Don't sweat, don't sweat, don't sweat, I told myself.
It was my first meeting as a social media professional. I haven’t been that nervous since I was a cub reporter 13 years ago interviewing a gubernatorial candidate.
Eventually I relaxed, anticipating the usual small talk that precedes any meeting, even one that has the potential to be a lasting business partnership.
And then the public relations executives entered the room. Brief introductions, straight to the conference table and right down to business.
Small talk never came, and instead, they dove straight into the interrogation of the business - what is it #Strella does and whether or not we could help their clients.
I listened, realizing I was receiving trial by fire. Soon, I found questions for the executives coming to mind, suggestions ready to leap from my tongue. Maybe there really wasn't reason to be nervous after all. This wasn't so much different from interviewing politicians.
Social media has differences from traditional media, particularly in terms of social's decentralized structure, rapid evolution and no need for formal credentials. As someone who worked in newspapers, this is a good read about the differences between social and traditional media.
Our interview with the public relations firm revealed more than simple differences.
They kept asking if we did search engine optimization (SEO). While SEO is a benefit of a sound social strategy, we don’t do straight SEO. This divide dominated the meeting, and is a good illustration of how difficult it is to explain social media’s role within the larger online world.
People sometimes think that social media can be boiled down to a “one-size-fits-all” strategy, but I know that’s never been Rachel’s approach.
For her, it's about communication. When you go to a networking event or a cocktail party, you're developing relationships. Having a glass of wine or sharing a dinner table with the president of another company doesn't mean tomorrow they'll buy something from you. But now you have their card, and you know what they did last weekend, and that they like fly-fishing.
You developed rapport with that person. They'll remember you, your love for NASCAR, or your fanaticism for the Yankees. And if they feel they can relate to you, they're more likely to do business with your company.
That's social media. It's the digital version of the cocktail party on a constant, less alcohol-infused basis. The key is not to stand in the corner and wonder why no one is buying your product or service, but to get out there and talk to people.
That's why golf is so popular with business people. It’s a social game and one where you learn more about a person's character, according to this article in The Economist.
That's what was missing from our meeting: social interaction. Even if it was a productive conversation, it still felt like an FBI interrogation.
If a social media professional is going to help you and your business, then show them who you are, not just what you sell. People do business with those they like or respect because of their expertise. Do they trust you?
But no one will know if you're likeable, knowledgeable or trustworthy, if you don't share yourself.