Interpersonal Skills Are Key To Social Media, Not Tech Skills

As Einstein said, “No amount of experimentation can ever prove me right; a single experiment can prove me wrong.” So, until it is disproven, I’m sticking with the following. All I can do is go with my intuition.

Since my first exposure to social media and internet interactions, I’ve believed that the primary necessity behind all of it is the ability to understand people. Failure to leverage social media and internet technologies such as Facebook and blogs are fundamentally not a lack of tech savviness but a lack of interpersonal skills. If you or your business do not understand and value interpersonal skills, you are not going to enjoy nor “succeed” in social media. You have to understand people and human interactions in order to get it. If you don’t understand this reality in the real world, good luck trying to fake it on the internet. There is a certain degree of Emotional Intelligence required. The internet and it’s tools are just an extension of your already existing character. The important thing to realize is that it is not the tool that is bringing you ‘success’, it is how you use it plus what and how you communicate with others that (I believe) is a precursor to your abilities on social media. It wasn’t just the guitar that made Jimi Hendrix famous (hundreds of millions of other people have played the guitar), it was how he used a guitar that made him a famous musician. In that sense, you could say it was Hendrix’s content that set him apart. And if that is a fair assessment, then you can say it was his ability to understand people, his talents, and his trade that made him a great musician. If it’s true that culture is a mirror, then perhaps social media is the handle.

Past business activities required press releases and public relations firms in order to “engage” with the market, but the funny thing about social media is that individual users never needed a PR firm to make their move to social. We used these platforms as more efficient ways to communicate (verbally and non-verbally) with our friends, family, and acquaintances…because that’s where the people were. The platforms (sounding boards) themselves remove the need for such barriers and put the power in the hands of the users. Now, this can be a great thing if used properly, but a detriment if left unchecked.

As an example, there’s a reason the Facebook community responded with special profile pictures, groups, status updates, and discussions after the 2007 Virginia Tech Shootings (a subject I studied during an independent study on online communities at the University of St Thomas during my Senior year). Users (both on and off VT’s campus) had a platform through which they could update their friends, check in on friends, show support, vent, grieve, and gain news information from multiple known sources via

Facebook Groups Created In Response To The 2007 Tragedy

Facebook Groups Created In Response To The 2007 Tragedy

Where else could a situation like the one at VT occur that would allow you to efficiently communicate with 500 points of contact instantaneously anywhere in the world with a few keystrokes? None! That’s what I mean, it’s about the interpersonal nature.

Without knowing where you are coming from and where you fit in, you will not have any clue about what makes you or your experiences interesting (you can seamlessly substitute your business in this statement if need be).  If you are going to share something with the world, it is more valuable if it is interesting to the viewers/audience, but if you never have a clue what interests them and how to spot interesting things in your day-to-day, you’re going to come up empty. Social media and internet technologies are just a reflection of what you currently have to offer in the real world. Now, this is not to say that there aren’t parts of people intentionally kept hidden from the public. Personality can come out and flourish online. Think about a girl who (maybe) never sings in front of friends, but goes on to make a YouTube video in the comfort of her own house that gets 5.3 million views…THAT’S something that was already with her, but was never shared…She’s now selling her music on iTunes and has received well over 70 million views of her videos on YouTube.



That’s social media. It’s not called sales media. It’s not called silent media. It’s social media because it is the next step in internet evolution. We used to surf the internet privately and sometimes anonymously, but now we’ve realized that there could be exponentially more value if we could interact not just with static web content, but with other dynamic users. In essence, it’s one thing to just drive past a large billboard of Shakira, but it’s another thing to get to be a fly on the wall or a visitor to one of her recording/performing sessions filled with a bunch of other Shakira fans. Through social media, that’s possible without leaving the comfort of your own home all because she understands the interpersonal dynamics at play.


~ by Adam Maikkula on September 8, 2010.

2 Responses to “Interpersonal Skills Are Key To Social Media, Not Tech Skills”

  1. Adam, great messages here. Do you mind if I steal some for my education moment @ my BNI chapter meeting. I’ll give you all the cred!

    • No problem at all Dr. Smith! Glad you found value in it. Please let me know what type of feedback you get from your group/peers. I will have to swing by your place someday soon to chat.

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