Thursday, May 13, 2010

Be Social - What's Your Sawubona Moment?

Last month, Ben Smith (@benasmith) and Whitney Mathews (@whitneymathews from The World Company, successfully hosted the first Free State Social Conference with a bevy of amazing speakers; a local discussion panel (that I was lucky to be a part of); great old school, in real life conversations; and, an interesting mix of local/regional/national attendees made up of online newbies, powerhouse techheads, marketing/PR SMEs, and publishing whizkids.

My next few posts will not be recaps or reviews of the conference. Lots of local bloggers have provided excellent Free State recaps and review posts, Whitney captured most of them here. Remember the "here" link, we'll come back to it in my next post...promise.

Missed the conference? You can take it in via video archive. So no recap for me, I'm going to tap into a vein of thinking that lots of us have discussed before. It was the underlying theme of the conference. It's something that started with Chris Brogan's opening remarks and continued through out the GET social media you need to DO social media, in order to REALLY do social media, you need to BE social.

I See You and I Am One of You

Since I'm talking about what getting, doing and being social mean to me - and I'm chatty - it's going to take a series of posts. I can't wait for you to share what it means to you. With all of us contributing, this series could go on a while. Chris Brogan (@chrisbrogan) kicked off the Free State Social Conference keynote using his iPad. No talking just words on the screen. The first screen said "I See You" and the second is pictured with Chris above, "I'm One of You." Thanks to Simon Kuo (@simonkuo) of The Westside Studio for the use of the photo.

You Matter To Me, You Are Worth My Time
The first time I met Chris in person was in early 2008, we were both at the SNCR NewComm conference looking (via Twitter) for a late lunch buddy. I had been reading Chris' blog since early 2007, we conversed via email and Facebook. He had helped me develop Embarq's social media road map, got me going on my blog, we talked kid stuff and shared telcom shop talk so when we met in person, we had history. But knowing Chris, he would have had lunch with me whether he knew me online or not. That's just his M.O. He breathes the essence of what makes social media um...well, what makes social media social.

Though Chris shares content freely (some 2500 words of advice a day) via his blog, see Chris really excels as an in-the-moment, get out from behind the (insert whatever face-to-face barrier you use here) ie keyboard, screen, etc. sharer. He knows the secret sauce is in the big share and he knows sharing it will not only help others, but will ultimately propel Chris.

Back to our first in-person meet up, Chris and I sit down for lunch. I take my phone out of my purse-mom-bag-laptop tote and put it on the table in front of me. It's my barrier, well actually for me, it was my crutch. I'm thinking of it as my "cool kid" badge because I'm all smart phone hip, right? Yeah, well no.

Leave it to Chris to school me within 15 seconds of sitting down. At the same time, Chris takes his phone from his trouser pocket, hits a button (I'm thinking mute) and sits it on the table. But no...He says, "This is a distraction, so I'm turning it off."

The dude was not pulling a "this is what I need to do" lame "look at me, I have big ears" pulpit play. No posturing going here. This was early 2008, this is just part of Chris' DNA and it's something we all need reminded of:

Let the person (yep, the one right in front of you) know I see you and you matter to me.

Chris uses the Zulu term Sawubona to describe this common courtesy which is rare in practice and he has written many a post on it. The first post I remember is The Community Ecosystem.

That one gesture of shutting his phone off with the four words after "This is a distraction" is my best Sawubona moment to date. Can't wait to hear your Sawubona moment.

Next post will continue with me getting a lesson on "I am one of you" over salads. Yep, about five minutes into lunch.


Jason Falls said...

I sometimes have to force myself to have the Sawubona moments, but love when I do. Face to face, real personal interactions are so much more meaningful and valuable.

The best Sawubona experiences I've had are when I take the other person's phone, put it in my pocket, smile and say, "I need you for a little while. I'll give it back." It might be a bit rude, but it's a somewhat subtle way of forcing them into their own Sawubona moment, which they ultimately seem to find refreshing, too.

It's kind of a pay it forward thing for me, I guess.

Shawna Lee Coronado said...

For me, "the Sawubona moment" is not about the phone turn-off so much. Instead, it is the moment of perfect clarity when you meet someone and the rest of the room fades away. It's the intense moment in time when you look into someone's eyes directly and let them know that they have your attention 100%. You ask THEM questions and truly listen to who they are - their voice, their gestures, their return attention to you.

I believe that the people who are truly gifted with social media are also the people who understand what this connection means.

My first real "Sawubona" moment was when a former boss shushed me - twice - during an in-person business sales call. Instead of talking about my product, the boss had kindly told me to shut my big mouth. I turned my attention to the group around me. I listened so intently that the room faded away and the CEO of the company we were speaking with became more than just a sale - he became a real person. He had a family, with an ill daughter, he was stressed, and sad, and I suddenly knew what to say to him to make him feel better. The sale became secondary and he became first. He also became my number one client.

Work at the Sawubona moments... Great advice Zena!

Shawna Coronado

Shawna Coronado

Aaron_Strout said...

Zena - great post. My response here (podcast)...

Alexis Ceule said...

Fantastic! What a great reminder! You know, I've had intentional Sawubona moments for years. When I have someone at my home... live... in person, I never answer the phone. Ever. Why would I? I have a live friend with me right now. However, it backfires momentarily, when the guest can't believe I'm not answering the phone. In the end, I believe they appreciate it. I hope it leaves them with a feeling that I value them.

