Oh, how we love our buzzwords, eh?

My head is spinning lately, and unfortunately it’s not with great stuff. It’s with frustration, distrust, and apathy. Those are heavy words, I know – but I’m feeling them.

How I do love these social media. I really do. Connections I’ve made on Twitter, Facebook, through my blog and by attending valuable events like Podcamps and PAB have literally changed my life. I’m a better writer now. I’m a public speaker. I’m teaching others how to work and play and grow their businesses with digital communications. 3 years ago I’d have thought none of it was possible.

And that’s why I’m so upset by what I’m seeing these days. The proliferation of snake oil salesmen, bad advice, and buzzwords that mean nothing is making me crazy. People are being swindled into paying thousands of dollars to attend conferences so they can be sold more fluffy eBooks and hardcovers. They are being forced to listen to the same presenters drone on about the same old stuff, as if it’s the wisdom of the ages. And people are getting suckered into it left, right and centre.

Be Authentic! Engage with your Customers! Increase your Influence!

Wait…wait. Think about those three words for a minute.

Authenticity. Well, I don’t know about you, but when I was a kid, my parents told me over and over again, “Just be yourself, and people will love you!”. If I lied to my parents and they found out – ZAP! No TV for a week. I was encouraged to be authentic, honest and truthful in my interactions. If I wasn’t, there were consequences. Therefore, I grew up being…well….Authentic.

Engagement. Being a military family, we moved around a lot when I was a kid. We were always posted in the summer, so the first step upon moving into a new neighbourhood was that my brother and I would have to go out and meet the other kids. Mom would stealthily identify in advance which houses on our street had kids my age, then she’d give me a gentle shove out the door. “Go to number 45, I think I saw a girl your age over there.”

“But Mom, I don’t want t…”

“Just go knock on the door, dear. They won’t bite!”

I’d suck up my courage and walk down the street and knock ever so quietly on the door. A parent would answer.

“Is your daughter home?”

“She’s in the back yard. Why don’t you go around?”.

I’d wander cautiously into the back yard, walk up to the little girl, and say “Hi, my name is Susan. It’s a pleasure to meet you. I like your Barbies.”, just like my Mom taught me. Say your name, be polite, compliment the other person. Engage with them on their level. Hey – that sounds familiar.

Yep – apparently I learned Engagement when I was 6 years old, too.

Influence. On the playground, we always had to figure out what game we were going to play next. Hide and Seek? Tag? Red Rover? The bigger the group, the harder it was to decide. But, there were always those in the group that seemed to be able to sway our opinions. They’d give compelling reasons like, “Well, there’s 15 of us today, so Red Rover would be the most fun”. Sometimes we’d listen to them because they’d provide a more risky option – one that, if our parents found out, we’d probably get in trouble.

These select few had influence over the group. Why? Well, sometimes they tended to be the older kids, so in our eyes they knew more. But age didn’t always define it. Sometimes the influential ones were just the ones that said stuff that made sense. If we did it their way, we’d for sure have more fun. We’d take a bigger risk. We’d try (and maybe even learn) something new.

Soon, I learned how to come up with creative ideas that would influence the group. I’d voice my opinion, and sometimes, other kids would listen to me too. I may have not been the most popular kid back then, but I discovered I could influence when I wanted to.

So I guess I learned Influence on the playground.

So, if the concepts of Engagement, Authenticity and Influence were learned when we were kids, why are we hanging on the every word of the people who know little, and do nothing but tow the line? Someone telling me that in order to be successful in social media, I need to Engage, be Authentic, and increase my Influence is like someone treating me like I’m 6 years old. And that’s kind of insulting, don’t you think? Can you see why I’m frustrated?

To be human, you need to understand these three concepts. It should go without saying that all of your interactions, online, offline, in person, in social media, writing a letter, going to the post office, visiting your Grandma, should be Authentic, Engaging and Influential. That’s humanity, not social media.

Well, maybe this doesn’t make any sense, and I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments. But before you do that, please watch this 4 minute video from my friend Andrea Ross. Because she is the embodiment of the things we SHOULD be paying attention to when it comes to being successful in this space. Thank you, Andrea, for your thoughts, your wisdom and your inspiration. You’re the real deal.

[photo credit: albyper on Flickr]