ZURBsoapbox Podcast and Highlights
Mrinal Desai, Co-founder and VP of sales at Crossloop
Last Friday Mrinal Desai (pronounced *meer*-NAL), co-founder of CrossLoop.com and early social networking veteran from LinkedIn, came over to ZURB for an informal talk called, "The Cat, The Dog, and Web 2.0."
Mrinal's perspective is shaped by the opportunity he was given by his parents nine years ago when he first came to the United States. He was welcomed with open arms, but found he had to unlearn everything he knew in India to participate. The way he (un)learned quickly was to surround himself with a 'social network' of 'experts' who could share their experiences and their mistakes, helping Mrinal "cut down on the curve" and learn faster.
He did this all offline, most often at coffee shops like the one where we met him here in Campbell.
Cats, Dogs, and Social Media?
Mrinal went online during the last economic downturn and started discovering new social networks to learn from. While there was a certain thrill to them, he found that these social interactions online were "becoming like a cat person" and asked, "Are you genuinely connected? Are you making friends or adding friends?"
From his social life in coffee shops he knew he couldn't have just one kind of interaction without the other. His goal was to make new friends, people he wouldn't have reached otherwise, and to take those online interactions offline:
That's really critical at least in the way I use offline and online. To me all of the online stuff is basically nothing but a way to reach out to people and take that offline."
Body Language Online
When making friends offline, body language is important. But what constitutes body language online? Mrinal's approach is clever in that he listens and he looks for clues using services like Twitter. These online services become a way to fill in the gaps and piece together a person's motivation through their body language online:
If you look at offline communication, about 7% is words, about 30-35% is the tone of your voice, and about 55% is body language. So how do you translate that online?"
"A lot of it is just listening on tools like Twitter or Facebook, they update their status messages. To me that's a little bit of good hint of what they're trying to say. They way they write it, the way they say it, etc."
He values Twitter in particular because of the way it lowers the bar to engaging with other people:
So on Twitter they just made it really easy and said, 'You know, it's not so hard to come up to me in a bar and speak to me. It's OK. You can come on.' Whereas at a bar if you actually have to go meet someone you're gonna hesitate, you're not sure. They're meeting in a group and just talking away, well, you're gonna feel very uncomfortable just going and introducing yourself.
Twitter said, 'You don't need to be in one closed group like that. It's all open. Come on in into a conversation.' And you can start doing that.
I'm not a businessman. I'm a business, man.
Borrowing a line from Jay-Z ("I'm a business, man"), Mrinal made an important point about the way social media blurs the distinction between business and personal goals and methods for creating relationships:
That's really, really powerful, especially in the social space--every individual is a product. Because why should I engage with you? Why should I buy what you're selling?
This whole aspect of social media is really, really becoming relevant, especially with a certain group of people if you want to tap into them. Whether they're very influential people. They are a product, you are a product, and why should you two engage together?"
Social Distribution Channels
Thanks again to Mrinal for being our first presenter at the ZURBsoapbox. If you'd like to learn more or to participate in a future lectures, check out our original soapbox post and sign up for the mailing list.