Naomi said...

Chris Brogan is sort of the Sawubona poster boy. The first time I met him, he was literally surrounded by gushing fans and I was standing off to the side with my business card, waiting for a break in conversation. He excused himself briefly, pulled me into the circle, gave me a huge hug and introduced me to everyone. I felt like I'd known him forever. Kind of like I felt when I met you, finally! Instant welcome, instant friend.

Shawna is right, the really good practitioners of social media get the connection. I believe that the really stellar ones pass the connection on, too. If you can take the time to set someone at ease and find out more about them, you can both learn so much. It's a good cycle to be in.

Silverzippo said...

Zena, awesome post and one that I have to constantly remind myself to remember. Life brings to us all to many distractions and it is way too easy to accede to them thinking that the "next thing" is the most important one. At the same time we miss out on the chance to connect in a truly meaningful way to people who are ready to engage completely right now. How many missed opportunities does that represent? Too many I think...

ChiMoose said...

I remember starting to hear about "social currency" - friending, following, commenting, etc. - in late 2007 or early 2008. And I heard about people "collecting" facebook friends in the thousands. That didn't make sense to me then, and it still doesn't, because collecting people is not the same as having relationships. So this concept didn't really make sense to me until twitter came along. That's when we discovered that they way to build a network or community on twitter was to find people who shared some common interest, and follow them. Revolutionary a-ha moment ... they will usually follow you back!

Twitter is also the place where I practice "sawubona" thinking with the greatest discipline and consistency. I remember when I first joined how nice it felt when people - especially people I admired - would follow me back. So every week for the last two years, I have reviewed my twitter followers - every one - and made a conscious decision about whether to follow them back (I use MyTweeple to do so, in case you're wondering). And my decision is pretty easy: It's based on @ replies. If I see that a person is engaging with others via @ replies, I follow them. Unfortunately, about half the new twitter accounts out there seem to be bots or people/brands shouting with a megaphone rather than listening or conversing. I follow every conversationalist - thereby acknowledging them as a person.

Vince said...

My ultimate Sawubona moment:

I had a dog named Ringo that I loved very much. He was all I wanted out of a divorce that happened seven years ago and he was my bridge from the marriage to finding the love of my life. He grew old . . . and tired . . . and could barely stand up. I had prolonged the inevitable for long enough.

My fiance and I brought Ringo to a clinic and met this old 70 year old country vetrinarian. He couldn't afford to retire so he helps out where he can at local shelters and as a mobile vet. They brought us to the back and had a nice big warm pillow that we could rest him on and gave us ample time to say goodbye.

He told us about the procedure and what was going to happen. They injected him with solution and soon Ringo was gone. Both my fiance and I were blubbering idiots. Right then, I looked up and saw this 70 year old country vet who had put down thousands of animals in his lifetime.

And he was crying too.

He saw me . . . and he was one of me.

Jay Baer said...

Great post Z. I've had Sawubona moments with Chris and others here, but my favorite recent example was so, so simple.

At his SXSW keynote to ~ 1,000 people, Gary Vaynerchuk stood at the entrance and shook hands/hugged every person as they came in the room.


Matthew Scott said...

Zena, I loved this post.

When I'm present at a Sawubona moment, or maybe even initiate a Sawubona moment, I see a person caring more about others than herself/himself. I see humbleness. I see strength.

Great post & thanks for reminding me the power of a Sawubona moment.

John Doyle said...

Great post Zena, the follow up comments are great as well.

I love when Chris begins a talk with Sawubona, really personalizes his approach.

My greatest Sawubona moment(s) is without a doubt the moment I saw pictures of my sons when they were assigned to us. We have two sons adopted from South Korea and when the adoption agency match a family with a child a packet with pictures and information are delivered to the family. I was working in NYC when my first son was matched with us. My wife picked up the packet while I was at work and left a copy of a picture on my windshield at the train station. I connected with him the moment I saw his picture, will never forget that moment. Had a very similar experience with my second son.

Great topic and thanks for asking for follow up!!


Lee Odden said...

I'm having a Sawubona moment right now as I finish this great post. My 6 year old daughter just came to my desk (home office) and is in need of TLC. Off to be a good dad. :)

Zena Weist said...

Great moments, reminders and advice guys! Thanks for sharing!

Ramsey Mohsen said...

I can relate to the Sawubona "Chris moment" you described. When I'm sitting at dinner with a friend or family member, I make it a point to place my phone on the table, but turn it over face-down. It's may way of gesturing Sawubona.

Jerry said...

Wow. I'm not sure what I'm more stunned by... how powerful such a simple act can be as either a giver or receiver or the fact that it took me so long to come up with an example.

I can think of plenty of times I've sat and talked with friends and family recently as I glance intermittently at the TV or my phone or the people walking by. It's easy to blame it on my self-diagnosed ADHD but there's really no excuse.

I watch my daughters and their friends interact with multiple conversations and no-stop text messages and wonder "like" how they "like" get "like" anything across.

My mom and I still have conversations that could be categorized as "Sawubona moments". I don't think about it at the time but when she and I talk we "see each other".

Thanks Zena (and Chris) for the great reminder of the importance of real social interaction and listening. It's a simple yet powerful gift.