Social Butterflies Online Are Quite Possibly Really Dull in Real Life

Posted by Dan Verhaeghe

Social Media Week Toronto was a success with over 100 events in its fourth year running. A main takeaway from the week is that everyone has a different social media strategy and you have to figure out what works for your particular brand. Not even the most-followed people on Twitter have it all figured out. After all, some of the most followed people on Twitter are in fact the biggest social media cheats using those bots to add and remove followers that aren't following back! 

I attended "The Social Butterfly: Escaping The Net" led by Daniel Berkal of The Palmerston Group who attempted to show an audience the differences between online and offline social butterflies. He says that we're not social online, we're just connected because with no barrier to social convention almost everyone wants to be friends. 

The reality of places like Twitter is that there's few barriers to social convention so you can tweet your favourite celebrity and anxiously hope they reply back! Hence why some people include in their profile that they were retweeted or responded to by someone famous to give them a little more social proof. 

However, Berkal says that there's so many barriers to social interaction in the real world. It's only when we step outside the social convention barriers can we make a connection such as striking up a conversation on public transit or at a crosswalk.

Berkal continued in saying that social butterflies are aware of who is around them at all times, they ascribe a value to people, they are interesting, interested, encourage people to communicate, and are outstanding listeners that are able to adapt to rapidly changing situations. They are also good at being accessible and eliminate barriers to social convention. Further, they understand when they can say things, when the time is right to say things and are good at eye contact which allows you into someone's personal space which most people try to avoid in major cities like Toronto.

So maybe you try to act in the same way online as you do offline using some of the latter principles that work best for you. 

That's great and all but that's not going to get you followed online according to Daniel Berkal. His hyper-connected study of persons that had high Klout scores over 60 and a large amount of followers revealed that these people's social realities are distorted. They use charged and bold statements and only get feedback if their statement spurs a negative reaction. They lack the skill to mantain connection and then the audience loses interest even though they are are constantly being prodded. They live in an online environment where they act rather than interact. 

In fact, Berkal found that the most engaged online people were of extreme dullness in a real life setting. 

Berkal added that if you've ever seen those enthusiastic tweets coming from people at events that these are just social hyper-connectors constantly socially bragging on their phone about where they are rather than actually being a real life social butterfly at the present venue they are at. 

That's probably why the real life social butterflies you know don't have the most Twitter followers- but it's probably more likely that people with a reasonable amount yet heightened number of Twitter followers than the average person are more like the social butterflies we know and love than the top local celebrities in each major North American metropolitan area. 

As I've heard, real life reputation often trumps online reputation. 

But yes, it can work both ways when you do actually get to meet the people you've been talking to online in person. It's just a question of when precisely that moment happens if you'll actually have enough interesting things to say to be considered a real-life social butterfly too as one commenter from the audience said that she felt when Twitter hyper-connectors met in person they didn't have anything more to say because it was already said online.

As for brands, Berkal says companies have followed an archetype of safely building Internet fame by avoiding being an authority figure, using scripted conversation, seeking constant approval, self promotion, not acknowledging flaws, omnipresence and maintaining connections. 

If you watch enough Mad Men with Don Draper and work in social media, you shouldn't be scared to lose followers to gain more interesting and valuable customers. It comes with the territory when your marketing strategy alters which it will even in the most stable industry. You can't please every customer no matter how hard you try and you can't be everything to everyone but if you don't move forward fast enough with consumer trends you might get passed by the competition. 

While the results of The Palmerston Group's study may by no means be an accurate depiction of people's social butterfly online to offline propensity do you think the latter holds some truth? 

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Dan Verhaeghe

Dan Verhaeghe

Dan Verhaeghe focuses on marketing, mobile, major technology players, entertainment, and new media. Dan has a dozen years of online experience that dates back to the turn of the millennium where he dominated a now non-existent online RPG game for a couple of years at the age of 15. He would eventually become a Toronto Blue Jays blogger who earned his way into Toronto's CP24 studios six years... more




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