What if you’re NOT social?

As social networks proliferate and more investment is made into them (and companies deploy their own networks trying to capitalize on the explosion in internet participation), I keep thinking about the people who aren’t all that social, not inherently “connectors” or are folks not much interested in virtually connecting.

I always thought not being social was, well, being antisocial. The weirdos who smell bad and can’t be trusted around small animals or children. The nerds with whom I connected who would prefer alone-time with code instead of hanging around with me after work. The meditators whom I always seem to stumble upon when hiking in the woods.

Then I became enlightened.

Some time ago I was in an executive workshop where my “motive profile” was taken. This profile was based on the work of the late professor David McClelland, in which he proposed that an individual’s specific needs are acquired over time and are shaped by one’s early life experiences. Most of these needs can be classified as either achievement, affiliation, or power (or what McClelland apparently wished he’d called that last one: influence due to “power’s” often miscontrued meaning).

I learned that I had a “power V” with 91% achievement, 28% affiliation and 74% power which is an entrepreneur’s profile (large organization CEO’s typically score the same but are in the upper 80th or 90th percentile in power).

When these results were handed to me by the workshop leader, I was stunned since anyone who knows me would laugh at the notion I’m low on affiliation and actually not a social animal. I pulled our workshop leader aside immediately, “28% in affiliation!?! But I *like* people, can talk to a rock and have always been perceived as an extroverted good host at parties and a fun coach and mentor,” I protested. Our workshop leader calmly explained to me (and the group) that what our scoring meant was the measure of what each of us needed to be whole and satisfied each-n-every day. Thus I had an innate drive to achieve, to influence others, but mostly didn’t need to be around or connect with people at all in order to meet my core needs. Affiliation with others wasn’t (and isn’t) a motivator for me.

This made perfect sense as it sunk in…though I find my best ideas and energy come from being around others and brainstorming but, I must admit, I do love solitude and need daily time by myself to feel right. Learning this about myself was (and still is) incredibly instructive, but when I think about my need to connect with others through social media and networks I have to chuckle: as a guy consulting in the social media space, ironically I don’t care all that much and don’t have a lot of energy for social networks, LinkedIn or networking in general.

So what’s the lesson in all of this for you?

I know several other leaders that are exactly the same way and I’ve discovered that we share motive profiles to a great degree. Same thing with even some college-age people I interact with weekly who love to influence, have a burning need to achieve, but couldn’t care less about socially networking — even if it’s trivial to do so in today’s connected Web — and I catch myself asking them all the time why they’re not embracing Facebook, MySpace or connecting with others over the Web.

What works to get me engaged is when people who are connectors — and love doing so like my friend Lonny Gulden, the man with the biggest rolodex in Minnesota and over 4,700 connections in LinkedIn — see the connection between people and the value it could create by putting us together and he does so. This is always highly valuable and I so appreciate it when he and others do it.

Here are a few of the lessons this post might give you when contemplating social media for you or your organization:

  • If you’re pitching your senior company leadership on getting involved in social media — whether in a startup or an established Fortune 100 multinational — chances are they’re a “power V” and simply don’t understand the need for social networks and connecting with others and it’s an abstract phenomena to them
  • One of the key reasons for companies to either get within existing social networks or, increasingly, start their own is to reach and leverage influencers and those who want to be connected. As you can see from my story in this post, chances are the leaders and influencers you want to reach could care less about playing in your sandbox unless you reach out, are a good host and engage them
  • If you’re like me, someone with a low need for affiliation, know that about yourself and be OK with it. Take steps to find the connectors in your life and ask them…point blank….to connect you.

As more of us get online and connected, there will be obvious adjustments needed to ensure accessibility for those lacking sight or mobility…but understanding human psychology and social needs will also help inform how you go to market or engage in virtual social networks.

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About Steve Borsch

Strategist. Learner. Idea Guy. Salesman. Connector of Dots. Friend. Husband & Dad. CEO. Janitor. More here.

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Connecting the Dots Podcast

Podcasting hit the mainstream in July of 2005 when Apple added podcast show support within iTunes. I'd seen this coming so started podcasting in May of 2005 and kept going until August of 2007. Unfortunately was never 'discovered' by national broadcasters, but made a delightfully large number of connections with people all over the world because of these shows. Click here to view the archive of my podcast posts.