new products and services to think about using.
We were being social. Without a computer.
We were influencing each other. Without a blog or Twitter account.
We were sharing. Without clicking a button.
Before you get lost in your next gadget-assisted attempt at connecting with someone, remember that the Internet and technology allows you to do things. It doesn’t allow you to be anything.
It’s a mechanism. You are the platform.
As my friend Jay Baer recently said, “Your business shouldn’t ‘do‘ social. It should ‘be‘ social.”
To know if yours is, turn it all off, look your customers in the eye and see what happens.