Human Connection in a Digital World

Stefano Di Lollo  •  May 6, 2020  •  10 min read

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Human Connection in a Digital World

Several weeks ago, I had the absolute pleasure of being a guest panelist on Coacharya’s thought-provoking webinar series, “Business of Coaching” hosted by the lovely Nishmita D’Sousa and Magda Walczak. Initially, “virtual networking” may be perceived as a rather generic or tired topic, but it certainly acted as the catalyst to a multifaceted conversation about human connection in a digital world. The response I received within the hours, days, and weeks that followed our webcast truly tugged at my heartstrings. My inboxes, across social media platforms, were filled with an influx of heartwarming written and vocal messages which truly reconfirmed the validity of our webinar’s topic. 

Though I already responded to most queries, typically with a series of vocal messages, I felt the need to share some of the most frequently asked questions along with my responses as a follow-up blog post.

I’m so bad when it comes to networking, BUT you’ve truly opened a new perspective. Thank you for that, but I do have a follow-up question. What do you suggest that I do when I truly want to connect with someone but there’s been no response to my attempts for communication?

I always prefer to perceive virtual interaction through the lens of actual face-to-face interaction in order to allow that reflection to guide me. For a second, let’s imagine that we were at a conference, convention, or sitting next to a stranger on a flight. Certainly, we have all been in situations where we were eager to have a conversation with someone but their interest to interact did not appear to be reciprocated. Would we truly contemplate how to handle the situation, or would we simply read the non-verbal cues and move on? I’m hoping most would answer that they’d simply move on.

In reality, however, social media platforms and virtual professional networks are not actually face to face interactions. While you may be filling gaps by assuming that a person is intentionally avoiding your connection request or message, it may simply be that they don’t check their LinkedIn account on a regular basis… or they simply aren’t in a position to respond at the moment. Not all actions (or the lack thereof) are meant to injure.

How can I break through the noise by generating and posting creative content that will get me noticed in a digital world? Any tricks you could share?

Despite my creative background, I’m not a believer that people gravitate only toward perfectly polished content. For starters, I’d suggest determining what message you want to demonstrate to attract and engage your “audience” (I prefer the word tribe). Recognize that we all have unique value to share and no one can tell that story quite like YOU. In other words, if your purpose is clear in your own mind first and foremost, then your content will have a unique flair by default. If you focus on superficial details, such as the aesthetic quality of your content, you’ll quickly abandon investing time in it when you don’t see the desired results (especially if your message isn’t crystal clear). Imagine trying to sell your service as a coach by spending a fortune on a flashy designer suit or wearing an expensive piece of jewelry. You may stand out in a digital crowd, but will it truly entice a potential client to be interested in your offer?

Another aspect that you may want to focus on is pain points. What truly frustrates or irritates the people you are trying to help? How can you let them know that you have a solution to alleviate or eliminate those pain points?

I love the idea of posting videos of myself, but I just can’t get past the anxiety that comes along with filming oneself. I was wondering what alternatives I can explore that will still get me the engagement I’m hoping for?

Videos certainly offer a very human and dynamic form of content that typically receives higher engagement and is often the preferred form of media boosted by social media algorithms. Though I like to be an advocate for leaping out of comfort zones, I also refuse to preach about one-size-fits-all solutions. If self-made videos are not your thing, then there are always creative alternatives that may more adequately match your style or strengths. 

One suggestion I can make is to consider recording vocal clips of yourself talking rather and applying the audio to a photograph of yourself or a relevant image that you feel will inspire your audience. This alternative is still a video with a podcast-like feel, but with much less to worry about because there’s no filming involved. The advantage here is that your content will still have a human touch (your voice and potentially a photograph of yourself) and the social media algorithms will still boost your content as a video. 

I’ve been using an automated third-party application to send out connection requests with messages on LinkedIn. Thoughts?

