by Carolyn Craven

I’m sitting in my backyard on a beautiful Boston evening (rare these days) listening to my kids intermittently play together and try to kill each other. But instead of enjoying the warm breeze and relaxing with a nice glass of wine, what am I doing? Yes, I’m tweeting, re-tweeting, searching for tweets – you get the picture. As if that’s not bad enough, I’m frantically looking over other people’s tweets and obsessing over the quality and originality of their tweets and the number of followers they have.

I need a Twitter intervention. Seriously.

Unless you live in a bubble, you’ve read that social media is here to stay and that companies are using Twitter and other social networking sites/online communities to try and accomplish everything from increasing brand awareness to engaging with customers to keeping an eye on the competition’s marketing strategies. First, let me set the record straight – I am all for embracing social media wholeheartedly. From online communities to YouTube to Facebook and Twitter, I think social media is a great way to share information, stay in touch, let off steam (constructively of course), and engage customers. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t be blogging this right now, I’d be enjoying that nice cold glass of sauvignon blanc….. Ok, back to reality.

So social media has lots of great applications – both personally and in business. We’re still testing the social media waters here at Checkbox, but it’s pretty exciting to chat on community sites with current and potential customers that we probably wouldn’t have met otherwise. It’s also given us a reason and an outlet to think creatively – like starting a daily Checkbox Chat on Twitter where users can ask us (almost) anything they want about their survey projects. And if I’m being totally honest, social media makes me feel kinda cool. I’m not twenty-something anymore – I listen to James Taylor and you’ll never find me waiting in a long line to watch the next Twilight trailer. I may have more than a few grey hairs, but suddenly I’m plunging headlong into the most talked about trend around!

So what’s the problem? Well, the thing I worry about with social media is falling into the trap of viewing it as the end-all, be-all of communication. That our Twitter blinders will become so large we’ll forget how to communicate effectively with customers, partners, colleagues, and competitors outside the 140 character arena. That sending an email, picking up the phone, or visiting a client will come to seem too cumbersome and time-consuming. That social media is just a little too addicting.

So even though I love tweeting and I love blogging, tonight I’m going to try and break my Twitter addiction, at least for a few hours. I’m going to sit down and write a good old-fashioned personal email to some customers I need to communicate with. No hash tags, no at signs, just a real email with real content that’s really from me.

I still hope you’ll follow us on Twitter and join our discussions. Even more so, I hope sometime you’ll pick up the phone and give us a call. Really.

Carolyn Craven, COO Checkbox Survey Solutions
Direct: 617-715-9641

PS – While I was writing this, my husband (and Checkbox CEO) called me. I told him I was writing this blog and what I was calling it – he called me an e-hypocrite and walking oxymoron for being on Twitter and not Facebook (a standing joke/point of contention between us). Not quite sure what conclusion to draw other than it’s a little scary when you and your partner start talking more about your tweets than your kids or your day. I should tweet that back to him.