From Socially Awkward to Social Alpha
October 11, 2011 5 Comments
Recently, I blogged about Nikon’s socially awkward moment. Today, I make a confession: I myself am socially awkward. I’ve been very introverted for the most part of my life, but in my constant quest for self-improvement, I realized that I needed to become better at relating with people. So for the last 5 years, I’ve been working on my social skills—and trust me, it is not easy work. On some days, after the exhaustion of keeping conversations going long after my introversion kicks in, I start to feel like it’s a lost cause. “This is hopeless,” I say to myself. “You just can’t change who you are.”
But wait—you apparently can, to some extent. Remember how my previous blog introduced Brad Geiser’s concept of organizations moving from the commercial to the social sphere? Well last Saturday, we had the honor of having Ms. Janette Toral (digital entrepreneur, experienced consultant, researcher, and speaker extraordinaire) of Digital Filipino talk to our class about the fundamentals of e-commerce. It was one of the most informative and inspiring talks I’ve heard in a while, and among many other useful things, she talked about Brad’s concept of the social alpha—people who naturally excel at forming communities of people around themselves.
In Ms. Janette’s interview with Brad, he talks about how most business models in the Philippines are based on the social alpha model, and how children of social alphas who aren’t like them (social betas) find it hard to sustain their parents’ business. His insights can also be applicable to anyone who wasn’t born a social alpha—and there are a lot of us, because alphas are rare.
We musn’t lose hope though. In the video, Brad discusses how businesses or brands can emulate social alpha behavior through social media. First, they must learn some key behaviors of alphas. Facebook contests and savvy updates might work well, but those aren’t social actions. In the social alpha sense, the internet is not just media; not just a communication tool: it’s a way of managing relationships with the people around you. Before they can be invited to events,or enticed with promos, brands first have to form relationships with their customers. It can be as simple as greeting people happy birthday. The idea of being a social alpha is caring about other people, which is why we can’t help but like them for it.
I agree that this kind of behavior works in the Philippines. We’re not one to compartmentalize work and our social lives. We might have a saying that goes trabaho lang, walang personalan, but we can’t help but be personally affected, even in tiny ways.Our relationships with people influence how we work with them, or if we’ll even work with them in the first place. Be a social alpha and everyone will love to work with you. Be a social jerk, on the other hand, and you’ll find that people are going out of their way to avoid you in both work and social settings.
So to the other socially awkward people and brands out there, we still have hope. At the end of the day, what matters reaching out to people and showing them that you sincerely care.