I’ll be honest here and admit that I’ve done the same. For starters, be wary of any third-party application that isn’t clearly endorsed by LinkedIn as this could potentially cause your account to be temporarily or perhaps even permanently shut down. That having been said, I honestly feel that sending automated connection requests is much like spamming peoples’ profiles. If you’re truly trying to spark a networking relationship before skipping right to transactions, you may want to simply begin by requesting connections from those who you’re truly interested in engaging with. I’d much rather receive a request from someone who refers to something specific and personal about my work or LinkedIn profile than a generic message that’s clearly being fired out by an automated application.

How do I know which platform I should be promoting my services on? Should I just start accounts on all of them and test out which ones work best for me?

I truly feel that before one selects a platform for releasing content, one must do a little research to understand how social media platforms differ. For example, everyone identifies LinkedIn as a professional networking platform that’s also been referred to as “Facebook for professionals”. Meanwhile, Instagram is a very visual platform which means one would have to be more comfortable with posting photographs, videos, and Instagram-stories. Other platforms cater to younger audiences and encourage humor or dancing to garner attention. 

My advice is to first investigate and see if your target audience and other like-minded organizations are present within the platform space you’ve chosen to explore. This may simplify your selection of platforms.  I’d start with one or two before moving on to too many at once.

Posting creative content to attract my intended audience intrigues me, but I always feel pressured to do so and just can’t keep up with it. I attended one of your live talks where you mentioned unleashing prolific-quality-human-output. Can you expand on this?

I can see how posting prolific work of a certain quality that engages people in the most human of ways can certainly seem overwhelming to attain or sustain. If one doesn’t intend on being drowned out by the digital noise (or as I sometimes refer to it, a mundane sea of mediocrity), one must dedicate time to ONLY create content that communicates your clear message and offers value. By prolific, I’m suggesting consistently posting in order to have your content seen. 

My main suggestion is to never resort to posting online in real-time. Instead, schedule content creation planning months ahead of time. In fact, you may want to consider thinking of themes for those months and releasing content accordingly. This way you’ve greatly diminished the pressure of posting and you have a structure for what to post going forward.

I love your webinar! I’ll be honest, I feel a little deceptive when I’m reaching out to expand my network. Is there a way to not feel so “salesy”?

You are not alone! So many people claim to feel like the scummy used-car salesman you’d picture as the villain in a Hollywood movie. For coaches (as an example), it’s somewhat natural not to want to twist someone’s arm in order to gain a new client. This is why I always stress that networking should be about building a relationship first rather than trying to push a transaction. At the end of the day, you’re looking to expand your network. You’re not forcing anyone to purchase anything, and they have a choice to connect/engage or not. It’s about asking for permission, it’s not about manipulation or deceit.

I have a difficult time when it comes to being influenced by likes and followers. Thoughts?

To a certain degree, it’s normal (and quite human) to seek validation for what we put out into the world. It’s important however to recognize why you’re posting content in the first place. Is it for mass approval, is it to win a popularity contest, or is it to proudly wear your likes/followers as badges of honor? For me, the goal is to connect with my tribe. My tribe consists of like-minded peers and organizations, potential or existing clients, and people who may not recognize that I have something to share that is of value to them. So, for me, I’d much rather have the respect of few who authentically appreciate my work than of thousands who may not even realize that at some point they hit the like or follow button. 

So often I encounter people who make reference to my social media posts but have never visibly engaged with a single piece of my content. Based on my own personal values and beliefs, I don’t perceive likes or followers as a form of social currency. When I experience those moments where my own values are temporarily clouded (because I’m only human), I redirect my focus on my purpose-driven mission. It’s your authentic purpose, your “why”, that will ensure that you don’t resort to people-pleasing which can be detrimental to your personal brand, business, or creativity.

Watch the full webinar here

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Stefano Di Lollo

Stefano Di Lollo

Stefano Di Lollo is the Chief Creative Officer at Papillon MDC Inc., a professor in Montreal, Canada, and a Coacharya learner.


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