Going SocialOne thing that many successful people have in common is a mastery of human communication. What’s interesting, though, is how little we seem to value it as a society. While engineering and math are dominant as the best paying areas for undergraduates – biomedical engineering is the best-paid major overall, according to a recent Payscale survey – CEOs and entrepreneurs that invest in a better understanding of human communication often are often among the most successful. Here are some of the most invaluable observations about human communication that help businesspeople excel.

#1: We don’t even wait until we’re born in order to socialize.

Many of us know that just a few hours after babies are born, they attempt to imitate the facial gestures of the first people they meet. It’s our first real attempt at socialization after we emerge from the womb. However, what most people don’t realize is that we socialize even earlier if given the chance.

A recent study saw researchers use ultrasound to record the interactions of twin fetuses and found that they began reaching out towards one another just 14 weeks after conception. People are so inherently social that they don’t even wait until they’re really people to start socializing. Realizing this helps one see that there’s a social element to nearly every single thing we do in a business setting.

#2 Going Social is a Basic Human Need.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is a psychological theory developed by Abraham Maslow in 1943 that is usually defined as a pyramid, with the most fundamental needs at the very bottom and the desire for self-actualization at the very top. The most fundamental needs are physiological, such as breathing, food, water, and sex.

Next up on the pyramid is the need for the safety and security of the individual, the family, and property. After that come love and belonging: friendship and family. Once an individual’s physiological and safety needs are met, the remaining layers of needs are all related to social well-being.

I’ve seen CEOs that innately understand that positive social interactions are a great way to motivate their teams, and some that just miss the point and throw money at employees to pacify them. Low morale is often a problem; Gallup found that it accounts for $300 billion in lost productivity a year. Create a strong social fabric tying your team together, and you’ll see morale increase, usually accompanying growth in productivity.

#3 People Yearn for Community.

When you take a look at some of the fastest rising Internet properties of the last decade—Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest, and many more—they all have one thing in common: they are social hubs. They’re the digital equivalent of the town square in the old days. I see plenty of companies trying to build their own social hubs, but it’s far easier to leverage an existing social hub than build your own. If this was 1813 and not 2013, would you be trying to build your own town square, or would you bring your products to the existing gathering place? Successful CEOs and entrepreneurs need to understand that, whether online or offline, people are looking for places to gather, and a general feeling of community.

#4 Sometimes, Even the Smallest Bit of Socializing Goes a Long Way.

The basic principles behind online socialization are the same as those behind socializing in so-called real life. As I write this, for example, I’m sitting in a Starbucks on 75th Street and 1st Avenue in Manhattan. It’s 7:30 on a Sunday night, and I can count 18 people sitting alone. Most are on their laptops; a few are reading from piles

of newspapers in front of them. Oddly enough, at this time, not a single person seems to be sitting with someone they know; everyone is reading or working.

All of these people seem to have coffee next to them, but they’re not really here for the coffee. The coffee is essentially an admission pass entitling them to sit in Starbucks and read or write for as long as they please. The benefit of sitting in Starbucks, as opposed to working at home, is the availability of company, of human companionship. Even though no conversations are going on between patrons at the moment, all these people would rather spend three, four, five dollars for a drink, so that they can work in a big room surrounded by other people. When we go online, why would we lose our overriding urge to be sociable? It’s deeply embedded in all of us.

#5 Social Media is Making Humans More Social.

People are arguably becoming more social as a result of social media. A generation ago, it would have been nearly impossible for me to have over 900 friends. Just think about the time it would take to call, visit, and send snail mail to all of those people.

However, I have 900 friends on Facebook and follow many more people on Twitter. The cost of staying in touch has gone down dramatically, and by extension, so has the cost of marketing directly to a customer. Of course, as a result of costs going down, you need to break through much more noise in the marketplace in order to be heard. After all, just as it’s really easy for a customer to like your Facebook page or start following you on Twitter, it’s just as easy for them to stop following you. Each day, over 20 billion minutes are spent on Facebook. Not only is a high percentage of the world’s population on Facebook, but over half of its registrants log onto the site at least once a day. Most of this time is spent on at least semi-social activities. People are more tuned in and up for a social interaction than ever before.

#6 Humans Respond Better to Targeted Communication.

When I try to get my friends to support a campaign I’m running on Facebook, I don’t send a note en masse. Instead, I’ll reach out individually with a tailored note to each friend that I think might be interested. Does it take more time? Absolutely. But I also get a better return on my time spent.

Television advertisements aren’t particularly good at targeting specific consumers, but social media mirrors face-to-face communication in that it allows you to reach out to the right people with the right messages and not spend time or effort on everybody else.

#7 Social Media Will Continue to Grow as a Major Form of Human Communication.

A Pew Research Center survey released in August 2012 found that 69% of all U.S. use social networking sites. That’s up from just around half of all U.S. adults the year before! This figure was just 5 percent of all U.S. adults in 2005. That’s pretty dramatic growth in just a few years.

Social media isn’t a fad, and it certainly isn’t just for younger people. While the number of younger users continues to grow consistently, the gains made by baby boomers and older seniors are particularly interesting. 57% of respondents 50-64 use social networking, and 38% of those 65 and above.

CEOs and entrepreneurs whose product are intended for an older audience simply can’t assume that social marketing shouldn’t be a part of their overall outreach strategy.

Next Steps

So, how can you apply the above to your business? Whether you came up through the ranks from finance, operations, marketing, public relations, or any other discipline: know this: there’s a human communication component to virtually everything you attempt to execute. Pay attention to the communication element of anything you’re trying to accomplish in your business, and you’re more than likely to reap significant dividends.

Jeremy Goldman, a recognized expert in social marketing and communications, has managed e-commerce and social media for major brands, including Kiehl’s, TEMPTU, and Jurlique, and has consulted with numerous others.  He is currently the AVP of Interactive & Social Media for iluminage inc., a Unilever subsidiary he helped foujd.  He lives in New York City and tweets incessantly as @jeremarketer.

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