Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Thoughts On Social Capital

Every time I say this, I get a big laugh from my wife, my kids, and my friends, but it is so true: I'm shy.

No in that hide-in-your-shell kind of shy, where I'd rather lock myself in a room and only communicate with people from a distance. I'm shy when it comes to talking to people, one-on-one, where I feel that I'm expected to initiate conversation or keep a topic going in a lively, thoughtful kind of way. In that regard, I'm incredibly self-conscious and would rather have someone else lead the conversation.

Don't get me wrong: I like people and like to be social. It's just that sometimes, when I am among others, I feel incredibly uncomfortable finding words, starting conversations.

When I'm among people that I don't know well, I put on a brave face. Because I want to be there.

When I was asked to emcee Blog Out Loud, I wanted to do it because I like being out in public and I really wanted to meet other writers. And with my Toastmaster experience, I have no problem getting up in front of a crowd of people and speaking.

But during the breaks, when people milled about and were social, I either went over to people I recognized from Twitter and introduced myself (if they didn't know who I was) or I hung back and listened in on conversations. Starting conversations is not my forté.

This weekend, I attended the first-ever Social Capital conference at the University of Ottawa. It was a wonderful conference that was aimed at bringing the social media community together, to share ideas and inform. Being relatively new to social media (my Twitter account is only 10 months old; I only joined Facebook—under duress—about five months ago), I wanted to see what I could learn to make my blogs better, how I might even capitalize on them from a monetary standpoint. I also wanted to meet the people with whom I have only recently connected, to see them face to face, as I had at BOLO.

Andrea Tomkins, Shannon McKarney, and Rebecca Stanisic on earning dividends on your blogging investment.

I was going to exercise that social side of the social media conference. Am I ever glad that I went.

Until this weekend, I have forgotten the value in getting out there. In getting human contact. The people that I met were wonderful. The information I gained was valuable. In a nutshell, here are some points that I took away from the conference:
  • It can only take one small act to affect change.
  • Social media is all about having conversations—interests are more important than issues.
  • Trying to involve people in a cause will fail: focus on social interaction.
  • "Proceed until apprehended"—Stacey Diffin-Lafleur.
  • Set goals with your blog—plan content and be consistent.
  • I may want to consider selling ad space, but if I do keep them within my "brand" (which is essentially my reputation).

I really enjoyed the conference. And I found the greatest value I got from attending was meeting the people who share my interest in social media. I met many people that I had only ever spoken to through Twitter. And they are wonderful people.

I hope that in attending, I will now be able to be better at organizing my blogs so that you will want to come to them regularly, and that I won't disappoint you when you do.

Here's to moving forward. To being a better blogger, to being more involved in social media, in getting out there in being social.

And to no longer being so shy anymore.


  1. Hi Ross, suggestion: you can be less shy (more social) by "naming more names" and incorporating linked Twitter handles right into your blog, it's all about the reciprocity. Minor point. Major point is kudos to you for moving forward!

  2. Hi Ross

    I understand exactly what you're saying. In the past I had dreaded and avoided networking events. Organized chit chat with strangers was not something I was good at or liked. It's kind of bizarre, because I'm trained as a journalist. I have no problem in interviews, asking questions, speaking in public, but talking to random people? Ugh. The beauty of this social event was the shared interest and, in many cases, the rapport that has already developed online. As you say: Here's to moving forward.