Discussions during my trip to Berlin, Germany, a few days ago prompted some thought in my mind about a key element in the overall social media puzzle – people’s behaviours.
Especially from a business communication perspective, social media are tools and channels, no more. Which of them you decide to use, and how you may use them, is influenced by your own behaviour and that of those you wish to engage with.
Such thoughts were prompted partly by thinking about language differences in Europe – a continent comprised of more than 730 million people in over 50 countries speaking languages and dialects that number far more than the official 23 languages of the European Union – and the challenges and pitfalls you face when looking at how to engage online with people across Europe if you don’t consider language and cultural diversity.
This applies both in business and personal settings, although it’s probably more acute from the business perspective as you add to the picture diversity in individual workplaces.
A feature in this week’s Economist on German dialects and migration and how linguistic variations affect where Germans choose to live, from which the map you see is taken, adds a further dimension to what I’ve been thinking about concerning people’s behaviours.
What The Economist’s concise story throws into sharp focus for me is that understanding the nuances of language and dialect differences, literally on a granular level, will make a huge difference to how you go about engaging with people online, the language you use (meaning, your choice of words and phrases), as well as the means with which you actually do engage.
From The Economist’s story:
[…] German dialects, formed by geography and political and religious fragmentation, express deep-seated cultural differences. These persist even though borders between petty princedoms are invisible (and often no longer audible). Even small differences count. Swabians share Baden-Wuettemberg with Badeners. Both spoke Alemannic dialects. But Swabians, who say Haus (house), have a bias against living in the neighbouring old grand duchy, where they say Huus.
Success in your engagement efforts, where what you do and how you do it is gauged on a trust basis (among many other factors), could be marked by something as seemingly simple as knowing how to say “house.”