Thursday, February 12, 2009

Power of Perception

I had a conversation this week with Brent Friar, an everyman web programmer and owner of BNR Branding (that's a compliment by the way), regarding online networking and the use of social media in Charlotte. We both are fairly frequent Twitterers (@tjustinmoore and @bnrbranding) which led to the question: "What makes someone an expert online?"

The question holds extra weight in today's technology and social media driven society. The face-to-face, although the most authentic and effective means of communication, is losing ground as people rely more on hand held devices to do "hands on" work. How can I trust someone I've never met or barely know with my business interests?

It reminds me of the scene from Dumb & Dumber when Lloyd (Jim Carrey) tells the little old lady in the motorized chair to watch his stuff while he breaks a dollar - he returns to no old lady and no possessions. Funny, but real.

What identifies someone as an expert? More specifically, how do you accurately judge someone's level of expertise based on their social media status/profiles alone? Maybe I'm a trust Scrooge, but that doesn't tell me much.

Is it their thousands of followers on Twitter? Is it their name appearing high on Google's SERPs?

Thousands of followers implies credibility and expertise - sense enough - but who accredited that person and why? How responsible is it to take a stranger's word when it comes to the expertise of someone who communicates in 140 characters or less?

It boils down to one word, one concept, one phenomenon: Perception.

Human beings live, breath, purchase, eat and communicate based on how they perceive a given situation, item, product, person, etc. So what determines our perception?

"Motivation affects perception," according to psychologists. For example, if a person is driving down Main Street with an empty stomach, they'll notice all of the restaurants. If their "check engine" light is on, they'll spot all of the gas stations. If it's Valentine's Day and they haven't bought their significant other a present (be honest), the jewelers will likely jump out.

The moral of the story: Be mindful of your motivations. Yes, it sounds like something Yoda would say. No, I didn't steal the line from him.

Whether you're job hunting online, expanding your social network, looking for a garage door repair service (Charlotte seems to have enough of those), or just absorbing local news, take into consideration your current state of mind and why you're pursuing that information.

A few additional tips for prepping your perception:
  • Google it - yes, this is somewhat contrary to one of my skeptical statements above, but you need to acquire as much info about this person, product, place, etc. as you can before making a final decision.
  • Create a measuring stick and use it! If the person doesn't meet your expectations at first look but they seem to have a lot of "street cred," go with your initial reaction.
  • Follow their followers - if the endorsement comes from someone who has nothing to do with the industry, is it really an endorsement?
Good luck and may the force (of perception) be with you!

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Online Social Networking in Charlotte

If I had a dollar for every hour I've spent engaged in online social networking endeavors, well, I'd no longer need to worry about social networking. Alas, the big picture, or in this case a smaller picture, has appeared before me...

Twitter, LinkedIn, Guru, Facebook and similar social media sites have been my primary focus of online networking. This is not a bad thing. You, me, we all want and need visibility on these sites for various reasons, but I had overlooked vast and valuable local social networking opportunities in Charlotte and the surrounding areas.

As a result, I've transitioned my efforts towards local online networking groups the past couple of weeks. Yes, the light bulb came on a little late (should be using CFL's!), but it's burning bright now.

A sampling of good social networking sites in the Charlotte area:
Some great Charlotte area public relations professionals and social media gurus on Twitter:
My Creative Team has a great list of Twittering journalists from around the globe.

Cheers and congrats to the fine folks in the Charlotte area who help the public relations, marketing, communications and general social media family grow on a daily basis!