It’s not unusual that an off-handed Tweet inspires an idea for an entire #SMXChat topic, and such is the case for this week. This week’s topic is inspired by community member Brandon Seymour (@Beymour). Brandon, in a comment in a (fairly recent) #SMXChat, said, (and I paraphrase) that ‘soft skills do not necessarily equal great networking.’ At that moment, the comment struck me as profound in a way that can, well, inspire a chat. Such is the beauty of a thoughtful and engaged community, and the power of unique, individual perspectives.

The profundity of the observation is this: In the minds of many of us, ‘soft skills’ engender the collection of skills and traits that epitomize success in leadership, relationships and communication. However, if you were to observe a sample of people having success in ‘social networking’ you may be surprised at the level of soft skills they exhibit vs what they advocate. Just sayin’. Okay, this is an admittedly subjective observation, and it should be added that an individual’s own assessment of their exhibition of ‘soft skills’ is probably over-estimated in comparison with an objective assessment of such skills.

Here are some excerpts from a conversation I had with Brandon on the subject a few weeks ago:

Brandon: “I think that there are a lot of terms that get thrown around, and unfortunately they become punch list items instead best practices. For instance, many ppl think by being active on social media, that they are good at networking or building communities – not always the case.”

Mark: “Terms such as ‘soft skills’ you mean?”

Brandon: “Yea, soft skills, networking, etc. We all know what they mean, but our actions speak differently.” I think that the rate at which we consume knowledge outpaces our ability perfect the practice.”

Mark: “For example, I do not consider my self a great networker. And I do consider myself strong on EQ (Emotional Quotient.) And you know, that principle (that consumption rate outpaces competency) pre-dates social media.”

Brandon: “Totally. But I think social media made it even more difficult to keep up. I love the term EQ btw. Just stumbled across it when you mentioned a chat on soft skills about a week ago.”

Mark: “I think folks are so enamored with checking boxes on skills that they neglect to develop them fully.”

Brandon: “Yes! Exactly my point. Doing it becomes more important than doing it *well*”

Mark: “What effect do you think that has on us professionally?”

Brandon: I think it leads it hurts both publishers and consumers. The consumer has to dig through a ton of fluff to find what they’re looking for and publishers are creating 5 pieces of mediocre content for every decent piece of content. So both are spinning their wheels. Also in in other areas, like social. On FB, many brands try to post as much as possible, hoping that one post catches a few likes.”

Mark: “Right. It either adds to the social media ‘white noise’ or (worse?) adds to the social media echo chamber. We also mistake activity for productivity. Just because someone is appearing active does not make them productive. Know what I mean? Social, like you’ve said, is a perfect example.”

Let’s discuss the mixture of skills that are encompassed in social networking and the effect to which individual strengths in each make us more or less successful in our social networking endeavors.

Q1) We associate communication and relationship building more on the ‘soft’ side of professional skills. How important are such skills in a social network?

Q2) Consider ‘influencers’ in social networks. On what side of the ‘soft’ vs ‘hard’ skill-set line would you place them? Why?

Q3) How do you think ‘soft skills’ are indicative of an ‘introvert’ or ‘extrovert’ personality type? Do these personality types network equally effectively?

Q4) How would you describe/assess doing social networking ‘well’ as an individual or as a biz/brand?

Q5) We see ‘social selling’ tossed around quite a bit. Is this a new paradigm for sales in social networking, or just a ‘wolf in sheep’s clothing’ ploy?

Q6) Do you have any experience with social networking being taught in an academic environment? What kind of skills are the focus there?