With all this talk of lateral vs. vertical action, depth vs. breadth of engagement, community managers, what Twitter “followers” are and aren’t, the conversation can quickly get a little overwhelming, especially if you are new to the Social Mediaย  management world. So while everything we have been discussing here lately is pretty important, take a big step back and relax. Put it all aside. Forget all about measurement, business objectives, strategy and tactics for a little bit…

… and just get out there. Start listening. Start responding. Start participating in discussions.

Find your community and join it. Start getting to know everyone. Shake some hands, pat some back, give out a few high fives, enjoy a hug or two, even. Introduce yourself. Enjoy the company and the interaction.Start showing up regularly. Weekly. Daily. Hourly. Whatever works.

Just relax and get out there.

Don’t over-complicate customer engagement (in the Social Media space or otherwise). This is still, in its most basic and powerful form simply about people connecting with people. Bonding in some way. Building relationships.

I could tell you that a big element of this is to put a human face to a logo, to “humanize” a brand or company, but even that would be too strategic. Too “objective” minded. I don’t want to go there today. I just want you to relax and mingle. Put your fears and reservations aside and just step out into the world.

Engagement doesn’t have to be a perfectly designed and executed PR program where every bit of interaction is carefully crafted and weighed against all possible outcomes. Let it be a living, breathing, imperfect thing: Wing it a little. Let your edges be a little rough. Respect your community enough to drop the corporate mask and be real with them. Be authentic, warts and all – though it’s okay if you pace yourself a little there. Embrace criticism as much as you embrace praise. Learn from your customers, fans and detractors. Empathize. Learn not to be defensive when they don’t see things your way. Even allow yourself to screw up sometimes and make it up to those you offended.

Just relax and get out there.

People don’t bite. It’ll be okay. Nothing really bad will happen. And what you’ll find is that if you’re real, if you truly open up and embrace engagement for the sake of engagement, people will respect you for it. They will find your courage and candor refreshing.

And they will learn to trust you, marketing ploys and all, which is more than I can say for the scores of other companies still holding on to illusions of vertical-minded message-driven control who still resist real engagement in the Social space.

So while all of the business strategy stuff is great and invaluable to your company, find a way to detach yourself from the complexity of it all long enough to remember that a handshake and a smile will get you a lot further along than too much focus on “earnings per share,” “impressions” or demographic targeting.

Engagement is about people. Don’t forget that you’re people too. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Note: I’m flying up to Boston for a few days, so I may be slow to approve comments. If your comment takes longer than usual to appear, don’t worry. I’ll get to it as soon as I have a few minutes of internet access. I should have some video of my trip and some of the folks I will be hanging out with later this week, so hang tight. (Expect some Chris Brogan, Amber Naslund and Dave Alston sightings – at the very least.)

Oh, and your bonus content today is a little unexpected visit from Chico, the BrandBuilder blog’s mascot (yes, he’s real). Check it out: